May 22, 2007

The paradox is in the pudding (or Why Are Bloggers Such a Horror)

Have you noticed how, since the military-blogger shenanigans started in March, the mainstream media have demonstrated an aversion to blogs and bloggers?

They hardly knew what blogs were before Intelligentsiya went live in January. Even today, radio, TV and newspapers all think that the word blog is interchangeable with Blogspot and that “blogsites” is also a term to describe it. Could it be an aversion to technology the journalists barely knew existed before the December putsh?

The aversion could also stem from the fact that most of the media have just gotten their heads around the whole business of the World Wide Web. The grand old FijiVillage is still there – emphasis on the old. And FijiLive, whose design is definitely past its used-by date, is trying to hold on to its reputation of online breaking news reporting

Then there’s the site that’s desperate for a top ranking of country sites, FijiTimesOnline.

FijiDailyPost went online last year, with its self-proclaimed “independent” reporting. There’s also Fiji TV whose newly redesigned site has an irritating urge for users to log in before seeing content that is much touted on the evening news bulletins.

Don’t forget Fiji Sun’s online edition. The underdog of all the Fiji news sites which looks like staying like that for a while. The site’s usability became worse after some reconfiguration a while back. It’s never updated during the day, and navigation is a nightmare.

The point is, bloggers have been a threat to the online presence of the established media. We’re taking eyeballs away from their websites, to quote Patrick Craddock of the USP journalism school, and they don’t like it. Internationally it’s becoming acceptable for staff writers, reporters, announcers, photographers - most media people - to blog as part of their work. But I think there was some horror (expressed by a journalist being interviewed on TV) that blogs should be mentioned in the same word as journalism.

Hence, the underlying hostility when the media reports on bloggers.

However, the paradox it created for bloggers was that while the media attention was focused on what the military were threatening to do to us, free speech became a tangled metaphor and some of the real issues that needed to be raised were pushed off the news agenda.

We definitely appreciated the media attention because it contributed to the military seeming to back down from censorship of cyberspace. But even bloggers were caught up in the coverage of ourselves.

Propaganda, fuels counter-propaganda, fuels counter-counter propaganda… An endless cycle of talking heads and back-chat while the country goes to hell in a handbasket.

For a good rundown of how every junta leader and his dog jumped on the blogger bandwagon last week and what we should not lose sight of, read FijianBlack’s assessment here.

Another day in this blogging paradise

It’s been another day in paradise. Or has it?

Today Fiji’s bloggers have been given a reprieve. The army says it’s not bothered with trying to find us anymore. They shouldn’t have tried to in the first place, but that’s the military mindset at work: we order, you minions follow; if you’re not with us, you’re against us.

But despite the pretence of not minding our incessant blogging, the military really is itching to get its hands on us.

Fiji Times spoke to Colonel Pita Driti and reported,

“However, he did say that if bloggers were eventually found they would be taken to the camp to be questioned.”

So we’re not letting our guard down, because we know at least a bit about how the army mind works.

Already they’ve mistakenly taken in people accusing them of being bloggers. Yes we know business Ulaiasi Taoi was not the only one. There was at least one other person the military hauled up to QEB for “questioning” after being wrongly linked to the Freedom Blogs, and it was not SDL parliamentarian Ted Young.

It’s almost daily that the military junta make outrageous statements that seem to be its hallmark.

Self-proclaimed prime minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama made two today in one brief interview.

Asked by Fiji TV reporter Sainimili Finiasi outside his office this afternoon about interim finance minister Mahendra Chaudhry’s comments in India that Fiji would hold elections in 2010, Bainimarama almost snorted.

He said it “doesn’t make sense” for the military to have overthrown the government in December only to have elections several months later because “this would make us the laughing stock of the whole world”. (Ahem, we already are!) Now for those of you who were not convinced earlier that Bainimarama is an autocrat in the making, then this is proof from the horse’s mouth.

Bainimarama then used the familiar line that Fiji should be left to sort out its own problems (but thanks very much for the EU cash) before going to elections. This implies the junta will then think about elections when it feels like it.

He was also asked about human rights violations reported by people who were arbitrarily detained at various military installations and assaulted.

“Aha,” Bainimarama said, wagging his finger and smiling, “that’s where the problem is. They claim it (human rights abuses) and you report it as true.”

I thought I’d heard wrong, but it was there in colour on our TV screen.

So Ted Young’s black-eye must have been the result of walking into the cell door at QEB. And Ulaiasi Taoi’s account must have been a bad dream he had while naked in the cell.

Interim attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said today (again on Fiji TV) the interim government isn’t breaking the promises it made regarding arbitrary arrests. “It’s only when necessary,” he told Fiji TV, that people are detained by soldiers. It looks like military detentions have become a necessity then. Take the hint from a post on WFC – we should just be declared a “military state” (This theme was echoed by the Fiji Times editorial today titled 'Who is in control')

We really shouldn’t be surprised but then again… It’s a case of one arm saying something and the other saying something else, hardly the sign of a cohesive “government” leading this country to eternal bliss.

The irony keeps on coming. After unleashing their heavily armed selves on a coup-weary population, the junta is now persuading all and sundry that the “Bula Spirit” is well and truly alive. Of course, the hotel worker who lost her job or the casual labourer working on a construction site who was laid off, are all expected to be cheery and welcoming to the visitor, despite not being able to put food on the table.

While she’s part of an illegal regime, you have to give it to interim tourism minister Bernadette Rounds-Ganilau for telling it like it is.

On Fiji TV’s “Have Your Say” program tonight she all but admitted the dire state of the tourism industry, while in the same breath gushing about how tourists who do visit find that paradise never went anywhere when booking in at the four and five-star resort in the Western division.

“We don’t even have attachments that don’t pay,” she said in response to a question from a tourism graduate that he has been searching fruitlessly for a job in the industry for quite some time.

So while it may be another day in paradise for the tourists this country is so hard-up for, the ordinary people of Fiji are confronted daily with bread-and-butter issues, most of which were forced on them by the actions of the military leadership in their misguided belief that staging a coup would set things right for this country once and for all.

Bumbling in the junta jungle…

From Cassandra’s Desk

As a child, your correspondent was a huge fan of Rudyard Kipling's magnificent and unmatched work of pure fantasy, "The Jungle Book".

Among other things, Kipling's detailed life in an orderly and moral jungle, is a far cry from the disorderly and dangerous jungle into which Fiji has been drawn by its bumbling military rulers.

It’s the fantastical nature, not to mention magnitude, of that bumbling that has sparked this Kipling/jungle analogy.

For example, let’s take the futile and self-defeating push by the Fiji junta leadership against freedom bloggers. As events unfolded over the past week or so, the junta's antics started to assume the same exquisitely surreal quality of Kipling's most fantastical imaginings.

On the one hand, the junta's appalling lack of decency or sophistication, demonstrated so graphically and gruesomely by repeated acts of violence towards their fellow citizens. On the other hand, witness the bizarre spectacle of the same strongmen - with the entire civilized world watching - applying the same methods to gain mastery over cyberspace!

It’s a paradox of truly surreal proportions. To “secure” Fiji’s national security, the Fiji Military Forces has decided to launch a war against unknown enemies in unknown (to them) territory - cyberspace. Hurrah! Wow! Gosh! It’s breathtaking.

Yes, one needs to keep one's sense of humour because in the junta jungle, where it can be eerily dark and gloomy, there's naught to laugh about. Like the illumination of a full moon on a cloudless night, the only light to penetrate its dark sinister depths, is the one shone by our Freedom Bloggers. Long may they stay free to blog!

Which evokes more jungle analogies: Fiji's military rulers bark fiercely as they run around in ever-decreasing circles, as happens when a pack of feral dogs in full hunting frenzy suddenly realises that it has lost the scent.

The ruckus continues and only dies down around midnight when our junta hounds succumb to that most basic of all canine (and human) instincts - self-preservation. They suddenly, and in unison, they start baying long and loud at the moon.

For some reason, and beginning with their primitive ancestors, the revealing glow of a full moon, beaming benignly from space, has always instilled fear and panic in feral dogs.

May 17, 2007

Blogging the military silly

FINTEL put out a statement today confirming they were working with the “Home Affairs Ministry”, in reality the military, to ‘study the most effective way’ of blocking certain blogs.

From FINTEL assist military to block anti military sites

“FINTEL Chief Executive Sakaraia Tuilakepa confirms that they are assisting the Ministry to examine the most effective way in addressing their concerns in relation to the blog sites.
Tuilakepa said they have advised the Ministry of alternative options that they could explore to address these concerns without compromising the national access to the entire internet network and without breaching the conditions of FINTEL's license as the international gateway service provider.
RFMF's Land Force Commander, Colonel Pita Driti revealed earlier that the military has identified about 20 people who are behind anti-military internet blog sites.
Colonel Driti said the blog sites are now becoming a concern and the people behind the publication of the materials will be questioned.
Army spokesperson, Major Neumi Leweni also revealed that the RFMF's IT personnel had talks with FINTEL to block the blog sites.”

Here’s something about the blog shenanigans on Fijilive. (No Fijilive, we haven’t gone anywhere!)

But look who’s back! RFC have popped up on the internet again under another name – Why Fiji’s Crying. They are here.

Now for the online security of those within
Fiji who are able to read us:

If you use Gmail log in through Googles secure server at to prevent somebody intercepting and reading the messages you send and receive.

Also to get around those FINTEL blocks you could download Torpark, a highly modified version of the Firefox browser including a built-in Tor router to disguise your IP address. You can keep it on your USB and run it on any computer you use. Once you close the program it erases all your surfing information. A bit slow but safe. Find it here.

PRESS RELEASE: Human Rights Violations and the Blog Debate

By Young People Concerned Network,

The Young Peoples Concerned Network is saddened with the detainment and inhumane
treatment of the President of the Fiji Indigenous Business Council Mr. Ulaiasi Taoi. We are also very concerned that this fate may be faced by other persons suspected of operating anti military sentiments and modes of information.
We understand that Mr Taoi was detained in relation to the numerous blogs that have sprung up resonating anti military and anti government sentiments.
Bloggers must now look very closely at their posted articles and draw a line between the responsible reporting of truth and the use of propaganda.
We are very concerned with the many blogs that have sprung up after the December 5 coup and that have partaken in a personal vendetta to defame prominent people in society.
However we are equally concerned with the detainment of persons at any military installation and the continued abuse and humiliation of people suspected of having objections towards the military and the interim government.
We will do well to remind all people of Fiji of their God given rights to life and freedom from inhumane treatments.
Youths of Fiji will suffer drastically if the impending economic crisis faced by Fiji today is not solved. Foreign Aid and Healthy Bilateral Relations are the cornerstones to rebuilding Fiji and improving the lifestyles of Fiji citizens.
The reports of detainments and human rights violations will not do well for these times and have the potential to deter investors and the Aid Fiji relies on to survive.

We know what you’re up to

Fiji’s military are putting the squeeze on FINTEL to block access to our blogs and possibly to all Google services.

FINTEL briefly blocked Google on Monday and the outcry from customers was immediate.

Intelligentsiya has heard that the military have hired some IT experts to track our blogs and yesterday one of the blogs was taken down briefly - why we haven't been able to substantiate. While Intelligentsiya does not agree with the militant path taken by Resistfrankscoup blog, we detest the interference by the military in trying to stop the Fiji public from reading what’s on it.

Here we also praise Rewa chief Ro Teimumu Kepa for bravely speaking out in our defence against military oppression.

Also a belated welcome back to one of Fiji’s original bloggers, Ms Vakaivosavosa. We need more voices like yours.

May 15, 2007

Going nowhere...

We woke this morning to news that the army's Land Force Commander Colonel Pita Driti has a list of about 20 people who he says will be arrested in connection with anti-military blogs.

This is just a quick post to alert you all to the possibility of something happening (or not, as the case usually is) today.

We hear that FINTEL is on the verge of blocking the entire Google (Blogspot and all the rest) servers. Now, wouldn't that just rile the internet-connected population the majority of who use one or all of Google's services?

Meanwhile, we're still here, going about our daily business and will come back to blog later. These bloggers are not going to hide. We're going nowhere. The same can be said for the military!

May 14, 2007

In the face of military aggression, we blog on

Today, May 14, is the 20th anniversary since Fiji’s first coup, led by Sitiveni Rabuka.

Two decades on from that fateful day, Fiji continues to relive lessons that should have been learnt a long time ago – that military might is not the answer to national problems.

Fiji’s media continue to report the military’s efforts to shut us down citing various reasons: we are “destroying the peace”, we are “racist”, we are “deceitful” - the list goes on.

While some other blogs (namely Resistfrankscoup) could be termed “racist”, Intelligentsiya will never condone racism or violence. We therefore despise being put under the same label as other blogs that have called for violence and made racist comments. Notwithstanding the racist and “call-to-arms” comments on other blogs, we still passionately defend our right to raise our voices.

On the topic of blogs, we would invite the military to check out Loyal Fijian’s blog (we suspect the army already knows about it.) The last post made on April 11 (just one post in April and four in March!) threatens violence and even death to bloggers who are critical of the military junta.

See the red circles in the screen-grab on the right of Loyal Fijian’s irregular blog. (Click on the image to get a better view)

In contrast, Intelligentsiya has never called for violence of any kind (our motto is “Intelligent Resistance”), even against those we criticise.

Despite the assurances given by the junta’s “civilian” faces to the EU’s officials in Brussels last month where interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum tried his smart-talk only to be cut down by the chair of the meeting, the military is insistent on its “right” to take in anybody it suspects of being a blogger we are “threats to national security”.

The detention of several prominent people last week including businessman Ulaiasi Taoi, who was tortured as a blogging suspect, also goes against the word of self-proclaimed prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama on March 6 when he said soldiers would not “condone violence”.

“Following a meeting with senior officers on March 6, 2007, Commodore Bainimarama said the soldiers would only be involved in manning checkpoints, community work, and public relations,” Fijilive reported.

On radio reports today, army mouthpiece Major Neumi Leweni says the army’s IT officers are still trying to persuade FINTEL to shut down access to our blogs. We wonder what Cable and Wireless, FINTEL’s other owner thinks of this illegal pressure on the company.

While the army tries to kill our voice, we blog on regardless.

Army says blogs pose threat to 'national security'

The military has reserved the right to arbitrarily detain people it suspects of being a "threat to national security" (read bloggers) and has played down the assault of detainees.

Army spokesman Major Neumi Leweni was speaking after the military wrongfully detained Suva businessman Ulaiasi Taoi in relation to blogs critical of the interim government.

Taoi was held for 24 hours at Queen Elizabeth Barracks from Friday afternoon and subjected to bashings, verbal abuses and humiliation. Read his account to the Fiji Times here.

He said up to eight soldiers punched him up in a cell and that he was only in his underwear for most of the time. On Saturday morning, he was asked to remove his underwear and left naked in the cell for several hours, before being released.

Taoi, the president of the Fiji Indigenous Business Council, was questioned over his alleged links to ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and the SDL party.

The army suspected Taoi of being prominent anti-junta and fellow Freedom Blogger Fijian Black who remains safe and free, last we heard.

Taoi will file complaints against the military this week or next to police and the Fiji Human Rights Commission, he says.

You have to wonder about how effective the military's "intelligence unit" is if innocent businessmen are picked up and showered with accusations and punches. Taoi admits to reading the blogs but also admits his IT knowledge doesn't extend to being able to leave a comment on the blogs - let alone maintaining one.

Taoi also told his story to Fiji TV over the weekend, and the story was picked up by the international media.

Dr Roberto Ridolfi and your EU delegation please take note of the continuing blatant breaches of the commitments given to your officials in Brussels.

May 12, 2007

ALERT: Military holds businessman over blogs

Intelligentsiya can confirm that the Fiji military held in detention a prominent businessman for just under 24 hours suspecting him of being a blogger.

Ulai Taoi, the president of the Fiji Indigenous Business Council, was arrested by soldiers on Friday at about 2pm and was released this afternoon after undergoing interrogation at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks.

He has reportedly been mistreated.

Taoi’s arrest came as the military yesterday put pressure on FINTEL, the only international telecommunications gateway for Fiji, to shut down access to blogs critical of the military and its junta.

FINTEL was stalling on shutting down access, implying it would cut internet access to Fiji altogether if the military maintained the pressure.

Another blog is reporting that businessman and journalist Imraz Iqbal (who owns Fiji Living Magazine) was taken up to QEB for yet another dressing down on Thursday by the commander of the 3rd Fiji Infantry Regiment, Tevita Mara. Also taken up to the camp for a "talking to" was ousted SDL minister Losena Salabula, according to Resistfrankscoup.

The attempts to block access to blogs and continuing detentions are blatant dishonouring of the commitments the junta gave to the EU in Brussels last month when they promised not to intimidate or infringe on the rights of Fiji’s people, in return for continuing aid.

We know the EU is watching. Just don't wait until it's too late.

May 11, 2007

Military bid to block blogs makes it onto news

The military's attempts to cut off access to blogs including Intelligentsiya has made it on the news.

The Fiji Times is reporting the story on its website here. Fijilive also has a report here. And Scoop (NZ) has also published our media alert here.

It has also been published on the Australian Associated Press news service. The AAP story is also carried on The Age here:

By Xavier La Canna

AUCKLAND, May 11 AAP - The military in Fiji is moving to shut down access to anti-government weblogs after unsuccessful attempts to find those responsible for the sites.

Senior military commander Colonel Pita Driti has told Pacific Radio that access to the sites would be closed down this afternoon.

Internet technology in Fiji is provided through only one provider, Fiji International Telecommunications Limited (FINTEL).

A FINTEL spokesman confirmed he had met with members of the the interim administration this morning and been asked to shut off access to the weblogs.

He said they asked that access be cut off to the blog for "national security" reasons.

"They asked us to address a few things. We have given them some options to consider, because we can't just go into the web and stop access. It would be unfair to the general public," the spokesman said.

"We will address the blog sites, but they need to direct us about what we are to do. We can't just go in and stop anything and everything. It must be specific," he said.

Asked whether FINTEL would block access to the website, where most of the anti-government sites are hosted, he said the company may have little choice.

"If the directive is to block, then we have no other option but to comply. ... we are seeking authorisation on that from our administration," he said.

He said any moves to cut-off access to the blogspot website would not happen by this afternoon.

Weblogs in Fiji have become a popular way for people to speak out about the government led by military chief Frank Bainimarama, who seized power on December 5 last year in a coup.

Sites including Intelligentsiya, Resist Frank's Coup and Discombobulated Bubu, have broken stories that have embarrassed the interim government.

In March Fiji military spokesman Neumi Leweni said efforts were underway to establish exactly who was producing material for Intelligentsiya.

The military has since said it could not determine who was publishing the information.

The United States has accused interim government in Fiji of trying to censor television news broadcasts and said the military had "detained, interrogated, and abused" people who wrote letters to the media opposing the coup.

"On a radio talk show on December 22, Bainimarama stated that if pro-democracy activists did not shut their mouth, the military would shut it for them," the US report said.

Major Leweni did not immediately respond to phone calls this afternoon.

AAP xlc/goc/bwl

ALERT: Military pressures FINTEL to block access to blogs

Fiji’s Freedom Bloggers have obtained credible information that the military has been pressuring FINTEL, the international telecommunication gateway, to block access within Fiji to our various blogs.

It is understood the military initially made a phone call to FINTEL but were told to write formally to the Chief Executive Officer Sakaraia Tuilakepa with the request.

This morning the army’s acting information technology manager Salusalu and another officer were seen at FINTEL. It has been confirmed that they were meeting with management and trying to persuade them to pull the plug on our blogs.

From our information, FINTEL is wary of the legal implications of blocking access, but the final decision rests with the CEO.

The military wanted access blocked by 3pm (1500hrs FST/0300hrs GMT) today.

NiuFM in Auckland is reporting confirmation from the military, quoting Land Force Commander Pita Driti, that they are closing down our blogs. See story here.

In the worst case scenario, all Internet access out of Fiji may be cut, Freedom Bloggers’ sources tell us. It may even happen over the weekend.

We're watching and waiting - and undaunted as ever.

Fiji Freedom Bloggers

Friday, May 11, 2007

May 10, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Deputy Solicitor General Banuve sacked by junta

Deputy Solicitor General Savenaca Banuve was sacked today by the military junta for refusing to defend cases pending against the interim administration.

Intelligentsiya sources confirm that Mr Banuve was given an ultimatum about handling cases brought by ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and two members of the Great Council of Chiefs.

We understand that Mr Banuve replied that his lawyers would not handle those cases as they already had a heavy load and that, secondly, it was their viewpoint that the current regime was illegal.

The cases Mr Banuve rejected now falls to senior legal officers and our sources tell us there may well be an exodus of lawyers who refuse to do it on the principle that the junta is illegal anyway.

An email sent to Mr Banuve’s official government address this afternoon was returned as undeliverable.

However, sources within several of the government’s legal divisions confirmed Mr Banuve’s sacking.

Let our voices ring with pride...

From Cassandra's Desk

If there is one word that my friends might use to describe your correspondent, it most definitely could never be "stoic". At least not after last night when, thanks to a lethal mixture of single malt Scotch and Intelligentsiya, I found myself sitting in front of my computer blubbering like a baby.

This is what happened : The Cassandra household was already abed, except for yours truly. Being a creature of habit, I had helped himself to a generous nip of one of Scotland's finest and had logged on to the Internet for my regular nocturnal ramble through cyberspace.

First port of call was this very freedom blogsite. As I loaded it up, I was suddenly confronted with a rather ugly head shot of our Great Military Dictator with a YouTube button implanted hard against his left nostril. So I pressed it (the button I mean).

Dear readers, within a few seconds I was transported to the point that, my customary verbosity notwithstanding, I cannot - on this morning after - accurately report my feelings of barely 12 hours ago as I sat there spellbound by a superb video take on Fiji's children post-coup.

I suppose "mixed emotions" would serve best. Indeed, my reactions to Ana Nakadavu's masterful work ranged from a quickening heartbeat (that version of our national anthem has been doing that to me for more than 30 years) to the aforementioned tears.

What made me weep? I honestly don't know. I think it was a film-maker's skillful emotion juxtaposition of simple images and simple words that evoked such complex emotions, and also questions.

Questions such as: what will become of children in Fiji, growing up in a coup culture that implicitly sanctions animal-like violence by adult human beings ? What will become of our children as the economic meltdown starts to bite ? What will become of them if, in their innocence and naïveté , they should perceive Bainimarama as some sort of role model ?

Today, in a much colder light, I have revisited the video, not once, but several times. No tears this morning, but each time, to the obvious annoyance of anyone in earshot, I found myself croaking along:

"For Fiji! Ever Fiji! Let our voices ring with pride..."

Somehow, in these dark days, that wonderful anthem, based as it is on an old traditional Fijian song, sounds more meaningful and more relevant every time I hear it.

And a good cry sometimes does wonders for the soul. Thanks Intelligentsiya. And, from the bottom of my heart, thank you Ana.

May 07, 2007

Fiji Children Ask Questions

Thanks to our faithful contributor Ana Nakadavu for creating this brilliant clip expressing some of the thoughts Fiji's children may have today:

May 03, 2007

Power to the press (blogs and all)

Today the world marks Media Freedom Day and in Fiji, now more than ever, we must reflect on the basics of a free press and what it means in a country in a perpetual state of “emergency”.

Intelligentsiya was born after journalists became too intimidated because of direct or indirect threats against them or their organisations by the military who seized power on December 5, 2006. We continue to aim to be an outlet for level-headed opinion, report events that don’t get mainstream coverage and express “intelligent resistance” to the military junta that is in power – all rights guaranteed to us in the Constitution.

This year, blogs have thrust themselves into Fiji and the world’s media spotlight as a free, anonymous way to express views and news, not all of them palatable or true. Still, it shows the media landscape during this coup has dramatically changed, with the mainstream media often picking up items from blogs and broadcasting widely.

In all our reporting we did make about two mistakes – notably the one about a death in Vanua Levu at the hands of soldiers. A man was indeed beaten badly, a fact that the military did not expressly deny. The only denial was that the man did not die. We are not making excuses for the mistake but it does illustrate the difficulties in reporting in a country with a climate of fear – trying to obtain basic information is hard because people are afraid of the consequences of speaking out.

If Fiji's media was truly uninitimidated, they would have travelled to Vanua Levu (we have a name and village of the man in question which was passed on to some journalists) and tried to find out exactly what happened to the man, who was apparently missing from his village after the beating. But, this did not happen, and the military succeeded in putting more fear into journalists.

Today we hail all the brave journalists of our region among them the late Robert Keith-Reid, who was never afraid to tell it like it is, and Michael Field, who kindly allowed a special feature he wrote to be published on Intelligentsiya, pointing to the likelihood of another coup.

In the argument for a free media, the military is always suggesting that the media has been “irresponsible” at times deliberately. But on the whole, reporters face an uphill battle trying to get “official” comment from the powers that be and often have to deal with aggressive military-types while reporting.

To all journalists in Fiji and abroad, facing such intimidation, remember it is a battle of the minds. Do not be intimidated by the threats, direct or indirect. And while this may be easy to say, we realise the reality is not always pretty. So ultimately it comes down to the individual journalists, and whether they have the heart, passion and courage to face down military oppression.

Stay safe and freedom for all.

May 01, 2007

The Journey has just begun…

Pat yourself on the back if you stayed at home today because the reality is no one else will. Rest easy however in the solace that by doing what you did, we as a collective critical mass pushed the tempo with the Junta by their very reactions. That is people power folks.

Yes we knew that we wouldn’t change the state of our democracy in a day, but we will get there! The journey has just begun but already we have shown that we will continue to be a thorn in the side of this Junta and all of their elements even without a parliament or an opposition.

Here’s our take on the Fiji side of things today:


Media Statement

Suva, Fiji Islands, May 1, 2007.

The 1st of May Protest today rankled the Public Service Commission to a state of hysteria said Freedom bloggers Fijianblack, Discombobulated Bubu and Intelligentsiya.

This came to light after Fiji Village reported that the Permanent Secretary for the Public Service Commission, Taina Tagicakibau had warned all civil servants via a circular that “any unauthorized absence” would not be entertained.

By midday Fiji Village reported that the PSC Chairman Rishi Ram was assessing whether civil servants were absent from work today. Mr Ram was reported to have said that there was “no feedback as yet on the staff turnout at the various ministries and government departments”.

The Fiji Freedom Bloggers warns the Public Service Commission as the employer of the largest work-force in the country the rights of workers are still intact and that under the various domestic and international industrial relations instruments, surely workers are entitled to stay at home for a day under the various provisions provided for within these laws?

“It is absolutely appalling that the Public Service Commission chooses to threaten its core human resource capital in this manner and is a very clear sign that the military government is not adhering to commitment number 2 (under the Rule of Law clayse) made to the EU on 18 April” said Discombobulated Bubu.

‘That the military government is promising one thing in Brussels yet allows the directives of threats, is not a good thing. It reeks of dishonesty and ACP countries currently in Fiji are warned to note such displays of “leadership” ‘ said Fijianblack.

Commitment number 2 states: “That the Interim Government upholds the 1997 Constitution, and guarantees the normal and independent functioning of Constitutional institutions such as the Fiji Human Rights Commission, Public Service Commission, Constitutional Offices Commission. The substantial independence and functioning of the Great Council of Chiefs will be preserved.”

“Workers within the civil service should not be afraid of victimization as the Fiji Public Servants Association is the primary body that should be defending violations of labour laws of their members by the PSC” said Fijianblack.

“Despite whatever Mr Leweni chooses to grace our eardrums with the success of this protest depends on what side of the fence one sits on. We would call it a success because this protest was not so much about numbers but more so about empowerment. Even while our democracy is fragmented, we as a people can still force the change and get the power's that be to pay attention. Perhaps after today many will realise this power that we can and should control together no matter what laws, guns or restrictions are imposed on us and that we can get the changes we want. We want democracy and the rule of law back in a big way.

This is just the first step and as you know every journey begins with a first step” said Intelligentsiya.

FijianBlack had on 25 April called on all sons and daughters of Fiji, to stay home, as a sign of opposition to this regime on 1 May 2007.

"The coup culture is alive in Fiji, because we have not done anything about it" he said. "We need to be more pro-active in defending our democracy, our rights and the future of Fiji. If we don't, this is a forlorn legacy we are bequeathing to our children"



It’s 9am – do you know where your people are?

There are no more words to be said. It’s time for INaction – at your place!

While Frank and Mahend are doing the “schmooze” thing with ACP visitors at Denarau Island, the Junta continues to do what they know best.

Leweni maintains that the Public Emergency regulations will be lifted only WHEN THEY DECIDE there are no threats to national security…sounds like his broken “need to know” record on the Close-Up programme...whatever.

Driti’s doing another round of deflection, this time slamming Rabuka. It is not a pretty sight to be seeing military men flexing publicly. Driti has just given away his Achilles heel. That of media whore without the substance to back-up any measure of credibility.

Last but not least Ms Tebbutt of the FABC and her take on the “smart but smarter” sanctions needs a mention. First of all from a very pragmatic angle, the Immigration Dept of Oz does not have the time to be assessing travel needs on a case-by-case basis. They serve the immigration needs of maaaaaaany people and it is extremely labour intensive for them to be doing background checks on all of Fiji’s little wanna-be “forward movers”.

Secondly if the “strong people” who she mentions as probable worthy candidates were really interested in moving the country forward, what the hell does going to Australia have to do with it? Their core responsibilities should be in Fiji and fixing it up. If they need to contact Australia (whatever for is my question as most of our aid programmes are probably frozen), Fiji is not Timbuktu and telecommunications are quite advanced i.e. video conferencing and the good ol’ telephone.

Sorry Caz but your sanctions “raw data” needs more work.

Any-old-whoo...stay at home today and chill out. I’m off to join Capt Freedom’s crew for a bit of early morning kava!

Keep a note in your diaries...May 3rd is Media Freedom Day.