By Michael Field - February 16, 2010
We are told, in a censored report from Fiji, that one of the coup perpetrators has defined crime thus: “Every crime has a mental element and a physical element, physical element is the act and the mental element is the mind.”
The words, according to the Daily Post, as those of Nazhat Shameem, the key player in the judicial coup that sacked a chief justice, and now a close adviser to Voreqe Bainimarama. She has no judicial job, because she sacked the constitution.
The context was her explanation to the apparently now rather dim-witted Fiji media who rolled along to a military regime course on how to be a journalist.
The regime's Information Ministry, headed by that towering intellect and drummer Neumi Leweni, who is now looking for another job after New Zealand said he could not live in Wellington.
Without even the vaguest nod of consultation with the public, Shameem and Bainimarama have come up with some kind of decree defining crime.
A couple of changes relate to abortion and prostitution, in which Shameem and her friend clearly come down hard upon.
I've no problem with their point of view as such, but the reality is that these are the very issues which a society must reach a democratic consensus upon, rather than a military decree about. Abortion and prostitution, like many crimes, are social issues; a society has to agree on what is right and wrong. Otherwise the reality is that they are just fatwahs which Bainimarama will police with his guns.
But back to the supine media.
Shameem told them – as other followers have - that that their new Crimes Decree makes no change to the crime of treason.
It is breathtakingly disingenuous.
Treason is a subtle crime of overt acts that involve complex points of defence. Overt acts can be legal acts, but taken in combination, can add up to the crime of treason.
It is not screaming obvious, but the subtle changes in the treason definition in the decree are about protecting those who purported to draft this decree from the very charge itself.
Let us not forget, that under the constitution they purported to overthrow, it is an overt act of treason to purport to overthrow the constitution. Its one of the acts that George Speight was convicted of (and for old time’s sake, I’ve added the treason charges he faced as an appendix).
Now it is not - at least in their military crime decree - wrong to attack a constitution.
The new decree makes it treason to attack Bainimarama and the regime; it was not, in Shemeem’s view, treason to attack the constitution. She has legalised their illegal act: that is the subtlety none of the followers saw.
As Shameem considers herself an international jurist, she will be embarrassed to realise she is living the maxim of 17th Century John Harington, inventor of, among other things, Britain's first flushing toilet.
He would not have heard of Fiji but he came up with the maxim appropriate to Fiji's military crime decree: "Treason doth never prosper, what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."
Now I did not need Shameem and Leweni’s training to figure all this out.
I read the military decree.
I have no problems with journalists talking to who ever they like to get the facts.
But when a Rupert Murdoch publication, the Fiji Times, provides its training facilities to the regime for an Education Camp on Military Decrees, you know reporters have lost their way.
By their behaviour, they have become complicit in the regime’s behaviour.
Prize for the idiot remark of the day goes to Fiji Times managing director Anne Fussell; “the media workshop has been invaluable in helping our journalists have a better understanding of the intricacies of the judicial system.”
It has nothing to do with the judicial system; it is all military power and rule.
“A properly functioning judicial system lies at the heart of any society and the media is the public's eyes and ears in court so it is important we do as effective and efficient a job as possible."
Fiji Broadcasting Corporation's news editor Stanley Simpson – a military controlled and censored state body - said it was important for journalists to understand the decree.
"It is critical that the media reports court proceedings and judicial processes responsibly and effectively, and the workshop provided a valuable policy for practicing journalists to examine how they do their work," he said.
One can only agree; so why not get independent, impartial experts to comment.
The workshop was run by the people who overthrew it all. Its like getting a burglar in to define burglary.
Yes, I live in Auckland; I don’t have censors in my newsroom and anything I say about all this can be taken with a grain of salt and a “easy for you to say”.
Last year I spent a decent amount of time in Kausani, India, working on a book. Nearby was an ashram run by a chap who lived in an authoritiarian, largely military controlled and undemocratic society.
He was jailed countless times, and many of his followers were beaten up and killed.
But they kept going; never raising arms or guns.
It was called passive resistance, and his name was Gandhi.
Why didn’t Fiji journalists simply choose not to go to Shemeem’s School of Indoctrination.
They’ve done sweet all else.
A Visit from Mr Bland
By Disillusioned Cub Reporter
By 5pm the days news work is ready to be assessed. Those of us new to the game have written our hearts out about the social and moral dilemmas facing us today in Fiji. Three years at USP gave us enthusiasm and drive. The older hands have rewritten the press releases of various Government Departments, added the odd bit for Mr Bland to play with and sat on their hands for the afternoon.
Mr Bland is the nickname for the censors. Their job is to bland out reports so that their boss, who has a heart condition, doesn’t keel over if he ever reads some bad news.
The caliber of the censorship is humorous. A story of a house burning down, because there was no water in the nearby hydrant for the firefighters, was killed as negative but we could report the house burnt down. This was not apparently negative although I believe the owners thought otherwise.
We printed a similar story last month without a problem.
Mr Bland, depending on his/her temperament either kills the news outright or plays with a magic marker crossing out all contentious comments. He blands the article until it is so insipid that the editor often pulls it as being of no value. I often work for a week without getting a tick in my success box.
A body found in the Rewa River was not allowed to be reported as a murder even though the police officer on the scene said it was and cane knife cuts could be seen. The censor was unable to confirm with police headquarters that it was a murder so it wasn’t. We even had the name and title of the police officer but this was not good enough. It was merely reported as a drowning. His family was distraught as they knew better. We were unable to find any information of an ongoing police investigation. If a reporter calls the police they are redirected to the Police News Unit and they are professionals at the big No Comment.
A home invasion in Nasouri is finally reported as a break in. We have yet to find out why a break in is less offensive than a home invasion. The fact that cane knives were waved around and women and children were involved was magic marked. The fact that the police arrived two hours after they were called also magically disappeared. Another big No Comment when a followup is sought.
Don’t get me started on court reporting. The reporter lowest on the food chain gets the joys of the court. It is a no-win posting. If you report the truth you face both the censors and the Judiciary. I have been warned twice about contempt of court both time for articles submitted to Mr Band that were never published.
We are all professionals. Professional what? This is the question often asked at the ever longer coffee breaks. It is demoralizing to work all day for Mr Bland to shake his head.
It is even more demoralizing to have your name attributed to a piece of news that you know is untrue.
The newsroom has degenerated into gallows humor with articles written to provoke Mr Blands’ Magic Marker. Bets are taken on the number of words left. The news is no longer sacrosanct.
My recommendation is to join the news crew in treating our output for what it is……Crap.