Do you know who else is absolutely right in this case? Justice William Calanchini is when he notes in his ruling that the contemptuous publication was entirely the fault of Times management and/or journalists. The fact that such a problematic piece slipped through the safety net and wound up being printed in the Times on 11 November 2011 was the result of a breakdown in any systems the newspaper had in place to guard against such errors. Calanchini noted that the Times claimed staff and copy shortages that day led to the failure to detect the legal peril inherent in the article, which was a soccer story reprinted from the previous day's Sunday Star-Times in
Even if that was due to unforeseen staff absences and time deadlines, the fact that the article was not read in its entirety, that there was additional pressure due to staff being absent and a shortage of material with time constraints all point to either inadequate workplace systems or inadequate staff in terms of quantity and/or quality of staff.Whether a fine of $300,000 is an appropriate penalty is another matter altogether, but as Calanchini notes, the Times was fined $100,000 for contempt in 2009. A fundamental principle of sentencing is the escalation of penalties if an accused does not learn from their mistakes and change their ways. Even worse, the Times aggravated the offence with the subsequent publication of an article and a picture of Oceania Football Confederation General Secretary of Oceania Tai Nicholas, who made a $25,000 donation to the Prime Minister's Flood Relief Appeal Fund. Not only did the article repeat details of the contemptuous story, noted Calanchini, but the accompanying photo suggested that the donation would somehow ameliorate the contempt, similarly suggesting the Fiji judiciary was corrupt.
Details of the contemptuous article, of course, are not legally allowed to reach Fijians, who will likely not get them from their country's media. The Internet, of course, is another thing, as they are widely available there. While the offending article has been removed from the Fiji Times website, it is still available elsewhere online. It involved
If we're honest, there's debate around the coup regime, who are ostracising lawyers who are involved with the constitutional reforms. You should be aware that with no judiciary there, his case has been reviewed by one Australian judge. It's not a court per se.That drew the ire of Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, who issued contempt proceedings against the Times and Nicholas, who was earlier fined $15,000 in absentia when he did not appear for sentencing after pleading guilty. Sayed Khaiyum and Smith-Johns have rightly taken much heat for their blatant bullying of Fiji media, but in many ways journalists in the Republic are their own worst enemies. The need to raise journalism standards in Fiji has long been the contention of this corner and others, to which some in the Fiji media and elsewhere have taken great umbrage. The propensity for both Fiji TV and the Fiji Times to hire untrained cadet journalists straight out of Form 7, without training in Media Law or even Journalism, is coming back to bite them. The fact that no one at the Times bothered to even read the story all the way through is a harsh indictment on the paper's standards of journalism. Such indolence is rife in Fiji. Any journalist would have heard loud alarm bells go if they had merely taken the time to read such words as "coup regime, who are ostracising lawyers." Heads should roll. Hopefully this will not be the end of the 143-year-old daily, but even if it continues publishing its journalism may well be more chilled than before by this second contempt finding. That would make it frozen.