March 12, 2013

Virgin Australia twist to Fiji bashings tourism dampener

March 11, 2013

A widely circulated video of recaptured prisoners being brutally beaten with batons in Fiji may affect tourism to that country, a senior New Zealand parliamentarian has warned.

The videotaped beating was released on the internet last week, triggering widespread condemnation. In a weird twist, the Fairfax New Zealand news website preceded a video of the beatings with a jolly Virgin Australia singing commercial. The lyrics: “It’s wonderful, it’s marvellous, that you should care for me.”

The NZ Labour Party’s Phil Goff, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has advised the Fiji regime that the video of the beatings may have economic consequences. New Zealanders and Australians are unlikely to want to go on holiday to a country where elements within the police can bash people with impunity, Radio New Zealand reported.

The nine-minute recording shows a group of men, reported to be police, bashing two tied-up men. Fiji police say they have begun investigating the incident.

Goff says that when NZ parliament resumes this week, he will seek cross-party support to condemn the incident.

“There are no normal safeguards against abuse of power,” he said. “You don’t have a free media. You don’t have an independent judiciary. You don’t have opposition political parties that can speak out. You have effectively an autocratic system of government and that means that outside pressure from friends and neighbours around the Pacific and around the world is going to be really important to try and produce change.”, the Fairfax New Zealand website, ran footage of the beating preceded by lots of warnings – and by a Virgin Australia commercial.

“WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT” a sign on the site said. Then: “Video of one of the men being terribly attacked in Fiji. WARNING: CONTAINS DISTURBING MATERIAL.”

Videos on such sites are often preceded by commercials, and the commercials are often placed automatically by robots, without any consideration of the content that will accompany them. Sometimes bizarre juxtapositions occur, and this was one such case.

“It’s wonderful, it’s marvellous, that you should care for me,” trilled the team on the Virgin Australia commercial, before the vid switched to a man being bashed in the back of a pick-up truck.

Virgin Australia serves Fiji but the airline wouldn’t have been happy to see its ad given that placement.

Somebody noticed, it would seem. Within an hour or two the video was still onsite but the ad was gone.

Written by Peter Needham

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