April 26, 2009

Newshounds’ hurdle

Word from within the Ministry of Information is that life for foreign journalists assigned to cover Fiji will become a lot tougher.

No, they won’t automatically be thrown into a cell upon arrival, but under proposed media laws, they will need to apply for a work permit before they enter the country.

This means they will have to give the ministry details of the people they want to interview and the questions they wish to ask.

Oh, there will also be the small matter of a fee.

At the moment, all it takes is a quick call to the ministry to check whether or not they have been blacklisted.

April 24, 2009

Wobbly sanctions

Okay, we may not be the most objective lot, but we try to be fair. A report by an Australian political scientist says Fiji-based Australian-owned companies have been the biggest financial losers of the continuing crisis in Fiji.

Anthony Bergin of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said three banks ANZ, Westpac and Colonial (Commonwealth Bank of Australia), Australian construction companies and most of the tourist resorts, which are also Australian-owned, had been hit hardest.

Bergin did not place the blame for this directly on Australia’s “so-called smart sanctions” – his words, not ours -, but he did say that two years of sanctions had failed.

23 April, 2009

Retirement fatality

A family in Suva is in mourning this week after their father suffered a heart attack at his place of work.

The man reportedly went into shock when he was handed his termination letter, in line with the regime’s policy that retirement age be reduced to 55 years from the current 60.

The man worked as a ship engineer with the State-owned Marine Department at the Government Wharf in Walu Bay.

Unconfirmed reports say the same tragedy also hit a school teacher when he too was given his letter.

There are now fears that more families in Fiji will face the same sad situation from April 30. That is the cut-off date set by the regime for all government workers – including soldiers and police officers – who are 55 years and over should stay home.

Media misdeed

Did you know that taking your complaints to the media will soon be a criminal offence?

Offshoots has got wind of moves by the regime to ban this practice in their new media decree currently being drafted.

Government censors are already putting into practice this intention at the various newsrooms they are attached at.

For instance, a story about broken water mains near the Peninsula Hotel in Suva was withdrawn by the censors, who then called up a Public Works Department official to ensure that a crew was sent to attend to the water problem.

Newsrooms have been told that victims of home invasions should not be given space or air time either.

Radio censors

Ministry of Information censors are not only sitting in newsrooms, they are also taking up places inside radio studios.

Offshoots has been told some government broadcasters are actually sitting inside Fijian language studios at both the State-controlled FBCL and the commercially-owned Communications Fiji Limited stations.

So not only is the news being monitored, but even listeners who telephone in.

Sour side-effects

This from a reader in Australia. It seems Australia-based companies are taking it upon themselves to ban Fiji-made products.

David Jones, which operates a chain of 38 or so large department stores in Australia, has stopped stocking Pure Fiji’s Reniu products.

The reader had gone to a David Jones store to buy her supply of Reniu creams and oils and found everything under that brand heavily discounted. Upon further questioning she was told that they would no longer be stocking Reniu.

The reason? “The coup.”

But this tale does not end here. Another large operator, a discount grocery store chain called Aldi, has also stopped stocking Fiji-made biscuits which it sold under its own store-brand.

Offshoots understands the unnamed Fiji manufacturer of sweet biscuits, whose identity we can all guess, has lost $20 million as a result.


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