Extra! Extra! Eating Breakfast Makes the News in Censored Fiji

April 18, 2009 08:00 AM
by Cara McDonough
Taking a comic approach in response to strict government rules, a newspaper has been filling its pages with the mundane details of daily life.

Journalists Make Light of Censorship

When a local man boarded the bus, the Daily Post, a newspaper in Fiji, decided to make some news—and make a statement.

“Man gets on bus,” the headline read. The story continued: "In what is believed to be the first reported incident of its kind, a man got on a bus yesterday. 'It was easy,' he said. 'I just lifted one leg up and then the other and I was on.' " Another story told the tale of one man’s breakfast experience.

These stories, and others like them, are meant to be “a satirical jibe at stringent censorship imposed by Fiji's military Government,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

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Another story made use of what may be the most boring of boring topics. “Given the job of painting the couch, Max was excited at the prospect of the paint drying,” the story read, and continued, “‘It just went on wet, but after about four hours, it started to dry. That was when I realised, paint dries,’ the young scholar observed.”

As funny as the stories may be, they are the result of a serious problem in the island nation.

Military ruler Frank Bainimarama has placed censors in the offices of newspapers, as well as in radio and television stations. Recently, three foreign journalists were expelled from the country for their coverage of the situation in Fiji.

Bainimarama was reinstated as prime minster last week “in spite of a court ruling that his regime—which seized power in 2006—was illegal,” the BBC reports. The reinstatement followed President Ratu Josefa Iloilo’s deposition of a military government installed by the country’s fourth coup in 20 years.

The recent uproar has left analysts concerned that Fiji may be headed for imminent disaster. "Basically, the country's about to fall off a cliff,” Professor Helen Ware of the University of New England in Australia told Voice of America. The nation does not have “any form of legally constituted government nor any obvious way of getting themselves back onto the straight and narrow without having elections, which they are saying they are not going to do for the next five years," she said.

Background: Troubles in Fiji

Fiji has sustained decades of government turmoil. After achieving independence from the British in 1970, the country formed a democratic government. But in 1987, it experienced two coups at the hands of Lieut. Col. Sitiveni Rabuka, who was dissatisfied by the Indian majority in the previous legislature. The second coup led to a new constitution in 1990 that was “designed to concentrate power in the hands of Fijians.” Rabuka became prime minister in 1992.

In 2000, a group of nationalists attempted another coup, with the intention of deposing Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji’s first prime minister of Indian descent. The military responded by taking over the country’s government and creating an interim government. Six years later, the military, led by Bainimarama, took over the country on Dec. 5, 2006.

The Pacific Islands Forum, a group of leaders of several Pacific Island nations, has discussed how to handle Fiji’s political situation. At the group’s January summit, Australia and New Zealand pushed to get the country kicked out of the Forum.

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