IFJ Urges Australian Travel Writers to Rethink Meeting in Fiji

The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) strongly urges the Australian Society of Travel Writers

(ASTW) not to accept a bid for its annual general meeting to be hosted in Fiji next year, in view of the Fiji military

regime’s strict censorship and hardline in controlling news reporting.

 

The IFJ wrote to the ASTW on

September 23 calling for it to reconsider any meeting in Fiji while

restrictions continue against local media.

 

The IFJ said that ASTW members would

be compromising their integrity to accept the hospitality of the regime in the

current circumstances.

 

The letter from IFJ Asia-Pacific Steering Committee member Christopher

Warren, who is also Federal Secretary of the Media Entertainment & Arts

Alliance, noted that while ASTW “members may be encouraged by Fiji’s regime to visit and report favourably on Fiji, other

foreign journalists risk being banned from entry while local journalists must

daily bow to the demands of the newsroom censors”.

 

The ASTW was reminded of its code of

ethics, which states that members will “encourage responsible professional

standards of reporting” and “safeguard the professional independence of travel

writers”. The society’s stated mandate is to promote “unbiased reporting of

information on travel topics”.

 

“The IFJ believes that the staging

of the AGM in Fiji would

risk compromising the ASTW,” Warren

said in the letter.

 

“While ASTW members may seek to

present a realistic picture of Fiji’s current circumstances in their

professional work as travel writers, they would be denied this right within

Fiji, and any critical commentary in their journalistic or other work would be

blocked from circulation within Fiji.

 

“Fiji is therefore not a suitable

venue in which the ASTW can reasonably promote professional travel writing in

keeping with the ASTW’s code of ethics and international journalistic standards

that support freedom of the media, expression and association.”

 

The ASTW has told the IFJ it will

circulate the letter to its members, some of whom are also members of the

Alliance, an IFJ affiliate, after the completion of an online survey of members

about whether to accept a bid to hold the AGM in Fiji.

 

The IFJ’s concerns follow a

considerable worsening of the media situation in Fiji over the past 18 months,

with police raids on media offices, deportations of publishers and editors,

calls by military officers for media houses to be shut down, a “watch list” and

bans on foreign journalists, and contempt of court rulings carrying hefty

punishments. In April 2009, the regime imposed emergency regulations with orders

that journalists and media outlets submit “sensitive” news reports to

officials. Full-time censors have been placed in newsrooms.

 

A copy of the IFJ letter to the ASTW

is available here:

090923 IFJ Letter to ASTW re Fiji.pdf

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide