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
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:
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide