By Wanshika Kumar in Suva
Fiji’s Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem has called on local media to upskill their overseas counterparts in the wake of an article by the public broadcaster Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that raised questions on whether Fiji’s upcoming elections would be free and fair.
He said the ABC had been absent from Fiji for two years because of covid “and now they are here, they will be using information that’s two years old”.
Saneem said the ABC reporter failed to take into account the Fijian Election Office’s response to their query — a video link for a press conference explaining the overseas registration drive and how information was being disseminated.
“And this is where the overseas media and the local media play a very different role,” he said.
“The overseas media will be quick to jump at these kinds of conclusions because it suits a narrative that [Fiji] basically can’t have free and fair elections, unfortunately.”
He said the information was accurately reported by the local media.
Pockets of Fijians
Saneem said Australia was a vast country with pockets of Fijians living in very remote areas.
“When the FEO was planning this exercise, we did publish to say if you wanted teams to come to your locations, contact us and it was right here with the local media and we were live on Facebook,” he said.
“And when arrangements were being made, we contacted local communities in those areas through the contacts that we were able to garner and the arrangements were made.
“And for them to cast just a wide-ranging allegation that the election won’t be free and fair shows the level of interest they have when it comes to finding out the actual facts.”
He said the local media had an important role to play in the lead-up to the 2022 general election.
“And simply because the ABC reporter thinks Fiji won’t have a free and fair election doesn’t mean it becomes your headline because you are the ones directly in the field,” he said.
“You will get the information directly to you, I am in press conferences with you and I give you the information, no holds barred.
“So I urge the local journalists to please upskill those who are coming into the country.”
Wanshika Kumar is a Fiji Times journalist. Republished with permission. However, The Fiji Times carried no response from ABC.