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Date Posted: 00:28:19 02/07/04 Sat
Author: Jone
Subject: Tevita Vonolagi, Iraq and the Fiji Times

Tevita Vonolagi, Iraq and the Fiji Times:

Email to the publisher, The Fiji Times

2 February 2004

Dear Mr Yianni

Thank you for your email on the above subject. My original letter merely questioned if Global Risks was paying for the publication of Vonolagi's articles and the Editor clarified that it wasn't. I did not see anything "unnecessarily offensive" about that and I had accepted that would be the end of the matter. Then your Editor decided to publish four letters personally attacking me without publishing a response from me to bring the issue to an end.

Regardless of what the Editor's personal attitude was to the content of my unpublished response, the Fiji Times had an obligation under Section 2 of the Media Code of Ethics and Practice to afford me with a right to reply, to these personal attacks, at least once. Section 2 reads:

"Media have an obligation to give fair opportunity to reply to any individual or organization on which the Media itself comments

The Fiji Times had commented editorially on my original letter. I would have left it there. But then the Editor decided to publish these personal attacks immediately without giving me an opportunity to reply. It seems the Editor does not like to be criticized especially about editorial policy decisions.

His is a public position and he is responsible for those Editorials and other critical comments Fiji Times makes on current issues of the day. He should be prepared to accept criticism of editorial policy decisions, just like Fiji Times expects politicians and people in the Public arena to take criticism from the Fiji Times. You should not be rejecting criticism of Fiji Times just because they offend the Editor.

That is why Section 2 of the Code of Ethics is there, as a guidance to Editorial fairness. The Editors view of the offensiveness of the content of a letter (provided it is not defamatory) should not be an obstacle to the Editor's observance of the ethics of fairness. In other words, the prerogative of deciding what letters will be published or not is to be exercised with fairness. I do not think the Editor acted fairly towards me. I spoke with some members of your staff about this issue and they agreed with me!

It is worse when the other newspapers then see fit to publish my response instead of the Fiji Times doing it because this reflects badly on the Editor and Fiji Times. Anyway, thank you for your courteous response and I'll leave it there. I will copy this to the Media Council for their information.

Jone Dakuvula


Email to Jone Dakuvulu, Citizens Constitutional Forum

30 January 2004

Mr Dakuvula,

The original letter you wrote which we published was written with Emotive language. It was your letter which prompted similar language, but a differing view. It appears they were written with psychological reciprocity.

Our response was simple, clear and above all polite. The subject is over.

You had your say, they had their say.

The composition of the newspaper is the editor's prerogative. My Personal view was that I found your tone unnecessarily offensive, just like the letters published in the other two papers attributed to you, to which we have elected not to respond. I don't know of any reader that would like 100% of what our newspaper publishes.

I don't read comics, but it doesn't mean I'll write offensive letters to the editor or suggest we don't run them.

You've had your say. We will not denigrate our newspaper any further with views which you have already expressed your opinion.

We state every day that we publish letters on the basis that letters appearing elsewhere will not be given priority.

We will pass on your views to Mr Koro.

We are aware of your views. Thank you.

Tony Yianni
Managing Director
Fiji Times Limited
GPO Box 1167
Fiji Islands


Email to the publisher, The Fiji Times

30 January 2004

Dear Mr. Yianni

I wish to complain that I had written to The Fiji Times last month criticizing the articles of Tevita Vonolagi and it was published early in January. Since then there have been four letters published in response personally attacking me but my replies have not been published. I attach my latest reply and request that this be published in The Sunday Times, to be fair to me. I refer to Section 2 of the Media Council Code of Ethics which obliges the Media to "give fair opportunity to reply".

Yours sincerely

Jone Dakuvula


Letter to the editor, The Fiji Times

14 January, 2004

The Editor
Fiji Sun

Dear Sir

My letter of 5th December, 2003, regarding Tevita Vonolagi's regular missives from Iraq would ever be published by the Fiji Times. Well, it has been published in the Fiji Times at last after over one month sitting in the Editor's "In Tray". Compare that with a riposte from one J. Cakacaka promptly published on 14/01/04, just a day after.

Two friends of mine who are retired soldiers and who had served in peace keeping duties in a number of countries overseas had encouraged me to write that letter. I was expressing our collective view of Mr. Vonolagi's articles. I agree with my ex soldier friends that Mr. Vonolagi's articles are boring because he does not say anything interesting about the work experiences, difficulties, personal impressions and feelings of Fijian soldiers employed by Global Risk Strategies in Iraq. There is no article in the Fiji Times about the views of those who have been seriously injured, for example. Do they think it was worth while? We are not interested in reading about the soldier's choir practices and singing etc in Iraq.

We are better informed through the BBC Television news, reports about events in Iraq that we read in international news section of our local newspapers and articles we get through the internet. Mr. Vonolagi, who is living in Iraq, seems to be less informed about that country than we who follow regular news in the media, outside Iraq. His "news" is usually stale and riddled with inane comments.

In the last 20 odd years, our soldiers have served in peace keeping duties in the Middle East and many other parts of the world. I have no recollection of anyone serving in these earlier Missions overseas writing from the field a regular full page column in the Fiji Times or any other newspaper here. In the past we sometimes got articles by experienced journalists who visited our troops but Mr. Vonolagi has no known journalistic credentials. And the Fiji Times allows him a full page every week to tell us his stale "news". That's why we came to the wrong conclusion that the Fiji Times was receiving payments from Global Risks for these sub standard articles

Jone Dakuvula

Letter to the editor, The Fiji Times

5 December, 2003

The Editor
Fiji Times

Dear Sir

I refer to the articles from Iraq of Tevita Vonolagi that The Fiji Times is now regularly publishing. These articles are so inane, boring, uninteresting and propagandistic that I wonder why the Fiji Times has stooped so low to accept substandard articles of this kind. Is the Fiji Times being paid by Global Risks Ltd to publish them? If so, your Paper ought to observe Section 17 of the Media Council Code of Ethics on advertising. It says "advertiser - sponsored material must be clearly distinguished from general editorial and programme matter where necessary by being clearly labelled in print or air as "advertisement, 'advertising feature etc".

I look forward to the publication of this letter.

Jone Dakuvula

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