Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Grubby's hypocrisy laid bare [updated twice]

You could practically see the smoke coming out of Grubby’s ears as he spluttered out a protest on his blog today over Radio Australia having “suppressed” – according to him – news favorable to Fiji’s dictatorship. 

He accused RA journalist Bruce Hill of bias and Radio Australia not only of engaging in propaganda, but of a “blatant attempt to manipulate the news agenda.” Apparently the rank hypocrisy inherent in him making such claims simply doesn’t register with Grubby, who admitted last year to being on the payroll of Washington-based Qorvis Communications in its efforts to help polish the image of Fiji’s dictatorship. It needs a lot of polishing, too, after the events of the past eight months, which have seen the junta spike a draft constitution drawn up by a panel of experts and a video circulate on the Internet showing the brutal beating of two escaped prisoners. The latest public relations disaster to befall the regime has seen political parties forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars to the regime mouthpiece Fiji Sun to advertise the assets and income of their candidates while junta honchos continue to refuse to do the same. 

No wonder the regime has seized on any nugget of hope it can find. Grubby’s latest rant on behalf of the junta concerns a speech given earlier this week by Julie Bishop, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. Speaking to the Australia Fiji Business Forum, Bishop promised to work toward restoring Fiji to its previous place in the world if her party is elected in the upcoming vote. “It is now time to rebuild the bridges,” she said. “Should a Coalition Government be elected at some stage this year I commit to ensuring that normalising relations between Australia and Fiji is a priority of an incoming government.” According to Grubby, this position is now “official” Australian government policy. He uses the word twice in one paragraph to reinforce the fact. Worse, Radio Australia failed to pick up on the significance of this sea change in official Australian policy toward Fiji.
Here was the first significant change in official Australian attitudes towards Fiji in the six and a half years since Voreqe Bainimarama’s takeover. . . . By conventional news standards the world over, it signaled a dramatic change in Australian official attitude and deserved to receive the widest coverage. But Radio Australia chose to ignore it.
Australian taxpayers, spluttered Grubby, are entitled to know "by whose authority Hill, and the rest of the Radio Australia editorial team, chose to overlook a major shift in Australian attitude.” The incident, he continued, “raises grave questions about the editorial independence of Radio Australia,” and is “especially egregious in that it involves the overt censorship of an important speech.” Grubby admits that he “has long alleged a campaign of wilful and sustained bias against Fiji by Radio Australia,” but he insists that “previous instances pale into insignificance beside evidence that Radio Australia is willing to subvert the political process in Australia and deny a voice to the alternative government."
It is more than a grave editorial lapse. It is also contrary to law. On the available evidence, it’s a case of the publicly funded broadcaster taking a partisan position in a manner that contravenes every aspect of the ABC’s Charter. This legally requires it – under an act of Parliament – to report without fear or favour in the interests of every Australian.
So let’s take a look at just how newsworthy this story might be, according to accepted principles of news. There is some theory involved here, but suffice it to point out that the word “new” is the root of the word “news.”  This suggests that something old is not necessarily news, and Bishop’s position on working toward normalizing relations with Fiji is hardly new. A cursory web search shows that she articulated it in 2010 and again last year. Plus, as Grubby himself notes, Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat programme already had two items of “new” news on Fiji that day. I'm sure Grubby would admit that Pacific Beat has whole ocean of other countries to cover, and less newsworthy stories occasionally fall by the wayside. Plus, this was a speech by an Opposition politician, and Grubby has made his view perfectly clear that this species deserve very wary news coverage indeed, lest they actually be *shudder* playing politics.

There were other newsworthy bits in Bishop’s speech which Grubby and his regime masters . . . er, mistress might be less enthusiastic about. Like the part about just what the Fiji junta will have to deliver in order to bring free and fair elections next year and thus be welcomed back into the international community. She pointed out three in particular that are not likely to go over well with the regime.
  1. It is essential that oppositions and politicians have the freedom to hold the government to account.
  2. It is essential that an independent judiciary exists to adjudicate disputes and to interpret the law.
  3. A free and unfettered media might be a complete pain in the neck for politicians but it is essential to hold all the sides of politics to account on behalf of the people.
So don’t go getting your hopes up, Grubby. There is little likelihood of any of those three conditions being met any time soon. Even if the Coalition wins the election, Frank and Aiyaz have little chance of getting back into Australia’s “official” good graces anytime soon, the way they are going.

UPDATE: The sun has come up in Melbourne, and apparently the heat from Grubby's blast has been felt. Radio Australia has now reported on Bishop’s speech, despite the fact it was delivered on Monday and is hardly fresh, no doubt due to the complaint from our favorite propagandist. You can cash your cheque knowing you have done your job well, Graham.

UPDATE: This has brought the requisite crowing from Grubby, who chronicles the prompt response to his email to senior ABC executive, Alan Sunderland, who handles formal complaints on behalf of the news division. Hardly satisfied, of course, Grubby is demanding nothing less than an inquiry. "The whole episode demands an explanation," he fulminates, no doubt preening. "There should be an inquiry into why Radio Australia chose not to broadcast a tape that was in its possession for nearly three days."

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