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Is MIDA an Oxymoron? (Fiji Times, 31 July 2015)


Is MIDA an Oxymoron? (Fiji Times, 31 July 2015)
Professor Wadan Narsey

Any good dictionary (keep it close folks) explains “oxymoron” as putting together in one phrase, apparently contradictory terms.

For example, “cruel kindness” or “make haste slowly” or “erudite nonsense” are all oxymora (not “oxymorons”)

I try to explain here to the public why I believe the organization “Media Industry Development Authority” (MIDA) is being converted into an “oxymoron” by its chairman Mr Ashwin Raj, who together with the Fiji Sun and its journalists, choose to attack the messenger, instead of heeding the message.

The Message from Professor Prasad

Hon Professor Biman Prasad is the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee which is charged with the sacred duty of oversight of all government expenditure of tax-payers’ funds.

It is his job and he is paid by taxpayers to defend the interests of taxpayers against misuse of their funds by the government of the day (please note, Mr Ashwin Raj).

Hon Prasad legitimately queried in parliament why the Bainimarama Government had, for several years, ordered government departments and public enterprises to direct their advertisements virtually exclusively to the Fiji Sun, and not to it competitor the Fiji Times.

This directive originating, from the Attorney General (the Hon Aiyaz Khaiyum), has not been countermanded even if a few ads do appear in the Fiji Times.

The Attorney General admitted that the instruction was due to a “difference of opinion” with the Fiji Times’ alleged editorial policies.

The Opposition pointed out, without rebuttal, that this instruction from Khaiyum was not on commercial grounds.

As a consequence, more than 95% of public advertisements were and still are being directed unfairly to the Fiji Sun. giving it an unfair revenue advantage of more than $5 million.

The taxpayers of Fiji (who fund MIDA) expect that the Chairman of a neutral “Media Industry Development Authority” would oppose such a bias by the government of the day in using tax-payers’ funds.

The taxpayers of Fiji should expect the MIDA Chairman to protect the rights of a large proportion of the public who read the Fiji Times, to be able to read important messages from government and public enterprises like the LTA, and to support the points made by Professor Prasad and myself.

But no.

The Response from Raj

The Chairman of MIDA totally ignored the “message” from Hon Prasad and me, and decided to “shoot the messengers”, as had the Fiji Sun journalist Jyoti Pratibha, earlier in the week.

The Fiji Sun published an “Analysis” piece by the MIDA Chairman gloriously titled “Skirt Journalism Claim Reeks of Hyper Masculine”.

While Professor Prasad’s initial reaction might have been some dubious pleasure at being accused of some kind of “manly” or “virile” behavior, unfortunately for him, the word “hyper masculine” has derogatory connotations of “macho” sexually aggressive behavior (read your dictionaries).

Then, totally refusing to objectively and fairly “analyze” the substance of Professor Prasad’s statement to Parliament and his (and my) subsequent article in the Fiji Times (11 July 2015), the MIDA Chairman zeroed in on a phrase (“skirt journalism”) ingenuously used by Professor Prasad in an email.

Ashwin Raj ignored totally that Prasad had previously also referred to an article by Nemani Delaibatiki in a Fiji Sun Letter to the Editor (sent 29 May 2015) as “skirt journalism” even though Nemani does not wear a skirt and is not known for using his sexual wiles to get a story.

Ashwin Raj demanded to know “if Professor Prasad is intimating that Ms Pratibha is using her sexuality to procure news stories” just as another reporter had allegedly done with a prime minister in a bygone era.

Without waiting for an answer from Professor Prasad, Raj thundered on “If indeed this was the intent then it is a serious charge leveled against a journalist that needs to be substantiated”.

Still not waiting for any statement from Prasad, the MIDA Chairman fired another delightful fusillade which I present as separate bullets to help me (and you) understand Mr Raj better:

“Sadly, it reeks of the kind of hyper-masculine

and hetero-patriarchal attitude

that the left of the political field

often attribute to the military and all those other institutions that have monopoly over violence,

but we also need to recognize that sexism also flourishes in left circles

and too often not the subject of our critique because it is coming from someone who has been calling for democracy”.

How ridiculous that the Chairman of MIDA, by mere conjecture, makes all these derogatory allegations against Professor Prasad, who was merely doing his duty in parliament.

Some of the terms are self-explanatory: military monopoly of violence, sexism, left circles, etc.

But an ignoramus like me could only understand the derogatory nature of the terms “hyper masculine” and “hetero-patriarchy” by reading this difficult article by Franco Valdes in the Yale Journal of Law and Humanities “Unpacking Hetero-Patriarchy: Tracing the Conflation of Sex, Gender & Sexual Orientation to Its Origins” (suggested by Encyclopedia Google).

In language that reminds me of a peculiar brand of obfuscating tautological Marxist analysis I read thirty years ago, it explains how discrimination against gays harms societies (we all agree), and calls for “the cultivation of Feminist and Queer inter-connectivity” (not my words- I am merely quoting from the article).

If you are curious enough to ask why Ashwin Raj would apply the term “hetero-patriarchy” to Professor Prasad’s concern about media biases in government advertising, don’t bother with seaching the dictionary or the Internet: just think of the words “red herring”.

This phrase describes exactly the behavior of the MIDA Chairman in totally ignoring the original unfair allegations by Jyoti Pratibha in her editorial opinion piece “What is your real agenda Prasad and Narsey”, while using Prasad’s use of the term “skirt journalism” to accuse him of not “instilling confidence in our media industry and female journalists in particular”.

The MIDA Chairman then inexplicably drags me in into his diatribe about “skirt journalism”.  I again separate out his pronouncement into bullets for ease of my (and your) own understanding):

“While Professors Prasad and Narsey have every right to express their concerns about exclusive Government advertising,

it is highly distasteful

and an insult to the victims of serious human rights violations

for these two armchair critics

occupying an indomitable moral plateau

to suggest that exclusive advertising is tantamount to “gross violation of human rights”.”

Normally I might be pleased that Ashwin Raj admits to the possibility of “exclusive government advertising” and even flattered that he thinks that I (and Professor Prasad) are on some “indomitable moral plateau”.

But why does the MIDA Chairman find it “distasteful” that we think it is a denial of basic human rights if the bulk of the Fiji reading public cannot have fair access to important public advertisements by government.

Why does he allege that our legitimate concerns are an “insult to the victims of serious human rights violations”.

Why does he allege that we are merely “armchair critics” (a derogatory term for those who offer advice without any constructive solutions) when he knows very well that we are giving constructive advice to government: be fair to all media organizations.

Still ignoring the substantive issues, the Chairman of MIDA advises the public

“We must exercise scopic reason that is untroubled by perspective”

while concluding

“I am appealing to both politicians and the media to rise above petty parochialism and foster an ethos of constructive engagement”.

I suggest to readers who do not have any leisure time, that you do not waste your precious time (as I did) in searching dictionaries for the term “scopic” or wondering how anyone can exercise reason “untroubled by perspective” (“without perspective”?)

The MIDA Chairman probably knows that the word “parochial” (narrow-minded, petty and selfish) applies far more to the Fiji Sun and a very small number of its journalists shamelessly fighting to protect unfair advertising profits at tax-payer expense, than it does to two economist who are trying to defend the broad public interest in fairness to all in the media industry.

Yes or No?

The MIDA Chairman demonstrates that he has little concern for Clause 8 (c) of the Media Decree that requires MIDA to “facilitate the provision of the quality range of media services in Fiji which serves the national interest”.

He demonstrates that he that has little concern that Fiji citizens are being denied their basic human right of fair access to government advertisements that affect their everyday lives.

Is “Media Industry Development Authority” an oxymoron”, a contradiction in terms?

As with many gambling schemes that are the rage now, “text in your reply to be in the draw” for a book prize (no prizes for guessing what the book will be).

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