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  1. Scott MacWilliam
    Scott MacWilliam July 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Dear Editor,

    In the most recent issue of the DevPolicy blog, there is criticism of the recent actions by USP regarding two journalism lecturers. It is stated that: `We’ve become used to the Fiji Government cracking down on the media, but the University of the South Pacific?’

    All expatriate staff are contractually barred by the University from engaging in domestic politics. To the best of my knowledge international donors do not object to this infringement on freedom of expression, which governs the employment of the recently admonished USP expatriate staff as well.

    The University also has previously barred journalism students and staff, local and expatriate from reporting or commenting on politics in Fiji. To cite just one instance, then VC Esekiah Solofa forced the closure of the Journalism Students’ publication Wansolwara during the 2000 takeover of parliament by the George Speight-led ultra nationalists. Against the objections from the head of journalism David Robie and the Academic Staff Association the VC refused to reconsider his ban on the students and their publication. Fortunately USP journalism students were able to continue to publish the news they gathered about the hostage-taking because of international support received and the ability to distribute the information electronically. The USP Council, with a membership which included the Australian High Commissioner did not object to the VC’s decision.

    While the USP management’s behaviour in the recent case is rightly condemned, the selectivity of the condemnation and the seemingly surprised tone of the DevPolicy blog writer is equally unsatisfactory. I look forward to the international donors, including Australia, pressing USP management to work for the removal of these forms of political restrictions on staff and students.


    Scott MacWilliam

    Visiting Fellow


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