Response to Fiji Times Article
12 September 2020
The Fijian Elections Office [FEO] sent out a press release on Friday 11 September 2020 at 4.53 pm to the media regarding the National Federation Party [NFP] being referred to FICAC.
The FEO maintains a media emailing list that is used to disseminate communication materials like press releases and the list includes media organisations like the Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, FBC, Fiji Live, Islands Business, Fiji TV, Fiji Village, Mai Life Magazine and others.
There is an article in today’s Fiji Times by one Unaisi Ratubalavu titled “Biman: There’s nothing to hide” where the writer states: “Meanwhile there were media reports last evening suggesting the Fijian Elections Office had referred NFP to FICAC once again. There was no official communication of this to The Fiji Times when this edition went to press last night”.
As the Fiji Times is included in FEO’s emailing list, the FEO assumes that any communication material that is sent out by the FEO including press releases will be received by them, and at the same time as any other organisation that is in the media emailing list.
Yesterday’s press release was sent to the following people from Fiji Times; Fred Wesley, Margaret Wise, Unaisi Ratubalavu, Luke Rawalai, Repeka Nasiko, Nasik Swami and Litia Cava among others.
The press statement was also sent to their general email, firstname.lastname@example.org, to ensure that the organisation receives it. The Fiji Times has previously asked the FEO to send all press statements and media invites to this general email as well as any other emails that we have.
Supervisor of Elections Mr Mohammed Saneem expressed his disappointment at the said statement made against FEO in the article.
“To our knowledge, if we send out a press release and copy more than seven  people from the organisation, it is questionable when the Fiji Times claims that it did not receive it. Some of the reporters have also given us their personal emails making double sure that they receive our communication under any and all circumstances.,” Mr Saneem said.
“The statement by Ms Unaisi Ratubalavu in the abovementioned article is false and reflects poorly on the writer’s credibility as a journalist and on the Fiji Times as a source for reliable news.”
After seeing the article this morning, the FEO communications team verified and ascertained that the press release was indeed sent to Fiji Times yesterday.
“To our surprise, we received an email on the FEO communication channel at 10.23am this morning from Mr Luke Rawalai of Fiji Times about why the said press release was not sent to them,” Mr Saneem said.
“Mr Rawalai also asked if the Fiji Times was under a media ban from the FEO. Such an allegation is preposterous as the FEO has always been very cooperative with the media and maintains impartiality.
“The FEO has corrected Fiji Times articles several times in the past, but when we send out communication material, we still copy in as many people from the organisation to ensure that they get the right information.
“This leads us to really question if the Fiji Times had written that article during the day on Friday and did not want to amend it after the press release was sent.”
The FEO closes its office at 5pm and before that the press release was issued.
“If the Fiji Times indeed knew that there were media reports being circulated on the issue, they could have reached out to us via email or phone as they have done so on numerous occasions in the past,” Mr Saneem said.
“Despite believing that there was a press release that other news organisations had received and being under the assumption that they did not receive it, the Fiji Times chose not to contact the FEO but publish a false and speculative story making an issue of something that never actually transpired.”
Historically the Fiji Times has always acknowledged actions and published stories that were disseminated by the FEO using the same exact emails and communication channels.
The FEO is disappointed that the Fiji Times recklessly concocted information designed to negatively impact the FEO’s excellent relations with the Fijian media. One would have hoped for better.