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A-G: Report baseless

Nasik Swami
Wednesday, December 06, 2017

AS Fiji heads into an election year, it is the news media's responsibility to be diligent in their reporting and to independently fact-check the many unfounded political accusations that will undoubtedly arise, says Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Education Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum made the comment in response to a report on page 3 of yesterday's The Fiji Times where the National Federation Party (NFP) leader, Professor Biman Prasad, was quoted questioning a circular from the Education Ministry advising all office or post holders in the ministry that their positions will be advertised.

"Today (yesterday), The Fiji Times reported on a baseless claim that teachers' positions are in jeopardy, a false accusation designed by political opponents to sow fear and insecurity among Fiji's teachers and the public," he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum claimed this was not the first time that The Fiji Times had reported on unsubstantiated claims and in this instance, the newspaper did so without directly citing the very circular that was the crux of the article.

"This type of reporting is not only irresponsible, it is negligent.

"The Fijian people deserve better of their media organisations.

"The circular in question merely states that some senior ministry officials' positions would be advertised at new, higher salary bands, this is in accordance with Government's clearly stated civil service reform policy of advertising all positions that are set to receive salary increases of over 15 per cent in order to ensure that the most qualified candidates hold these higher-paying positions.

"The ministry is also advertising for new classroom teachers to fill any temporary positions and other vacancies that will be granted substantially higher salaries.

"Government has been consistent in explaining that all classroom teachers who were being offered long-term contracts would have those contracts renewed, provided there were no issues with their conduct and performance."

He said all information were-documented and transparently articulated on Government's road shows, and it could have easily been verified by The Fiji Times.

"Instead, their reporter and editors made a calculated choice to write a story under an inflammatory headline — a decision that was undoubtedly designed to confuse thousands of teachers and members of the public.

"The Government will not give credence to every lie and rumour that is spread in the coming months, and we hope that The Fiji Times will hold itself to the same standard."

Yesterday, Prof Prasad said the party stood by its statement and called on Mr Sayed-Khaiyum to stop misleading the people, and in particular, the post holders in the education fraternity.

He said the circular was extremely clear as to what positions would be re-advertised.

Last night, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Fred Wesley, said it was unfortunate that The Fiji Times has been labelled irresponsible and negligent.

"We reported a statement by the National Federation Party and made an effort to get a response from the Attorney-General on Sunday and Monday," Wesley said.

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