Fiji PM urges party leaders to hold social media behaviour to a higher standard

Fiji's Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. Picture: Picture: FT FILE/SUPPLIED

WITH much debate between politicians expected in the coming weeks as this year’s election beckons, Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has urged all political party leaders to hold social media behaviour to a higher standard.

In a statement issued earlier today, Mr Bainimarama said as a leader, it is their duty to ensure their candidates, officials and supporters conduct themselves with the same dignity and decorum online as we expect them to in person.

“By not openly condemning this hatred, you are complicit in it. Let us come together, irrespective of party, and root out these destructive acts, for the good of our nation,” Mr Bainimarama said.

“While these political tricks may be old, the methods by which they are spread are new; today, they are being spread with a heightened level of animosity, hatred, and prejudice and also through social media.

Mr Bainimarama said since the last election, tens of thousands more Fijians have gone digital; with advent of mobile devices and computers and what he described as “more access to affordable data and internet services.”

“When used responsibly, social media can be a powerful tool for good; it can create a more informed democracy and facilitate fruitful and meaningful discussions online. But when used irresponsibly, it can be an equally powerful tool for evil,” he said.

Mr Bainimarama said the stakes of a civil and truthful campaign season were higher than this election alone.

“No leader, no candidate, no person should seek to undermine our economy, or tear at our social fabric, for their own short-term political gain,” he said.

“No matter how fierce the political debates may rage in the coming weeks, we must always remain true to the core values of the Fijian spirit: our unity, our commitment to the strength of Fijian families, our love of country, our love for our fellow Fijians and the future we share, united as one.

“But it’s not just our political leaders who can be an agent for change; I encourage all Fijians to look at posts they read online with a critical eye, respect the privacy of their fellow citizens, and be cautious about unwittingly participating in dangerous group or mob mentality by sharing unverified rumours.

“Trust should not be given blindly. Because while some may try to tear down our democracy by spreading lies and falsehoods, by seeking the truth, we are all actively protecting everything Fiji has worked so hard to build.”

Mr Bainimarama added that the better and nobler parts of our nature must always prevail, regardless of our political differences.

November 14, 2018, is the Election Day and voting will be from 7.30am to 6pm and in the night the provisional results will be progressively released from 6pm.

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