Fiji Government Takes Over Daily Post

Published: Fri 12 Sep 2003 08:29 AM
Fiji Government Takes Over Daily Post
SUVA (Fiji Daily Post/Pacific Media Watch): Yashwant Gaunder has resigned as editor and publisher of Fiji¹s government-owned daily newspaper, the Daily Post.
Malakai Naiyaga, chairman of the newspaper¹s board, said Gaunder's company, Associated Media Ltd, and the board had mutually agreed to terminate their management agreement. The government has now taken full control.
Naiyaga said that Lenaitasi Korodrdu, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Enterprises, would temporarily take over as the newspaper¹s chief executive, pending a full-time replacement.
Associated Media, which publishes The Review and FijiLive, had a three-year management contract with the Fiji Daily Post, which started in 2001.
Gaunder offered no immediate comment on his resignation.
The former Fiji Times chief-of-staff took over management of the struggling newspaper in 2001.
Last November, about 60 editorial and production employees went on a month-long strike over pay and working conditions.
Gaunder was charged with failing to make contributions to the Fiji National Provident Fund for the employees.
The Fiji government reportedly owns a 44 percent share of the newspaper. In June, the government reportedly moved to increase its stake in the Post in order to bring more indigenous Fijian journalists into the newsroom.
Information Minister Simione Kaitani then said effort was to "level the playing field".
He said: "It¹s nothing new. We already have majority shares in Fiji Television through Yasana Holdings and now we¹re venturing in the print media."
Yasana Holdings is an indigenous Fijian investment company financed by the government and by the 14 Fijian provinces. The government also owns Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Ltd.
Meanwhile, Radio New Zealand International yesterday reported Kaitani as saying the paper¹s takeover was for financial reasons.
"The board has been very, very concerned about the performance and the return on investment to the shareholders," he told RNZI.
"From the government's side, we also raised our concern about the problems of the financial profitability of the company. That I believe is all part of the reasons why the Associated Media Ltd has to go."
Naiyaga said yesterday that the newspaper¹s board would assume responsibility for the newspaper¹s daily operations until a new chief could be found.
"This task may rotate amongst the directors but pending the appointment of a new chief executive officer, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Enterprises, Lenaitasi Korodrdu will initially take this role," he said.
Naiyaga said discussions were underway with an accounting firm to assume this responsibility and current. senior managers would remain in their respective roles.
"To facilitate a smooth transition, AML staff will continue to be involved in the finalisation of the audit of accounts for 2002 and ensure a proper handover in the next month," he said.
Fred Wesley, a former editor of the Fiji Sun, takes over as acting editor.
Maikeli Seru remains as acting sports editor, Ajesh Singh as chief photographer and Josephine Prasad as acting chief-of-staff.
PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).
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