Australian J School bans staff contact with Fiji

My colleagues in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland have taken a strong stand against the suppression of media freedom in Fiji. The school has decided to put a black ban on staff travel to Fiji for the foreseeable future in solidarity with journalists and news workers who are literally under the gun on the Pacific island.

The veteran Australian reporter, Sean Dorney, regarded as one of the world’s experts on Pacific issues has also received a very warm welcome on a recent speaking tour of Australian universities. I’ve included a report of his talk to three hundred first year journalism students at the University of Queensland a couple of days ago.

A hat tip to Dr Mark Hayes for this information.

Statement from the Head of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia

The Queensland University School of Journalism and Communication has banned staff travel to or through Fiji because of the current situation there.

“Because of the specific nature of conditions in Fiji, the School will not be approving travel to or via Fiji until further notice. This is irrespective of any government advisory,” Professor Michael Bromley, Head of the University of Queensland’s School of Journalism and Communication, said.

“The risk to journalists and others associated with the media is too great,” Professor Bromley said.

Two School staff members were scheduled to travel to Fiji in late April to attend a Regional media freedom and advocacy workshop. “We’ve been closely following, and have been very concerned by, escalating attacks on the Fiji media since the 2006 coup,” Professor Bromley said.

“Nevertheless, we were working with Fiji media outlets on consultancies, training, and they were very keen to host some of our students in their newsrooms on work experience placements. In December, 2008, one of our students had a very successful work experience week with Fiji TV,” Prof Bromley said.

“The events over Easter and later are gravely concerning, however, and we join with organizations like UNESCO and others in protesting the severe censorship now imposed on Fiji and overseas media reporting on that country’s situation,” he said.

Deported ABC journalist, Sean Dorney, spoke to a large first year journalism class at the University of Queensland on Tuesday, April 21, 2009. Mr Dorney’s address was acknowledged with sustained applause from the almost 300 journalism students who listened in silence as he described his deportation, and the severe restrictions now imposed on the Fiji media.

“It has now become too dangerous for our staff to travel to Fiji to share their expertise in media, journalism, and related areas, with with Fijian journalists and media outlets, and Regional media workers who may come to Fiji for workshops or consultations, and this is deeply regrettable,” Professor Bromley said.

Mark’s account of Sean Dorney’s talk at UQ

Bula vinaka All,

On Tuesday afternoon, April 21, ABC Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney, spoke about his recent reporting and deportation from Fiji at two Brisbane university journalism schools. His QUT Journalism talk is reported on Professor Alan Knight’s blog DatelineHK, I have linked to Sean’s QUT speech at the bottom of this post.

Straight after his QUT talk, Sean came across to the University of Queensland to speak to my introductory journalism course, with almost 300 first year journalism students in it.I started the lecture by sketching out the Fiji context, its media environment, outlined recent developments, and played some Fiji TV, New Zealand television, and ABC TV news clips (just wonderful how we can now grab this stuff offlLine, trans-code it, stick it in Powerpoint, and use it in journalism education these days).

I also used original pictures I have of Fiji newsrooms and senior journalists, to put faces to names, and screen shots of key stories off
various web sites.When Sean arrived in the lecture theater, I just stopped my lecture and said, “Now let’s hear from the man himself”.

As Sean walked to the lectern, clutching his green deportation document, the lecture theater, which was almost packed, erupted – no exaggeration! – in sustained applause. As he talked, you could have heard a pin drop. The students were riveted, gripped, by what he was saying. Then I asked a few questions, and a few students asked some questions, and we had to vacate the theater.

When we finished, and I thanked Sean on behalf of the students, the theater again erupted in sustained applause. If you know anything about modern university students, many are professional, street level, cynics, only interested in figuring out how little work they need to do to get the highest grade in the next assignment. They’ll politely applaud a guest lecturer, with some prodding from the lecturer…

But to have a packed lecture theater of first year students erupt – no exaggeration! a couple of colleagues agreed the place erupted – twice, with sustained applause in genuine appreciation for a guest’s presentation is extraordinary. I think it’s also fair and accurate to say that my student’s applause can also be interpreted as support for Fiji’s journalists trying to do their jobs under awful constraints.

That’s what happened at QUT and then at UQ Journalism when Sean spoke in Brisbane on Tuesday, April 21.



One Response to Australian J School bans staff contact with Fiji

  1. FURB says:

    Thanks for posting this. I am doing a bit of research on Australia at the moment, and came across your post. I’ve posted a link here:

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