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Published on Monday, September 7, 2009

Journalists call for Fiji travel ban

SYDNEY – Calls by a journalists’ organisation to encourage travellers to boycott Fiji – which last week was turfed out of the Commonwealth – have not met with universal support.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) wants travellers to rethink any plans to holiday in Fiji as a protest against the regime of Commodore Frank Bainimarama and the government’s media censorship record.

The IFJ’s Sydney-based spokeswoman, Deborah Muir, told Radio Australia that anyone thinking of holidaying in Fiji should reconsider.

"Fiji is no paradise right now. Any advertising campaign that says it is a paradise is false advertising,” she said.

But Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said he would not be advising Australians to boycott holidaying in Fiji because it would only hurt ordinary Fijians.

“We've never wanted to do things that hurt the people of Fiji and the great regret in all of this is that Fiji should be a premier country in the Pacific, it should be a premier economy," the minister said.

Frank Yourn, executive director of the Australia-Fiji Business Council, said the innocent would suffer from a travel boycott, not the interim government.

"It's not a matter of propping up the dictatorship; it's really a matter of trying to ensure the economic survival of people who are really suffering quite badly," he said.

Tourism Fiji regional office in Australia turned down TravelMole’s request for a comment but the Fiji Times quoted Tourism Fiji chairman, Patrick Wong, who said the issue “is political and unlikely to have an impact on the industry”.

He said Fiji has always been a safe holiday destination, and restrictions, unrest or military action have not affected visitors to the country.

However, the latest arrival figures show Australians and New Zealanders are staying away from Fiji in droves.

Visitor arrivals to Fiji are down 30 percent compared to this time last year and occupancy rates sit below 50 percent.

Would a travel ban make any difference to the powers currently ruling Fiji? Or would it simply hurt the grass roots tourism operators? Give us your views by emailing [email protected] Or leave a comment on our website.

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  • A tourism ban will hurt Fijians not the Fijian government

    The call by a group of journalists to ban travel to Fiji will only harm the Fijian people. It should be understood that over 37% of Fiji's Gross Domestic Product is sourced fro tourism and this means that tourism is the country's largest employer and an attack on Fijian tourism is an attack on the Fijian people not the government. While it is perfectly legitimate to be critical of Fiji's current regime a ban on tourism will not punish the regime but the majority of Fijians whose livelihoods depend on tourism. Is it really the desire of a bunch of journalists to punish the Fijian people because of the nature of a political regime they have not had the opportunity to elect. If we have a hard look around the world at non or anti-democratic regimes and decide to ban travel to all of them there would be few countries anyone could visit. Clearly if individuals choose not to visit a country because of the nature of political regime this is a decision they can make on their own in accordance with their conscience. In my humble opinion a group of journalists calling on a ban on tourism is, if anything going to strengthen the instransigence of the Bainmarama government which will bunker down to resist this sort of pressure. Journalists have an ethical responsibility to report the truth without fear or favour and while some journalists believe that it is their role to be moral crusaders there needs to be some responsibility about the targets they choose. Whatever one thinks about the Fijian government it does not attack tourists, toursist are safe and welcome on Fiji and should be free to make their own decisions on whether they visit Fiji or not based on the facts rather than responding to the soapbox antics of a group of journalists however well intentioned they may be.

    By David Beirman, Thursday, September 10, 2009

  • Spotlight on Fiji

    Here is a link to ABC story: Coincidentally the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) are considering having their 2010 AGM in Fiji. I am a member of this society and quite looking forward to this event. I'm also hoping the added publicity will draw attention to the plight of Fijians and that the Fiji Tourism officials recognise that most Australians have a deep affection for their country and want a return to legitimate democracy as soon as possible.

    By Roderick Eime, Thursday, September 10, 2009

  • What boycott call?

    A totally inaccurate headline! I can find nothing about an IFJ Fiji travel boycott call on the IFJ website. The last posting is a June 10 press release about extended media censorship in Fiji affecting press freedom ... This spurious headline is based on a quote from a radio interview (note: no date given) with an IFJ representative who is seemingly expressing her personal opinion - and not the opinion of the IFJ.

    By Rob Woodburn, Wednesday, September 9, 2009

  • Now is the time to support Fiji

    Don't abandon Fiji it is a Paradise regardless of Deborah Muir's comments she obviously has never experienced the warm nature of the ordinary Fijian people, because if she had she would encourage us to keep on travelling and lobby her Government to lobby against the interim Fijian ruling pliticians with sanctions to bring change. Another thing but more importantly is the FACT that Fiji has not been thrown out of the Commonwealth it has been suspended, which is not the same thing !!! Come on you aussies & Kiwis you know that it is a great place to visit it needs your support, & you guys have always stuck up for the little guy in the past, don't let the media and the politicians tell you what s right make your own decisions.

    By Glenn Ratcliffe, Tuesday, September 8, 2009

  • Journalist Replies

    As a frequently travelling travel journo I occasionally find myself in these situations. I recently travelled to Zimbabwe, Thailand and am considering Burma. Yes, there is always the possibility some of your travel dollars will find their way into the regime's coffers, bit on balance I believe travel is good at countering dictatorships. It gives you a chance to see the plight of the local people and help them in a small way. My reporting always raises the issues in that country and continues the discussion. Bottom line is always the regular folks who suffer. People need to make their own choices on these matters I endorse anybody doing that whether they boycott or not.

    By Roderick Eime, Tuesday, September 8, 2009

  • Journalists call for Fiji travel ban

    How about we have a ban on jounalists travelling to Fiji, that would send a signal yet it wouldn't hurt anyone else!

    By John Hollins, Tuesday, September 8, 2009

  • Aussies should support Australian Tourism

    Ineteresting to see that Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith calls for aussies not to boycott Fiji whilst the Australian government bemoans other dicatorships around the world. I for one would not step foot in Fiji until democracy is restored. I do feel for the Fijian people, but we should not be finacially propping up this unelected government. Australian operators are suffering and maybe we should look to our own back yards for that holiday. To me, it looks like that the Australian Government thinks it's ok to visit a country that doesn't recognise democracy and basic civil rights, such as free and fair elections as long as it is cheap enough..

    By Pete Mac, Tuesday, September 8, 2009

  • Fiji Journo Ban

    It is always amazing how these wacko journalists always try and make out that they are somehow better than the avergae person who still enjoys a holiday in Fiji. Good thing that journos do not travel to Fiji as they do not need any more incorrect reporting to injure their travel industry

    By mpatterson patterson, Tuesday, September 8, 2009

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