Fiji health chief attacks ‘reckless’ reporting over covid outbreak

The Pacific Newsroom

Fiji’s Health Secretary Dr James Fong strongly attacked his country’s media for “reckless reporting” today, saying it could spark panic.

He gave no evidence of this.

Speaking at a press conference, Dr Fong announced tough measures to control the widening covid-19 community outbreak in Fiji.

“We are still seeing media outlets bypassing official sources, publishing stories without the proper context and sparking panic among the public,” Dr Fong said.

“That sort of reckless reporting can set back this entire containment strategy. It puts lives in danger, driving people to make bad decisions with bad information.”

RNZ Pacific reports a third covid-19 case in the community in Fiji.

Dr Fong’s statement followed an earlier attack on the media by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama who told the nation that unless covid information was on the Fiji government Facebook page, it was not accurate.

Draconian powers
Bainimarama’s government, since seizing power in a coup in 2006, has often adopted draconian powers to censor media and control journalists.

Dr Fong told reporters that the Ministry of Health was holding daily briefings to give the best available information.

“We don’t deal in rumours. We rely on facts, and the media must hold themselves to that same standard. Do not publish panicked nonsense for the sake of likes on Facebook or clicks on your website – the nation needs you to do better.”

Dr Fong, who is a gynecologist, took exception to media questions, telling journalists not to ask questions he has already answered.

“Some of you have been very insistent about asking questions we have already answered.

“Please, let’s keep this focussed on new information the public does not already know.”

Dr Fong’s often rambling presentation clearly raised the irritation of viewers as one widely circulated screen grab of his press conference illustrated.

The Pacific Newsroom reports are republished with permission.

Social media responses to Dr Fong’s media conference. Image: TPN
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