Why is everyone so eager to conclude that a coup is imminent in Fiji every time the military commander Frank Bainimarama makes an anti-government statement? Why are the international media so obsessed with coup speculation? Why are people like Helen Clark, New Zealand’s PM, so paranoid about being caught up in a Fiji coup? Why are countries like Australia, New Zealand and Britain so quick to send out travel advisories prematurely every time the media sensationalise a political happening in Fiji?

During the last election both the Australian and New Zealand media talked about possible intervention in Fiji by Australian and New Zealand forces in case the election went wrong. The ridiculous reason suggested by the Sydney Morning Herald story, written by a journalistic novice who parachuted into Fiji for a day or two, was that the controversy over the voter registration could lead to civil unrest and possibly a coup. How simplistic and idiotic can some journalists become?

The war of words between the government and the military commander, Frank Bainimarama, last year, including the latest outbursts against the government by the former, were literally taken by the rumour-mongering foreign media to mean that a coup was around the corner.

Lately, The New Zealand Herald headlined on 19 October: “PM nervous at Fiji coup noises ahead of summit.” The concerned New Zealand Prime Minister was quoted as saying: “I’ve asked for a look at the security around myself and the New Zealand delegation. I am concerned about the atmosphere in Fiji. I really don’t want to be the target of it or caught up in it in any way.” Target of a coup? Who wants to target her anyway?

A number of media outlets around the world expressed similar sentiments, albeit some more sensationally than others. However, the pattern was basically similar — there seemed to have been consensus of sorts that that a coup was imminent.

An executive of the Singapore based Citibank rang me last week nervously asking about the possibility of a coup, especially in relation to questions raised by some of their clients regarding the $150 million Fiji government bond floated in the Asian financial market. She had to update investors on the media reports of a possible coup in Fiji since this would affect confidence as well as reduce the value of the Fiji government stock significantly.

She rang me twice just to satisfy the curiosity and raise the confidence of potential buyers of the Fiji stock. My advice to her in both instances was that it was unlikely that a coup would take place, everything was normal in Fiji and there was no reason why the Fiji bond should lose its value. She was satisfied with my political analysis, thanked me and hung up.

After doing a content analysis of recent media coverage, I noticed that none of the local media speculated about a possible coup. They merely reported the Bainimarama-government incident. Ironically, the same reports were used by the foreign media and political commentators who then invented the ridiculous conclusions that a coup in Fiji was about to happen.

Why are the foreign media eager to conclude that a coup is imminent every time a verbal exchange between the military commander and the government takes place or when we have elections or when something politically controversial happens? Are the media making a self-fulfilling prophesy, hoping that a coup would actually happen? Unfortunately every time they make these coup predictions they are wrong, very wrong indeed.

What are some possible factors which compel foreign journalists to be so coup excited?

To read on, head to Fijilive. This article was first published on 27 October, but Dr Ratuva says his argument hasn’t changed: “Although the tension increased slightly in the last two days, things have eased off a bit. It’s almost cyclic. Things should get better soon. So my analysis still stands-no coup, just threats. The military knows that any coup will be destructive to itself.”

Peter Fray

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