As far back as I can remember every senior reporter/ editor I’ve come across has always pushed hard when it come to getting the facts right.
I’ve had the pleasure of training under Peter Lomas when he was the Training and Development Editor of Samoa Observer and he said it right when he told me: “Never assume, it only makes an ass of u and me”
His break down of assume constantly haunts me to the point where I’m even asking people with names like David -is that D-a-v-i-d?
Yesterday I came across an interesting piece from Kalafi Moala, publisher of Taimi ‘o Tonga in reply to a story by Kathy Marks of the United Kingdom’s Independent.
Mr Moala claims that after interviewing him for half an hour Ms Marks has gone off and written an article full of inaccuracy.
He’s even suggesting defamation.
I’m just picking up on his comments on being misquoted from his letter though, I guess parachute journalism when I get to know more about it is another blog all together.
PARACHUTE JOURNALISM – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH*
*Kalafi Moala, publisher of Taimi ‘o Tonga, replies to an
*Independent*article on July 22 by Kathy Marks – “The last king of Tonga?”
NUKU’ALOFA (*Pacific Media Watch*)
Earlier this month in the Pacific Island kingdom of Tonga,
a middle-aged looking woman by the name of Kathy Marks
arrived at my home in Kolomotu’a in a red taxi.
She had called a week earlier to say she was a journalist
from the United Kingdom with the *
Independent* newspaper; and she wanted to talk to me.
The 30-minute interview we had seemed like an hour.
As I have done many times before with visiting journalists,
I understood the interview’s purpose to be simply
familiarise her with what was going on in Tonga – background
She wanted to know about the king, Siaosi Tupou V,
who is being crowned this week in Tonga.
Obviously he is the subject of great interest.
Ms Marks remarked that she had not been to Tonga before,
and that she was leaving “the day after tomorrow.”
She was not even going to be here during coronation week.
A couple of days after talking with Ms Marks,
a friend sent me the article she had written on Tonga.
It was titled “The last king of Tonga?”
The line she took in her article was definitely one of being anti-monarchy,
and especially the Tongan monarchy.
That did not bother me much, for foreign journalists have had
their fair share of negative obsession with the Tongan monarch.
What bothered me greatly were the gross inaccuracies in Ms Marks’ article,
which proved the Pacific-wide sentiment against whirlwind, parachutejournalists.
These are the journalists who fly into a place with their
knowledge limited to the biased writings of other fellow parachute
journalists, and they talk to a few locals to try and confirm that bias.
Ms Marks quoted me as saying that “when I visited,
he (the king) made a cupof tea for us.”
Firstly, I have no idea where Ms Marks got that quotation.
Not only is this false, but quite insulting particularly in our Tongan culture.
Imagine the king making tea for me, a commoner?
Secondly, I have never visited the king, and the king has never “made teafor us”
Ms Marks did not misquote me. She simply made that one up.
There are other inaccuracies in her story.
She said “the king is unpopular with his
subjects because of his refusal to live in the Palace.”
Are you kidding?
If the king is as unpopular as Ms Marks claims,
it has nothing to do with living (or not living) in the Palace.
I do not know of anyone in Tonga that thinks this way,
and as a journalist for 20 years in Tonga,
I have not once heard this ridiculous claim.
Ms Marks also claims that “revolution is in the air”
at this time of the coronation.
It is hard for me to think that Ms Marks is talking about Tonga.
She did talk to Pro-democracy leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva, whom Ms Marks claims
to have been “twice imprisoned by the Royal family.” I was imprisoned in
1996 with Pohiva once for 26 days.
The imprisonment was not by the Royal family. It was a decision by Tonga’s
Parliament that the judiciary later ordered to be reversed. The Royal family
can imprison no one in Tonga. We do have an independent judiciary, j
ust likethey have in the United Kingdom.
A libellous attack by Ms Marks on the current king alleges that the king
“uses state assets to fund his jet-set lifestyle.” She did not give any
details what state assets the king was using, but it is my view that legal
action should be taken against Ms Marks and *The Independent* for
Lastly, the article claims that Tonga is a “highly traditional and Catholic
Society.” Tonga is a largely Free Wesleyan Society, has been for almost 200
years, even though the fastest growing church in Tonga now is the Mormon
Church. Where did Ms Marks get her information that Tonga was Catholic?
The average Tongan who reads an article such as was written by Ms Marks
would just simply shrug it off and go on unaffected. But, enough is enough
with ignorant and demeaning parachute journalists, who fly into the Pacific
uninformed and fly out misinformed.
The least Ms Marks and the *Independent* should do is to apologise for the
inaccuracies and correct them. On the eve of our king’s coronation, a UK
journalist has made the most defaming remarks about the king and his island
kingdom. Our king and nation has not only suffered unreasonably, but so has