Fiji needs independent watchdog to watch MIDA for future elections


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David Robie also blogs at Café Pacific

WHILE the Multinational Observer Group’s final report on the first post-coup Fiji general election since 2006 last week found the poll “credible” – as expected based on its preliminary report in spite of the cries of “fraud” by critics – it has offered a raft of recommendations for improvement, including with the news media.

Among these recommendations is a call for an independent watchdog for the controversial Fiji Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA), which had a mixed role during the elections.

Arguing that should MIDA continue its role in future elections, the final MOG report said there was a need for “an independent institution to adjudicate complaints about its actions”.

Citing the 2013 Constitution’s section 17 providing for freedom of “speech, expression and publication”, MOG was in general complimentary about the Fiji news media, saying they “made good efforts to cover the election”.

And thus political parties were “to varying degrees” able to communicate to the public.

Microsoft Word - MOG Final Report
The final MOG report

However, the restrictive and vague media framework, including potentially harsh penalties, “limited the media’s ability to rigorously examine the claims of candidates and parties”, the final report said.

The amended Political Parties Decree in February 2013 prohibited media for describing prospective parties as “political parties” until they were registered, noted MOG.

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Fines, jail terms
“This included established parties that were seeking reregistration (news organisations faced fines of up to FJ$50,000 or a five-year jail term for violation),” said the report.

The report also highlighted the threat of penalties under the Media Industry Development Decree 2010, that established MIDA, but it did not go so far as to recommend scrapping the decree, which this blog advocates.

However, in spite of these media restrictions, MOG acknowledged the efforts of the Fiji media.

“The press began to report more widely on the political process, including some criticism of the government,” MOG said.

The report added that MOG believed that engagement through the media was “essential in order to encourage public ownership of the electoral process”.

According to Agence France-Presse, which had the most thorough international coverage of the MOG report, it said the report “criticised the threat of draconian punishments for media deemed to have broken Fiji’s restrictive media laws, or breached a three-day blackout on election reporting in the lead-up to polling day”.

Actually, the report never said “draconian” and used surprisingly diplomatic language about the media decree.

Campaign blackout
MIDA carried out several functions for the elections and the areas most closely monitored by MOG were the authority’s role in media accreditation, policing the campaign blackout and ongoing investigative work.

The Fiji Elections Office required all media workers to be accredited by MIDA for the poll. Two days before the election on September 17, MIDA announced that 431 local and 37 international media staff or freelancers were registered with MIDA and accredited by the FEO.

The Pacific Media Centre sent two journalists from Auckland to cover the elections but they were interned with local media organisations and accredited as local journalists and filed their stories for Pacific Scoop.

The MOG noted that it had received several complaints about this process, “which generally related to a lack of clarity over accreditation procedures”.

The deadline set for submitting applications was considered too early by some media organisations (this was subsequently extended after a suggestion by the MOG) while others were unaware that they had to apply both to MIDA and the FEO for accreditation. The MOG is not, however, aware of any media organisations that applied for accreditation and did not receive it.

Under the Electoral Decree, MIDA had authority to investigate any breaches of the 48-hour campaign blackout before polling day. MIDA also had authority to “approve” – ie be chief censor – reporting during the blackout period.

MIDA provided briefing to local and international media in order to explain the campaign blackout, although many commented this was unclear … The burden this placed on MIDA and media organisations was heavy.

But the report added that MIDA did not take any action against media outlets for breaching the blackout, and it “did not directly hinder” election reporting.

Mixed effectiveness
The MOG also found the effectiveness of media in providing information for an informed choice on polling day mixed – especially “between the urban and rural areas”. It also noted the coverage of the election campaign in the final stages “included both instances of both neutrality and partiality among the local media”. While the report did not point the finger at any individual media organisations, it said any complaints about biased media coverage “should be addressed and adjudicated by an independent institution regulated by law”. It did not mention MIDA in this context, but clearly the MOG has in mind a “super” watchdog to keep watch on MIDA.

The report’s key media recommendations were:

  • The media accreditation process should be simplified and all media outlets, including international media, should have sufficient advance notice of deadlines and timelines.
  • The Media Industry Development Authority [MIDA] should issue clear, timely and practical reporting guidance.
  • Penalties for breaching election-related reporting rules should be reviewed.
  • Should the MIDA continue in its role in future elections, there is a need for an independent institute to adjudicate complaints about its actions, consistent with Fiji’s legal and constitutional framework.
  • There is a need for a regulation as well as an independent institution to prevent and adjudicate media biases, thus ensuring a level playing field among election participants.

The MOG website


  1. Good analysis David,
    US has a corrupted source code rigged election system as you may be aware.

    The top computer programmer that made the rigged electronic program Clint Curtis for a Chinese client that operates a political lobby agency will undoubtedly be operating also in our back yard including NZ and Fiji at least.

    See Clint’s testimony before a Government oversight congressional hearing on this video and he mentions that Chinese client he worked for and see if they are operating in our region.

    EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Clint Curtis Documents Evidence of Widespread 2006 Florida Election Fraud

    The Whistleblower Turned U.S. House Candidate Continues His for Fight for Election Integrity and His Federal Challenge to his 2006 Race with the Corrupt Tom Feeney

    By Jim Cirile on 3/4/2007, 6:20pm PT

    *** Special to The BRAD BLOG
    *** By Guest Blogger Jim Cirile

    Clint Curtis just won’t roll over. And that, fellow Americans, is a very good thing.

    Curtis came to prominence a few years back when The BRAD BLOG broke the story of his blowing the whistle on Republican congressman Tom Feeney (FL-24) who, as Curtis alleged in a sworn affidavit, asked him to write an election-rigging software prototype when both men worked at the same Oviedo, FL, software firm in 2000. Curtis was a programmer, Feeney was then Speaker of the Florida House as well as the general counsel and registered lobbyist for the company, Yang Enterprises, Inc. (YEI)

    A lifelong Republican, Curtis did as asked, believing the program was meant to be used to prevent election tampering by Democrats. When he learned the true purpose was to manipulate the vote in South Florida, Curtis went to the authorities and finally to the public. The BRAD BLOG has been following his story closely ever since.

    Last year Curtis, who switched to the Democratic party in the wake of his experience and others like it with Feeney and YEI, challenged the powerful Feeney on his own turf — he ran against him for the U.S. House seat in Florida’s 24th district, where Feeney had ascended in 2002.. Feeney’s campaign against Curtis was as slimy as expected, with the powerful Republican friend of DeLay, Abramoff, and the whole bunch spending big bucks on a smear campaign in hopes of painting Curtis as a wacko conspiracy theorist, despite years of evidence shoring up Curtis’s original claims – including his successful passing of a polygraph test – and one report after another revealing massive holes in the claims of innocence by both Feeney and YEI.

    “We have now found absolutely…more votes for Democrats than the official results show. Absolutely more votes. No trends, no guesses. More votes. That should never happen.”

    Despite pre-election polls, including one from Zogby International, Inc., just prior to the election, showing the two men to be in a statistical dead heat, Feeney defeated Curtis 58% to 42% according to Florida’s officially certified election results.

    But Curtis smelled a rat. Backed up by polling and his remarkable online vote verification tool, VoteNow 2006, he refused to concede. His race is now one of five challenges (four of them from the state of Florida, including the well-known FL-13 Jennings/Buchanan contest) currently pending in the U.S. Congress as having been filed under the Federal Contested Elections Act.

    We spoke with Curtis late last week about what’s going on with those challenges, about his ongoing efforts to lobby Congress to finally bring reform to our broken election system, his experience with the Democrats “50 State Strategy,” and whether he plans to run against Feeney again in 2008.

    Suffice to say, like those three gals from Texas, Clint Curtis isn’t “ready to make nice” either…

    BRAD BLOG: It’s been a while since we’ve checked in. Give us a heads-up.

    CLINT CURTIS: What we’re doing is we took the results of the election—we had little independent polls, VoteNow2006 and the Zogby poll which basically said we were running dead even with 11% of the independents still undecided. So we were expecting a dead even result—if things worked out as the votes were cast. Instead we got a 16-point loss—which is a good thing.

    BB: A good thing? How can that be a good thing?

    CC: Well, if we had lost by 1 or 2 two points, or even 5, it is almost impossible to go back and verify that, because you have to have such a huge amount of people that put together input to you in order to find that small margin. Whereas if you have a big margin, if you should have gotten 100 votes and you got 20% less, then you only have to find the 80 [voters who voted for you].

    BB: It’s much easier to prove fraud.

    CC: Right, and your proof is much more useful if you can show beyond just the amount. So if you were looking for 2%, you couldn’t find statistical evidence beyond it to prove it. So what we’re doing is, immediately after the election, we picked up the information from the Supervisor of Elections on who voted in the election. That doesn’t tell you how they vote, but it does tell you their party affiliation and who they are. So we are canvassing the Democrats and Independents to see how they voted, because they’re likely to be on our side. So in a sense we can forfeit the Republicans and find out just in the Democrats and Independents if the vote count was valid. The Republican vote is really irrelevant.

    Take District 66. We take who voted—how many Democrats, how many Independents, how many Republicans—how many official votes we had. Then we look at: Out of the pool of Democrats and Independents, how many votes did we get, forfeiting all Republicans? In [District] 66, we only received 55% of the vote, something like that [from among all Democrats and Independents]. So we’re now canvassing door-to-door all the people who voted, signing affidavits saying “under penalty of perjury, this is how I voted.” We’re doing mine, the governor’s race and [several contested Florida races]. So far we are finding about 80% voted for me, not 55%.

    BB: Wow. Feeney probably didn’t expect that kind of tenacity.

    CC: We’ve done almost a dozen precincts so far, the trend has shown a Democratic—at least in my race—undervalue between 12% and 24%.

    BB: Some have speculated that if there was manipulation of the election results, it was done so to such a large degree to be a deliberate smackdown to you, by Feeney, for having the audacity to challenge him at all.

    “The fact that we were robbed in the way we were is actually a blessing. It gives us a chance to prove it once and for all.”

    CC: (laughs) Well, that seems to be the case, because why cheat at 16% unless your math is just bad? We were showing dead even, which means he could have won by 2 or 3%. There would have been nothing we could have done to catch him. Or maybe he just jumped it too soon, because how you flip it is a matter of question, too.

    In another district—because we have other [Florida] candidates who are challenging the election results, too—so over in Pasco County, we went over there and walked with [congressional] candidate John Russell, and we have now found absolutely—because we were able to cover enough—more votes for Democrats than the official results show. Absolutely more votes. No trends, no guesses. More votes. That should never happen.

    BB: This is smoking gun stuff here. But now the question is, what does one do with these data?

    CC: We are going up and visiting the folks in D.C. We’ve been there a couple times, and we’re going up there again. And we are giving them hard data that the elections are not correct. And so now this gives us the ability to fix it and the ability to negotiate. Republicans can argue trends all day long. Take [FL-13 congressional candidate] Christine Jennings. Everybody knows she won, right? If the trend had continued, she would have won by thousands of votes. They’ll say, “Well, what if the trend didn’t continue?” That will be their argument. They don’t have to have real facts. They’ll make up their own truths. But they can’t make up hard data. When you have more voters say they voted—under penalty of perjury and have legal affidavits to back it up—than the machine showed, how do you argue with that?

    BB: Well, they will anyway.

    CC: Right, but they have nothing to argue with—“Apparently these people are lying in court affidavits, but we’re getting the truth from machines that cannot be verified.” (laughs) They won’t even believe that.

    BB: So where are we at now with the challenge—or should I say challenges?

    CC: The challenges are coming along pretty well. The attorney in the state challenge, his name is Mark Adams, and he was involved with the case to get the other gubernatorial candidate [Max Linn, the Reform Party candidate for Governor of Florida] on the ballot and the debate, so he’s been involved with election stuff a lot. And then in D.C., our attorney is Cynthia Butler, and she was involved with Ohio. So far it’s trucking along at the rate it’s going.

    BB: So what sort of timeframe are we looking at? Are the Democrats actually going to have to sit down and address this, or just ignore it as they tend to do?

    CC: I think they will address it. They just got the committee formed—the Administration Committee, which always gets the last look. Everybody wants to be on Ways & Means or in the money positions or the Technology Committee. Nobody really wants to be on the Administration Committee. It’s a lot of work and a lot of procedure. So it’s the last one formed. They’re just getting started. The good thing about the data that we’re developing—it doesn’t require a programmer or a statistician to work with. It’s something that anybody could go out and investigate and get the exact same results that I can.

    I just got a letter last week from the [House] Administration Committee. We submitted our data. Feeney sent his letter requesting it be dismissed. He didn’t give any grounds or argue with the results. He just said, “Get rid of it.” We asked for extended time for discovery since we basically have to poll the world here. The letter came back which said, “We’ve just formed the committee. We haven’t taken this under consideration. It’s too early to dismiss, and it’s too early to worry about discovery.” So we’re just rolling onward. We’ll work on their time frame.

    BB: And keep gathering data. Is there any precedent that you’re aware of for unseating a congressman due to fraudulent election results?

    CC: Yes, it’s happened before. It happened in Louisiana once. What we’re hoping for is not so much whether we can unseat or not, because in order to do that, they’re going to have an independent investigation. I don’t think Feeney wants to have an investigation, ‘cause if you put all those feet on the ground, and you find that the vote was fixed, it becomes “Who fixed ‘em?” and “Let’s put him in jail.”

    We found that I don’t think the “crazy” thing (Feeney’s campaign to paint Curtis as a lunatic) really worked very well for ‘em. In fact, it sent us a lot of volunteers. A third of our campaign were Republicans that weren’t Republicans anymore.

    BB: People’s eyes tend to glaze over on the e-voting security issue—they assume it’s computer stuff, over their heads. You have a wonderful way of being able to demystify e-voting issues and explain things in laymen’s terms, and I think it’s going to be a big plus in your case.

    CC: They seem to be getting it in D.C. now. You know, [Rep. Rush] Holt put out his bill. There’s a few things that need to be fixed. But there are several people that are willing to put the amendments out there. We’ve talked with about 40 members of Congress, and we’re going to set up an appointment with [Sen. Dianne] Feinstein. If we can work out the little things about audits and crushing the DREs—because a lot of them don’t understand you can still have a touch-screen without having a DRE [e.g. a “ballot marking device” which prints a ballot, but doesn’t tabulate it]. A lot think we need a touch-screen and if you don’t have a touch-screen, people can’t vote—done deal.

    I’ve been talking with them one-on-one, getting in their offices and explaining it to them. A lot of them don’t understand the difference. They don’t understand that DREs are not a touch-screen. What makes a DRE is that you can’t verify that the vote that has been recorded. So we may want to start changing our language for people who don’t have a lot of time to get into the technical aspects and saying we have no problem with touch-screens as long as it prints out a paper ballot that can be independently verified. Once they understand that, and also that the technology is already available, I think we can go there.

    BB: You mentioned Dianne Feinstein. What’s going on with her?

    CC: She’s been very helpful. Her office has sent over a list of people we’ve been contacting. We’re going to try to explain it to her and get [election reform issues] going in the Senate as well as in the House. Then I think we have a good chance of fixing things once and for all.

    BB: That would be amazing. But I’m not holding my breath.

    “If [the Democrats] had stuck with the 50-state strategy, I think they would have had better numbers than they had, but then again, if your machines aren’t counting, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend.”

    CC: You can’t be too hard on them up front. Democrats move slowly sometimes. They’ll put that toe in the water and feel it first before they jump in there. There are a few who have refused to talk to us. But in general people are helpful, they understand when we explain it to them and show them the data we’ve collected. It’s so straightforward it’s hard to give any sort of denial to.

    BB: The ones that refuse to talk to you, what do you think is going on there?

    CC: I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s just some partisan thing, or if they have some sort of tie in to the other party that would make it hard for them to get on board. I don’t really like to speculate, but some, they just don’t care. This is not an area that interests them.

    BB: Going to give it another shot in ’08?

    CC: Absolutely.

    BB: What would you do differently?

    CC: We would need to raise more money up front. I talked to the DCCC. They said the reason they didn’t come into our race, even though we were showing good numbers and had all of our ground support, was that we didn’t have the numbers in cash to really get them interested.

    BB: So they didn’t give you cash because you didn’t have cash?

    CC: (laughs) And we started fairly late, so we really had to concentrate more on infrastructure than fundraising.

    BB: So their 50-state strategy…

    CC: It was probably a 3-state strategy. It started out with Dean and the 50-state strategy, and then Rahm Emanuel changed that and targeted, I think, only 5 or 6 races throughout the country, and they lost all but one of those. If they had stuck with the 50-state strategy, I think they would have had better numbers than they had, but then again, if your machines aren’t counting, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend.

    BB: Thanks for your time, Clint. One last question. On a certain level, you have to kind of take it personally that you were robbed. Doesn’t that get to you?

    CC: I might have if we didn’t expect it. But from the beginning, we expected it. I was happy when I saw the margin was big enough that we could do something about it. If I had been robbed like Christine Jennings, where it was all these undervotes — ‘cause how do you prove an undervote? – you’re just out there in the cold. The fact that we were robbed in the way we were is actually a blessing. It gives us a chance to prove it once and for all.

    CORRECTION: Our original report quoted Curtis as describing his attorney Mark Adams as having represented the non-party affiliated 2006 Florida gubernatorial candidate, John Wayne Smith. In fact, Adams did not represent Smith. He represented the Reform Party candidate, Max Linn during his effort to be included in the gubernatorial debates in Florida in 2006. We regret the confusion, and have corrected that point in the interview above.

    For more info on The BRAD BLOG’s continuing investigative series on
    The Clint Curtis/Tom Feeney/Yang Enterprises Vote-Rigging Scandal series, please see:
    – A Quick Summary of the story so far.
    – An Index of all the Key Articles & Evidence in the series so far.
    – Curtis ran for U.S. Congress against Feeney in 2006.
    For more info, see: http://www.ClintCurtis

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