Journalism students at Fiji's University of the South Pacific have won a human rights award and two local student journalism awards. But despite the high standards at the USP, the Fijian government is engaged in a war of words with the local media over alleged lapses in journalistic standards.
Wansolwara, the USP journalism programme's training newspaper, won Fiji's 1999 Human Rights Award for its "outstanding contribution to women's human rights in the field of media".
The programme also won two honours in the regional Ossie Awards, one for its online and print training newspaper Spicol Daily (published as a lift-out in Fiji's Daily Post), which was named best occasional publication, and the other for Wansolwara, which was highly commended in the regular newspaper category.
Journalism programme coordinator David Robie said he was delighted with the success. "It's a tribute to the students because they have worked with limited facilities compared with competing Australian and New Zealand schools," he said. "They have also faced political pressures."
The USP journalism programme was launched in 1994 with French funding. It has 60 students from 12 countries from the Pacific and Indian oceans, who study journalism as part of a BA or as a separate diploma in Pacific journalism.
Fiji's multi-racial Chaudhry government has been engaged in a bitter battle with the local press over what it calls unwarranted criticism and bad journalism.
Government criticism has at times appeared to focus on expatriates. It criticised the appointment of broadcaster Ken Clark as chief executive of Fiji Television Ltd and has refused to extend a work permit for Fiji Times editor-in-chief Russell Hunter, originally from Scotland.