Archive: Controversial journalist to get USP post


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Fiji’s Sunday Post

Controversial New Zealander David Robie could be appointed to head the University of the South Pacific’s growing journalism programme.

Some USP academics not connected with the journalism programme are pushing for his appointment ahead of a well qualified candidate from within the region.

Robie’s career as a freelance journalist [and former newspaper, magazine and news agency editor in Australia, France, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and South Africa] and then academic has been dogged by controversy.

His style of journalism has been strongly criticised by several leading Pacific Islands journalists.

He has clashed with a number of Pacific Islands news organisations.

Uni Tavur newspaper UPNG
Uni Tavur . . . the masthead of the award-winning student journalist newspaper supervised by David Robie.

Robie at present heads the University of Papua New Guinea journalism programme [where the student journalist newspaper he supervises, Uni Tavur, recently won the top award in the annual Journalism Education Association of Australia and the Pacific (JERAA)].

Robie is known to have close connections with activist organisations such as Greenpeace and was involved in efforts from New Zealand to set up [journalist] trade unions in the Pacific Islands.

The position of journalism coordinator and senior lecturer at USP will become vacant at the end of this year.

This is when the programme’s founder, François Turmel, returns to Europe after completing his assignment to set up the programme.

Turmel’s services were provided to USP through one of France’s leading journalism schools, ESJ Lille, and funding from the French government.

His replacement was expected to be named at a meeting at USP yesterday.

Then position was expected to be offered to a well-qualified regional candidate, according to sources on the campus who asked not to be named.

But several academics who support Robie are understood to be strongly pushing for his appointment instead.

Robie visited Suva some months ago and is understood to have met with a number of USP people.

The people supporting him forced a postponement of the decision, according to the sources on the campus.

The well qualified regional candidate is Sarita Singh, who has spent more than 20 years as a newspaper and radio journalist in Fiji.

Singh went on to study for and gain extensive academic qualifications at leading universities in Britain and the United States in recent years.

They include a master’s degree in journalism.

She is believed to now have the best academic qualifications among Pacific Islands journalists.

The region’s main news media body, the Pacific islands News Association (PINA), earlier wrote to the university over the appointment of Turmel’s replacement.

PINA urged the university to appoint a candidate from the region if there was someone qualified.

PINA’s members have previously called for the appointment of more Pacific Islanders to such positions.

This unsigned article was widely believed to have been written by the then PINA coordinator, Peter Lomas, with an undisclosed vested interest. David Robie, who was duly appointed and held the post for five years 1998-2002, wrote about these issues in his 2004 book Mekim Nius: South Pacific Media Politics and Education.

Fiji Sunday Post
Controversial journalist, Fiji’s Sunday Post, 9 November 1997.
Cafe Pacific Publisher
Cafe Pacific Publisher
Café Pacific's duty editor.
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