Case Number: 3414

Council Meeting: 7 AUGUST 2023

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Radio NZ

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Discrimination and Diversity

Ruling Categories: Offensive Language

This complaint relates to the use of the use of the word “itaukei” instead of “indigenous Fijians” in news articles published by Radio New Zealand Pacific Waves in June 2023.

The complainant says the terms “Itaukei” and “Fijian” were frequently used by RNZ in a biased and often derogatory, demeaning and discriminatory manner, without knowledge of the real meaning of the word “Itaukei” or indigenous Fijian cultural ethics and protocols of what constitutes formal, semi-formal and street language. The word “itaukei” in its crudest form belongs to street language.

The complainant also said RNZ’s random use of the terms was confusing, hurtful and biased in favour of one segment of the Fijian population.

In its response RNZ said its reporting was in line with what was being reported by local media in Fiji and it had made an editorial decision to use the ethnic definitions found in the 2013 Fiji Constitution. The constitution uses the word “Fijian” to describe all Fijian citizens (Indian, Chinese, European and Fijian) and the word “itaukei” to refer separately and specifically to indigenous Fijians only.

RNZ said it broadcast regionally in the Pacific and could not sustain separate language protocols for the Fijian diaspora in NZ, in Australia and in Fiji itself.

The Media Council accepts that the complaint highlights a matter of concern to the complainants who represent members of the indigenous Fijian community living in New Zealand. Clearly it is a sensitive issue.

However, the Council notes that the Fijian Constitution, its government – which has a Ministry of Itaukei Affairs - and the Fijian media use the term “Itaukei” to describe Fiji’s indigenous population. 

The Council cannot be the arbiter of a controversy about the correct use of names which arises in Fiji and must be determined by the Fijian people themselves.  The Council does not have the expertise or knowledge of Fijian language, culture and politics to consider the arguments, let alone contemplate bringing down a ruling that could be tantamount to telling another nation that their government and news media are using their language incorrectly.

The Council notes that RNZ is trying to do the right thing. While this complainant argues it has been remiss, it does not mean there is a basis of a claim that any Media Council principles have been breached.

It is not established that the use of the words was inaccurate, unfair or unbalanced.  It has not been shown that there is any gratuitous emphasis on race.  There is no breach of the Media Council principles.

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.


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