FIJI'S CHAUDHRY CALLS FOR MORE RESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM

PACIFIC ISLANDS NEWS ASSOCIATION 1999 Convention Suva, Fiji Islands October 8, 1999

FIJI'S PM CHAUDHRY CALLS FOR MORE RESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM

SUVA, Fiji Islands (October 8, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Fiji's Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has called on delegates from throughout the Pacific Islands region attending the 1999 Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) convention in the Fiji capital, Suva, to practice more responsible journalism.

Delivering the convention's official opening speech Friday, Chaudhry gave his views on the topic and made references to the conflicts he has had with the media since he became the country’s leader last May.

"We can talk about credibility, which means accuracy, reliability and trust. To be sure, these would be great prizes," he said, but noted that their pursuit would be easier if there was a focus on the larger goal of journalistic character.

Talking about the "pivotal role" of a reporter, he called on the media to enhance training within the profession to achieve a "responsible" and "efficient" press, practicing what he referred to as "public journalism" or "civic journalism."

However, he acknowledged pressures, such as the "conflicting demands of audiences, media owners, political figures, sources and especially the daily pressure of deadlines."

"A monster is to be fed whether or not the food is ready. Finally, a feeding frenzy takes over. . . . Another trend is to boost flagging circulation and ratings. The first casualty is the truth.

"Add to that, the comparatively thin credentials of the journalist as a maker of professional judgments. Many are fresh out of school with no advanced training and with no particular expertise in most of the subjects explored in the news. Yet they project themselves as prima donnas basking in the glory of frequent by-lines and credits."

Chaudhry also made reference to his feelings towards media reports against him.

"Here in my own country, Fiji, a recent disturbing trend has been what I perceive to be particular reporters and media outlets persistently sensationalizing issues as if to deliberately embarrass or destabilize my government -- all this in the name of media freedom."

He told media delegates from the some 21 PINA member countries and territories that he was not, however, against media freedom.

"Let me assure all that I am a firm and fervent believer in media freedom -- however, freedom exercised with objectivity and responsibility, journalism which focuses on being fair, truthful, objective and informative. That is all I ask and, if need be, demand."

PINA President William Parkinson thanked the Fiji Prime Minister for his words, adding, "He's raised a number of interesting issues which will encourage much debate and discussion in the next three days of the convention."

 

FIJI PM CHAUDHRY WARNS AGAINST INTERNET'S POTENTIAL DRIFT

SUVA, Fiji Islands (October 8, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Fiji's Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has cautioned media professionals gathered at the 1999 Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) convention here against potential damaging repercussions of the media’s use of the global Internet.

Speaking at the official opening of the PINA convention Friday, which has gathered some 100 delegates from the association's 21 member countries and territories, Chaudhry deplored a growing political and journalistic trend which, according to him, leads to "dehumanization and degradation."

"Now we have a political system and news outlets which gain much of their power and profit by vilifying public figures, then turning them into scapegoats, arousing the emotions of anger, ridicule and disdain in audiences, readers and voters."

This year's theme for the convention is "Information and Communication Technology Beyond 2000."

"The right not to be smeared, the right not to have one's suffering turned into a sadistic circus, the right not to be bombarded by insulting questions, the right to be respected for your traditional institutions and values and for your religion, language and culture. These and other rights fall by the wayside."

He feared the growing process of integration of global news and information through the Internet might even speed up this process.

"Any data which can be used to damage people has now, incredibly, become a form of wealth. With the Internet, the system threatens to become totally out of control," he said.

"The future of the media industry lies in your hands. Your attitude and action in the next millennium will determine whether the media industry, as we know it today, will be alive, and will thrive, or disappear over the horizon as a distant memory," he told the convention.

 

FRENCH POLYNESIA'S MINISTER ATTENDS PINA CONVENTION

SUVA, Fiji Islands (October 8, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---French Polynesia's Health Minister Patrick Howell is currently in the Fiji Islands to represent the French territory's President, Gaston Flosse, at the 1999 Pacific Islands News Association convention.

Howell, who arrived here on Thursday for a four-day visit, will attend the association's annual meetings.

Last year, the PINA convention was held in Papeete, Tahiti and received support from the Flosse government. It was also the first time a PINA convention was held in a French Pacific territory.

Last July, a television news presenter training session, which included Tongan Broadcasting Commission News Controller Mele Laumanu Petelo, took place at Réseau France Outremer (RFO)'s Papeete station. The French Polynesian government supported the project.

Howell, in a speech during the official PINA convention opening ceremony on Friday, briefed the delegates about recent political developments in French Polynesia which, he said, were leading to greater autonomy.

One of the key current issues is a vote on October 12 by the French Senate to amend the French constitution, which is expected to turn overseas territories into overseas "countries."

Howell discussed the dual choice that French Polynesia had made by opting for a "partnership" involving larger autonomy with continued substantial development support from France.

Howell is accompanied by Flosse's special adviser, Alexandre Ata.

On media issues, Howell stressed that the duty of media practitioners was "responsibility, accuracy of facts and constructive views. Just like our responsibility as politicians, it is the well being of the population (that is important).

This bulletin was produced by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA). Editor: Patrick Antoine Decloitre E-mail: padec@iname.com 

For more information, contact Nina Ratulele, PINA Administrator, at pina@is.com.fj 

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Damodar Centre, 1st Floor 46 Gordon Street Suva, Republic of the Fiji Islands Tel: (679) 303 623 Fax : (679) 303 943

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