WORLD MEDIA FREEDOM DAY MESSAGE

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MAY 3, 2000

DRACONIAN COLONIAL-ERA LAWS STILL IN PLACE, SAYS PINA PRESIDENT

By William Parkinson President Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Suva, Fiji Islands

This year PINA has joined with UNESCO in focusing on the key issue of the Culture of Peace as part of its World Media Freedom Day activities.

With this in mind we have focused our activities on the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. There, in partnership with the PNG Media Council and the Media Association of the Solomon Islands, PINA and UNESCO are helping organize a series of workshops focusing on the key issue of the role of the media in conflict resolution.

This comes at a critical time for both countries following major moves towards peace in Bougainville and the ongoing ethnic tension and violence experienced over the last year or so on Guadalcanal. In recent times we have seen the terrible price paid by the victims of conflict in both Bougainville and Guadalcanal.

PINA recognizes the key role that the media plays in resolving conflicts of this nature. When violence breaks out there is always the temptation to restrict the flow of information. It is almost as if those in power feel that by not allowing people to hear the facts through the proper channels that they will prevent violent reaction.

Unfortunately, the opposite is often the result as the general public turn to rumor or the "coconut wireless" in a desperate attempt to find out what is going on. This usually inflames the situation with wildly inaccurate information.

At the same time periods of conflict place a huge burden on the media. These are times when it is vital to get the story right the first time. Inaccurate or sensationalist reporting can have disastrous results.

This year in the workshops and activities held in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea we will be focusing on role of the media in reporting conflict and in the peace process.

PINA remains concerned that some countries in the Pacific Islands still have draconian colonial-era laws in place which provide governments with extraordinary powers to clamp down on the free flow of information in times of conflict.

As we mark World Media Freedom Day this year we call on governments across the Pacific Islands to urgently review this legislation.

Conflict and suspicion is often the result of poor communication between people. As a representative of the media in the Pacific Islands, PINA looks forward to working with our members and their respective governments on ways of improving the flow of information and preventing conflict and the violence and destruction which follows in its wake.

 

RUTH WARAM, JOHN EGGINS GET MEDIA FREEDOM DAY AWARDS

By Kewana Wickham Journalism student at Divine Word University

MADANG, Papua New Guinea (May 4, 2000 - Divine Word University Journalism/PINA Nius Online)---Papua New Guinea Post-Courier business editor Ruth Waram and EM-TV news director John Eggins are the first winners of the Divine Word University Journalism Award.

The award, announced as part of World Media Freedom Day celebrations, marks excellence in reporting. Among the outstanding writing by Ruth Waram was her story on the financial plight of the National Provident Fund. Judges were also impressed by her detailed and painstaking reporting of complex matters.

Ms. Waram has previously been voted Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Journalist of the Year for an investigative series on a corrupt coffee deal in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Recently she went to Seattle, on a PINA/Friedrich Ebert Stiftung fellowship, to cover the World Trade Organization’s controversial meeting last November and provided stories for media throughout the Pacific through PINA Nius Online.

Divine Word University President Father Jan Czuba, SVD, said that there were two winners of journalism awards: Ruth Waram for print media and John Eggins, news director of EM-TV, for the electronic media.

Father Jan announced last year, during Media Freedom Day celebrations, that DWU would offer a prestigious award annually to journalists who have produced the most outstanding piece of reporting in Papua New Guinea's media.

He promised the award would be granted every year, on Media Freedom Day.

Judges were also impressed by John Eggins' contribution to journalism, his detailed news journalism and his Tok Piksa and Sunday Commentary programs.

Another award, The Father Frank Mihalic Award, was awarded to Emma Boden, for the best student journalist at DWU, at the beginning of this year.

Father Jan said: "I believe these awards are DWU's way of celebrating and supporting the freedom of the media in Papua New Guinea and to remind ourselves that we must always safeguard this precious right to be free."

 

SOLOMON ISLANDS JOURNALISTS BEAT BOAT BAN, FLY TO PEACE TALKS

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (May 3, 2000 - MASI/PINA Nius Online)---The Media Association of Solomon Islands, MASI, today fought a government ban on its members from boarding a chartered boat and a flight to the Buala peace talks, by chartering a plane itself for nine of its members to attend.

In an unprecedented move, MASI chartered the plane with funds from UNESCO, the local New Zealand High Commission and Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) President William Parkinson.

Mr. Parkinson was in Honiara for workshop sessions to help prepare Solomon Islands journalists to cover the peace talks. The program - on the role of the news media in reporting conflict and the peace and reconciliation process - was organized by MASI as part of World Media Freedom Day activities. It was supported by UNESCO and PINA.

The workshop sessions run by MASI under UNESCO's "Culture of Peace" theme included a talk by the Commonwealth special envoy trying to end ethnic conflict on Guadalcanal, Sitiveni Rabuka.

Mr. Parkinson said he was ready to support MASI if it condemned the government's decision to disallow the media from traveling on a chartered boat and a flight to Buala.

The boat, MV Isabella, is licensed to carry 400 passengers but the supposedly Malaita delegation was said to be just over 100.

The peace talks at Buala are aimed at ending the deadly ethnic conflict on Guadalcanal, involving both Guadalcanal and Malaitan rebel groups.

 

MEDIA ARE THE MOUTHPIECE OF SOCIETY, PNG OPENING HEARS

By Lucy Kapi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 3, 2000 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---The main role of the media is being the mouthpiece and thinkers of the society.

This was the message by National Museum director Soroi Marepo Eoe at the opening of Media Freedom Week exhibition.

The exhibition will be held at the museum for six weeks.

"Journalists are the chroniclers of the day-to-day activities and they help right the wrongs to the masses of people.

"Journalists tackle problems head on. I think this is really important," said Mr. Eoe.

He said journalists in the country are doing a good job although there is still a room for improvement, particularly in the area of investigative reporting.

He stressed on the importance of reporting without bias and presenting only facts.

He said in many countries in the world, there is no media freedom to speak of because the journalists are being controlled.

Mr. Eoe said in PNG, journalists stick to the facts despite being the target of criticism.

"The media here are courageous in a way because they take a firm stand," he said.

On Wednesday, a three-day training workshop began for journalists from all media organizations and students from the University of PNG journalism studies department. It will focus on the role of the news media in the Bougainville peace and reconciliation process.

It is organized by the Papua New Guinea Media Council and supported by UNESCO and the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA).

Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare was scheduled to open the workshop.

Prominent speakers including Bougainville Governor John Momis, Buka Council of Chiefs representative Joel Banam, Sue Akoitai, a representative of the Australian High Commission and senior journalists will speak on the subject of attempts to bring peace on Bougainville and the media's part in that process.

The workshop will be closed by Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) president William Parkinson on Friday.

 

MINISTER PRAISES OUTSTANDING PACIFIC JOURNALISTS

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 3, 2000 – USP Journalism/Pacific Media Watch/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Fiji's Assistant Information Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi has singled out two Pacific journalists for their "sterling work" and called for more professional education and training in an address marking World Media Freedom Day.

Speaking in the newsroom of the regional journalism program at the University of the South Pacific on May 3, 2000, Vayeshnoi acknowledged journalists who worked under repressive regimes and had been imprisoned or killed.

He cited the "sterling work of Fiji Television's Ajinesh Chand and Samoa Observer's Savea Sano Malifa for their contribution in upholding the integrity of their profession."

"I congratulate Ajinesh for exposing the medical plight of nine-year-old Priya Naidu. Who could not fail to be moved by the images and heart-rending story behind Priya's case that we all saw in Fiji One News reports?" he said.

"The fact that Priya Naidu is now safe and well and is recovering in a Sydney hospital is all due, in my view, to the positive brand of television journalism that was so ably exhibited by Ajinesh and all credit must go to him for a fine effort.

"I would also like to pay credit to the work of Sano Malifa, the editor and publisher of Samoa Observer newspaper, who was a few weeks ago awarded the World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute.

"Mr. Malifa has been described as a crusading Pacific Islands editor, who has been assaulted, threatened with death and seen his printing plant burnt down - all in the line of duty."

"Other journalists have made the ultimate sacrifice in providing coverage of strife and war in Kashmir and Chechna, for example. Such examples of journalists and journalism have brought great credit and distinction to their profession.

"But we are not a military regime. We are an elected government with nothing to hide."

Vayeshnoi again pledged the Fiji government's support for media freedom as "enshrined in our constitution" and reaffirmed that the government was in the process of reviewing the country's media legislation to "ensure a free, responsible and accountable media."

He acknowledged the role of the six-year-old regional journalism program at the university's School of Humanities towards the training of journalists and wished the graduates every success.

Vayeshnoi said there was a need for proper training programs that ensured that journalists had a better understanding on issues that affected Pacific societies.

Journalism students from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu and the training newspaper Wansolwara welcomed the assistant minister to the newsroom with a traditional kava ceremony while a Samoan student performed a cultural dance.

The minister's visit was part of weeklong activities at USP marking World Media Freedom Day.

Regional students debated media freedom in their countries, Radio Pasifik carried a talkback program on media freedom and a film on Pacific media freedom was screened.

In the evening, leading Fiji media personalities were speaking on the impact of new technology on Pacific journalism in a Canada Fund-sponsored event.

Title -- 2694 FIJI: Minister praises outstanding Pacific journalists Date -- 3 May 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- Journalism, USP, 3/5/00 Copyright -- Journalism, USP Status – Unabridged

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