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NADI, Fiji Islands (July 31, 2000 - PINA Nius Online)---Asia-Pacific and Commonwealth environmental journalists began heading for their homes around the world, with praise for their big congress just completed in Nadi, Fiji.

"It took 40 hours to reach Fiji, and in every way it was worth it," said Syed Fahim Munaim, of the Daily Star, Bangladesh. "At most conferences, you find empty chairs. This one, this is a group of dedicated, eco-friendly delegates and I feel fortunate to have learned so many things from them."

"I realize how blind I am, and have been," said Olga Keil, of radio station Magic 98FM, Apia, Samoa. "Because I work for radio, which is free and reaches the rural area, I am going to take back what I learned and really push environmental stories. We can't afford to ignore this any longer."

The five-day congress had the theme, Climate Change: The Role of the Media. It was jointly organized by the Commonwealth Environmental Journalists Association (CEJA) and Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists (APFEJ) with Pacific Islands News Association's PINA Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists.

In their Fiji Declaration, delegates expressed regret at the efforts by some governments to prevent participants attending, because of the Fiji crisis.

But Nina Ratulele, general secretary of the PINA Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists, said: "A lot of people got here despite the obstacles put in some of their ways. It just shows how dedicated and determined environmental journalists are. This congress was a big success despite all the difficulties in continuing to hold it in Fiji at this time."

Echoed Shirley Joy, a freelance journalist from Port Vila, Vanuatu, and former editor of Vanuatu Weekly: "It was one of the most stimulating conferences I have attended for a long time. I can go home and focus more on the environment. It has never been a significant or important issue back in Vanuatu. I will try to relay to other journalists what I've learned here."

"I gained a new idea and impression of the Pacific Islands," said Kamal Ahmed, of the BBC, London.

"I came a long way and I am very happy," said Soodharkar Ramlallah, of the Mauritius Union of Environmental Journalists. "There was a lot about islands."

"It has been eye opening coming to the Pacific," said Aditya Man Shrestha, of the Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists. "This conference has been the best opportunity I have had to know my colleagues in a friendly way."

"This congress has some excellent outcomes," said Dharman Wickremaratne, of the Sri Lanka Environmental Journalists Forum and chairperson of the Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists.

The congress was the 12th for APFEJ and the third for CEJA. It was the first held in the Pacific Islands.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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