PINA BOARD MEMBERS SKIP HONIARA MEETING

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Tonga Now Government of Tonga Nukualofa, Tonga May 24, 2007

The Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) conference gets underway in Honiara, Solomon Islands this morning.

Radio Australia's Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney reports the bi-annual conference has attracted media professionals from across the Pacific.

Three of the PINA Board of Directors who are not there include PINA's president - Ken Clark, the Vice President – ‘Elenoa ‘Amanaki, and Representative of the National Media Organisations – Pesi Fonua.

These three have other commitments and are not able to attend PINA’s Bi-annual conference..

Later this week PINA will hold its general meeting, and all of PINA Board Members say they will not be standing for re-election.

He and his board have been criticised for their management over the past two years, in particular the fact the association's secretariat in Suva doesn't have a full time manager and while it has donated US$65,000 to help run the conference the Government of Taiwan will have no official presence.

It announced last week it's cancelled sending a delegation, in part to avoid causing further dispute between organisers and mainland China, which has strongly criticised the acceptance of the sponsorship.

Meanwhile Vice President and General Manager of Tonga Broadcasting Commission – ‘Elenoa ‘Amanaki says it is disappointing that Radio Australia news criticizes the work of the present Board this morning.

"The meeting was supposed to be held in November but agreed to move it to May to co-incide with the Masi celebration. For this meeting this Board will present an audited financial report, a President’s report and a legal document to support the restructuring of PINA, says ‘Amanaki.

According to ‘Elenoa, PINA has $US 76,000 in its various accounts, saying that if only the current PINA Board had been allowed to complete its term, a Project Manager will be in place by November.

"Media People are quick to condemn others on their lack of transparency and accountable. Its own organization is an example of an organization showing mismanagement, lacks transparency & accountability. This Board has made an effort to bring PINA to be practicing good governance. Despite of Board Members scattered all over the Pacific, we have made achievements of clearing our own house and I hope the next Board can move it forward. The issue for PINA is to increase its membership/subscriptions and be independent," said ‘Amanaki.

In a recent interview with ABC Radio Australia, president of the Pacific Island News Association says he will not attend the association's biannual conference in Honiara this week. The Managing Director of the PNG's EM-TV, Ken Clark was appointed as president of PINA at its last conference in Tonga in 2005. A Canadian by birth, Mr. Clark was the first expatriate to be elected to the office. But critics say the association has floundered in the past two years. Mr. Clark has business commitments in the United States and that is the reason why he is not able to attend this week’s conference.

"The conference was organised for a time when I needed to be somewhere else, and the organisers were told that at the time. Before the final decision was made to have it at the time that it has been scheduled my day to day job requires me to be in the US at that time. Yet I felt that PINA was much bigger than just me and so even though I couldn't be there the board finally decided that it would be acceptable to have it in Honiara at that time. There's no question that the circumstances have changed and I'm comfortable also in saying that the fundamental reason that PINA exists is for the preservation of media freedom, and in the Pacific in all of those places there's been a long-term tradition of media freedom. That's not unfettered media freedom, there's certain conditions in Fiji for instance in the constitution of the country that says media should be free," said Clark.

According to Clark, the current PINA Board Members have done their best to achieve what has been achieved.

"We're in a transition period and certain financial activities that were underway have not yet borne the fruit that we expect to be able to generate in order to accomplish or to move the transformation progress forward. But in the meantime, I and the directors of PINA have been doing a great deal. The existing staff whose major job is the journalistic job has been doing some administrative things as well. So I think we just have to be careful about how we identify that," said Clark.

Tonga Now, formerly operated by the Government of Tonga’s Reform Information Office, is currently operated by Kalia Media Serivces, which provides media responses and information about Tonga from the Government.

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