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Learning rights, responsibilities

By Charlina Tone APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Oct. 29, 2010) – A round table meeting and training workshop for journalists from around the region is currently underway at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) building Matautu.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) opened the Media for Democracy and Human Rights workshop on Wednesday.

More than 30 leading media personnel from the Pacific Islands are attending the four day event in Samoa.

They have travelled from American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Tuvalu. Program Manager Claire O’Rourke of IFJ told Samoa Observer they are aiming to develop a Pacific approach to media freedom.

"This meeting evolved out of an inaugural meeting, the Pacific Freedom Forum, she said. Where it was decided that we would train journalists and develop their reporting skills, discuss press freedom, and allow the participants to decide for themselves what the priorities are in the Pacific when addressing media freedom."

She said most Pacific Island countries are facing the same struggles when it came to media freedom.

"So the meeting will help them to formulate strategies to overcome these struggles," she said.

Local journalist and participant of the meeting TV3 News’s Tutuila Farao told the Samoa Observer media freedom is still an issue in the Pacific region.

"Through meetings such as this we are trained and encouraged on how to deal with violations against journalists, he said. And report based on fairness and accuracy without being afraid to do so. This, I believe are essential steps to achieving a media for democracy and human rights."

The event is the first major regional activity in a two-year IFJ project, Media for Democracy and Human Rights in the Pacific which began in July.

The training workshops and roundtable meeting bring together journalists, editors, media freedom advocates, journalism educators and students to discuss the status of media freedom across the Pacific.

Participants are joining workshops to develop and strengthen skills in monitoring and reporting on media rights issues across Pacific Island nations.

While the roundtable meeting will assess issues regarding press freedom and freedom of expression in the region, it will also develop a strategy to prepare the inaugural Press Freedom in the Pacific report to be published in 2011.

"The training and meeting of Pacific Island press freedom defenders is a significant opportunity for media practitioners in the Pacific to work together to establish region wide systems for keeping a watch on media freedom issues, IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said. The IFJ is pleased to work with region-based associates and organizations to contribute to the continuing development in the Pacific of a strong and independent media, which is the cornerstone of democracy."

Media for Democracy and Human Rights in the Pacific is supported by the European Commission (EC) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to bring together an enduring coalition of organizations and individuals who will jointly promote and defend rights related to freedom of the media, freedom of expression, access to information and the right to free association across the Pacific.

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