Showing posts with label pina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pina. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Media kingpins start new group after divisive PINA resignation

By Josephine Latu, Pacific Media Watch

A group of established media veterans have formed a new group – the Pacific Media Association (PMA) – after this week’s resignation announcement by former vice president of the main regional body, the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) John Woods.

The new media organization includes as key members Samoa Observer founder Savea Sano Malifa, Vanuatu Daily Post editor Marc Neil-Jones, former Fiji Sun publisher now an editor at the Samoa Observer Russell Hunter, Taimi Media Network CEO Kalafi Moala, and Cook Islands News editor John Woods, among others.

Moala said the plan was to support independent media while avoiding organisational bureaucracy, and unlike PINA, the PMA it would be open to members from Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s been long overdue to have an ‘industry driven’ media association in the Pacific whose core values include press freedom and the united and co-ordinated effort to lift Pacific media to a high level of journalistic performance. Our independence is vital if we are going to fulfil our professional duties to our region,” Moala told Pacific Scoop.

Woods resigned earlier this week over alleged lack of transparency and maladministration in PINA, as well as the lack of action over Fiji’s media controls.

“Today’s media freedom situation in Fiji… is totally intolerable. A body like PINA should have led the outrage 24 hours ago. I am ashamed that we have reneged on our constitutional obligation to oppose censorship and media controls in Fiji,” he stated in his letter of resignation, circulated on the Pacific Islands Journalists Online network.

In response, PINA president Moses Stevens told Radio New Zealand that the organisation stood by its approach, stating: “Fiji is not a normal democratic government… It’s a military regime and we cannot deal with the situation as we would deal with a normal democratically elected government.”

PINA is currently based in Fiji, where the media has been heavily censored by the military regime in power.

Lisa Williams Lahari, founder of the Pacific WAVE network, said she was “sad but not surprised” at the recent PINA developments.

“This week’s crisis proves the point that we need to get regional media in order,” she told Pacific Scoop.

“I want an association that’s different from PINA. Anyone who as observed the repeated calls for transparency would know it’s a confirmation there’s a lot of trouble,” she said.

Lahari called for a new approach to regional media in forming alliances with new Pacific advocacy groups and media networks that have formed in the past few years.

She said her organisations, Pacific WAVE network and the Pacific Freedom Forum group, were ready to sign on to the PMA.

It is yet uncertain where in the Pacific the new organisation will be based, although Samoa has been suggested due to its air links and media environment.

Photo: Taimi Media Network CEO and publisher of the Taimi 'o Tonga newspaper Kalafi Moala is one of the founders of the new Pacific Media Association.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

PINA summit fails to stand up for media freedom

Pacific Media Watch

Matangi Tonga editorial by editor Pesi Fonua

PORT VILA: The Suva-based Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) continues to struggle to establish itself as a champion of media freedom in the Pacific Islands.

Meeting in Port Vila last week, about 200 PINA members and observers from around the region were addressing the important issue of access to information.

But what appeared to be a sincere intention by the former PINA board to turn its biannual convention into a Pacific Media Summit under the theme "Breaking Barriers - Access to Information'" did not live up to expectations.

Despite the great effort to attract as many participants as possible to attend the Vanuatu PINA inaugural summit, their contributions did not see the light of day, because most participants were not permitted to attend the AGM, and so some serious observations made by working
journalists and media people were not translated into the decision-making process.

No decisions
The few members who were tasked to evaluate and to take action on matters raised during plenary sessions and panel discussion simply could not make any decision, and for the first time ever at the end of a PINA convention there was no communiqué.

The PINA secretariat and its board restricted its thinking capacity by closing its membership registration in March, so that any member who did not pay its membership fees by March 31 would not be able to vote at the annual general meeting in July.

Unfortunately, many regular members of PINA had not paid their dues by that date and so were not permitted to either attend or to vote in the AGM in Vanuatu, although they were present to participate in the various workshops, plenary and other sessions preceeding the AGM.

It was an unfortunate decision to disallow voting of a significant number of members who were there, particularly at a time when PINA needed as many constructive contributions that it could get to help with its decision-making process.

A mere 24 members (who were paid-up at March 31) were left to deal with the numerous pressing issues that PINA has to deal with to regain its credibility.

Fiji media suppression
The Fiji government suppression of its media dominated the summit plenary sessions, for very good reasons, because the PINA secretariat and its regional news outlet PACNEWS are based in Suva, Fiji, and of course participants were saddened by stories of Fijian journalists of how their work was being censored and how they were working under threat by the military government. Even the Fiji journalists testimony in Vanuatu was made difficult by the presence of Fiji military censors taking part in the meeting who said they were there to report back to
their military government.

It appears that PINA voluntarily decided to become a lap dog instead of a watchdog:

* PINA shied away from revoking the PINA membership of the Fiji Ministry of Information - the same ministry that places censors in news rooms in Fiji;

* PINA brushed off the suggestion to remove the PINA secretariat and the PACNEWS from Fiji;

* PINA did not make a strong statement against media suppression in
Fiji, which had been a proposition that a majority of participants
supported during the summit.

Meanwhile, one of two decisions that the PINA AGM made that was relayed through the "coconut wireless'" was that there had been a new approach to the selection of the president and the vice-president of PINA.

The president of the host country, in this case Vanuatu, would become president and the vice president would be the president of national news association that will host the next PINA convention, the Cook Islands.

The new PINA board members are:

President: Mosese Stevens, president of the Vanuatu Media Association, a public relations consultant
Vice-President: John Woods, editor of the Cook Island News
Radio representative: managing director of the Solomon Islands
Broadcasting Commission
TV representative: Tapinga Lavemaau, a camera operator with the Tonga
Broadcasting Commission
Print representative: Michael Jackson, publisher/editor of a newspaper
in Niue
National organisations representative, Samisoni Pareti, a journalist
with Islands Business International, Fiji. (Fiji apparently no longer has a national media association).

Feeble
The feeble outcome of the PINA Pacific Media Summit 2009 is a matter of grave concern for many Pacific Islands journalists and media people who sincerely believe that there is still a need for a credible regional news association.

Pacific Islands News Association
Matangi Tonga
Cafe Pacific on PINA 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Pacific media freedom group plugs the gaps

“It’s time to stand up. Journalists have human rights too,” says Lisa Williams-Lahari, founder of a new Pacific media freedom group.

By Kara Segedin: Pacific Media Centre


The Pacific’s newest media watch group wrapped up its inaugural forum in Samoa earlier this month, but has vowed that it will not be challenging the long-established Pacific Islands News Association over press freedom issues.

“We arose out of the gaps in PINA,” says founding coordinator Lisa Williams-Lahari (pictured) of the Pacific Freedom Forum.

But, rather than compete with the established parent organisation, PFF’s goal is to act as its media freedom arm.

“We’re part of the PINA family,” she says. “In July, at PINA’s forum in Vanuatu they will decide how to engage with us.”

More than 40 delegates from 12 Pacific nations gathered at the UNESCO-funded PFF meeting dubbed “Courage under fire” at Apia on May 6-8.

The forum drew up an outcomes statement, saying all Pacific people have the right to freedom of speech and access to a free media.

It identified a growing number of threats to media freedom in the region and called on governments to act on commitments to international agreements such as the Rarotonga Media Declaration of 1990 and Article 19 of the universal declaration of human rights.

Strong links
The PFF wants to build strong relationships within the region, online and with the PINA.

Williams-Lahari says as an online forum the PFF has met the needs for monitoring abuses against journalists.

It is raising the alarm on threats to media freedom, which is ultimately linked to the freedom of people.

PFF’s Project XIX was one of three Pacific media schemes approved for funding by UNESCO through the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

“Only a handful of Pacific Island groups got funding. This paid for the conference.”

The PFF started off small, but Williams-Lahari says it quickly developed a following among experienced journalists. It has been a busy year and the next step is to apply for NGO status.
There is also talk of a name change.

Williams-Lahari says there is an attitude among Pacific Island journalists that the abuse and threats they sometimes face are part of the job.

“It’s time to stand up. Journalists have human rights too,” she says.

“We want to let the region know it’s not on. Let leaders know that for the development and growth of Pacific countries the media needs to be part of the process.”

Right track
There were many outcomes from the forum and Williams-Lahari says they felt a lot of solidarity from members that they were all on the right track.

She has been to a number of conferences in the past, but this one was different because while the issues were serious there was a lot of laughter.

“There was a lot of wisdom and experience,” she says. It was also a chance to put faces to some well-known names.

Williams-Lahari says one criticism of PINA is that is has not engaged with Pacific Island needs in New Zealand.

The PFF want to create ties with the New Zealand-based Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA).

“They are another slice of the Pacific, but it’s a different media industry,” she says. “We’re keen to hook up with the Pacific Island network because we’re all on the same page.”

Williams-Lahari says they want to make sure all abuses, even the ones people think are small, are reported.

The next step for the PFF is training, continued advocacy and to make sure all countries are covered, from Hawai’i to Papua New Guinea.

“Doing what we’re doing now and doing it better,” she says.

Rights and safety
Deborah Muir, programme manager of the Asia-Pacific bureau of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in Sydney, ran two days of workshops for the PFF.

The IFJ supports journalists and their unions and works against censorship, and for the rights and safety of journalists.

Muir says IFJ got involved when the PFF asked it to help with training on monitoring and reporting on media rights.

“We were invited to provide some expertise and give it a structure”.

According to Muir, there has been a vacuum of strong advocacy and freedom of expression in the Pacific.

“A lot of the problems in the Pacific Islands are similar. Fiji is an extreme example,” she says.

“Advocacy had been insufficient and the situation in Fiji brings this home,” she says. “In my understanding, the (PFF) members are requiring a much stronger advocacy approach.”

At the forum, delegates heard first hand stories of physical abuse and intimidation.

“Fiji sets such a bad example. We’re worried that other states may adopt their tactics,” she says.

Contempt for journalists
There is overt obstruction and intimidation of journalists as power holders seek to maintain control.

In the Pacific, there are difficulties with public perception and with the media itself. Muir says contempt for journalists is a common problem across the region and members of the public may object to the way the media reports issues.

The media also has weak procedures for dealing with complaints.

“At the moment it’s early days, but members are committed to setting up a system of reporting and advocacy,” she says.

“They’ve said they didn’t want to compete with PINA but fulfil the role missed by PINA. And that’s for Pacific Islands journalists to work out.”

Muir identifies a number of things that can be done to help repair the situation.

“The first step is strong advocacy and in the long term professional development and ethics.”

It is also important to network with similar associations.

Crucial time
Phil McGrath, a spokesman for PIMA, says “it’s a crucial time for media freedom”.

“Governments in the region are undertaking massive change in the way they work. Journalists and the public have the right to be informed,” he says.

McGrath says the situation in the Pacific is very delicate and it does not help that outside media are coming in with little understanding of the complexities.

“It’s good to have local people working together.”

He says PIMA members can help with training and engaging the community in New Zealand and in their home countries.

Associate professor David Robie, director of AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre, sees the forum as an enormous step forward and he hopes the centre will work closely with the PFF.

“There was a real buzz of energy and commitment about it,” he says. “I hope it continues.”

“It was an inspiring meeting. Many journalists who have suffered abuse were there to tell their stories.”

He agrees that PINA has not been meeting its obligations on media freedom issues, but says it is still the main media organisation in the region.

Dr Robie, present at the meeting as an observer for the NZ National Commission for UNESCO, is concerned the PFF will overlap with PINA and end up competing for limited funds.

PMW monitoring
Also, the PMC at AUT has been monitoring media freedom in the Pacific through the 13-year-old Pacific Media Watch news service and database started at the University of Papua New Guinea and Australian Centre for Independent Journalism.

The current PMW contributing editor, Josephine Latu, is a journalist from Tonga.

Media freedom organisations are generally independent, but there is a risk of PFF being compromised.

“Some journalists have either business or other media interests,” he says.

“There is a danger of people pushing their own barrow.

“It’s important that the Pacific is kept in perspective – it still largely a safe place for journalists and media freedom by comparison in global terms,” he says.

“There are none of the really serious threats and assaults, kidnappings or murders that journalists face in other countries such as Burma, Iraq, or even a democracy such as the Philippines.”

Dr Robie says ongoing issues for journalists in the region include cultural and political pressures, and the ease of inducements because Pacific journalists are poorly paid and often face poor work conditions.

This remains an ongoing threat.

Kara Segedin is a Graduate Diploma in Journalism student on the AUT Asia-Pacific Journalism course.

Pacific Freedom Forum
Pacific Islands News Association
Pacific Islands Media Association
Pacific Media Watch

Sunday, April 26, 2009

‘Sulu censors’ stifle Fiji news media in regime crackdown

Reeling from four coups in two decades, journalists in the Pacific nation of Fiji bravely contesting draconian pressure from a military government are now taking no chances.

By David Robie: Pacific Media Centre

After a flurry of creative challenges to the military backed regime as it entrenched its power in the Pacific Islands nation of Fiji, the news media are now facing the harsh reality of life after the censorship crackdown.

Leading editors and journalists have opted to be cautious following the gag and threats by authorities that they will be shut down if they step out of line.

Not tolerating any dissent since martial law was declared on Good Friday, April 10, the regime has ordered “sulu censors” – so-called because of the traditional Fijian kilt-like garment some officials wear – and police into newsrooms to check stories and broadcasts.

The regime has expelled three foreign journalists, detained three local reporters and questioned many more.

Ironically, the government briefly performed an about face and invited approved international journalists back – but only a trickle have successfully entered the country. Those who have, report no interference.

Fiji, shaken by four coups over two decades, turned its back on democracy after a Court of Appeal – three Australian judges – reversed a lower court judgement and declared the post 2006 coup government illegal.

The following day the ailing President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, abrogated the 1997 constitution, sacked the judiciary, postponed elections until 2014 and imposed martial law for 30 days.

Coup leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama was reinstated as prime minister. He reconstituted his cabinet and devalued the Fiji dollar by a fifth in a bid to shore up the economy.

He is ruling by decree, including media censorship and a legal “shield” for any abuses by military and the police.

'Journalism of hope'
Local journalists have been told to cut out negative news and report “journalism of hope” - a strategy rejected by critics as propaganda.

The regional news agency Pacnews, based in the capital of Suva and providing news on a cooperative basis to 16 countries, responded to threats by pulling the plug on all Fiji news.

This prompted calls for the service to be relocated temporarily in Australia or New Zealand.

The Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), owner of Pacnews, refused to consider moving - at least not until a regional convention due in Vanuatu in July.

Strongly condemning the regime for “bullying” the region’s news media, PINA president Joseph Ealedona, who is general manager of Papua New Guinea’s state-run National Broadcasting Corporation, appealed to President Iloilo to issue a decree for returning a “free media for the sake of the people of Fiji”.

He hoped the military intimidation of journalists would be ended by World Media Freedom Day on May 3. Already a regional media freedom conference organised by UNESCO for Fiji has been moved to Samoa.

A chorus of condemnation has come from global media freedom organisations including the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Sans Frontières (Paris) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (New York).

An RSF statement accused the regime of dealing a “mortal blow” to press freedom and “heading dangerously towards a Burmese-style system in which the media are permanently subject to prior censorship”.

Amnesty International warned that the nation of 890,000 people was living in fear because of the “draconian measures”.

It called for the immediate restoration of the constitution, an independent judiciary and the rule of law.

'Culture of fear'
“The human rights situation in Fiji is getting worse by the day,” said Pacific researcher Apolosi Bose, who had visited Fiji on a fact-finding mission just before martial law was imposed.

“What is developing is a culture of extreme fear and intimidation.”

The Auckland-based Pacific Media Centre called on the Fiji regime of Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to "end this Orwellian era of ruthless censorship and intimidation".

Initially, the media contested the regime’s crackdown with creative strategies.

The day after martial law was declared and regime censors took up residence in newsrooms, the largest of three national daily newspapers, the Murdoch-owned Fiji Times, ran a largely blank page two and several blank boxes where stories and a political cartoon had been censored.
The editors were warned don’t do it again or face being shut down.

Fiji Television, owned by the nation’s 14 provinces and the state, canned a national news bulletin and blamed it on censorship.

Management were told stop this or be closed.

The Fiji Sun announced in an editorial it would not publish any political stories and other media have now followed their lead.

The Daily Post, smallest of the three dailies, tried humour instead. The paper ran funny non stories, such as “Man gets on bus”, another man watching paint dry for four hours, and a “senior reporter” having leftover roti for breakfast – “as usual”.

Blogs back
But in the end the news media “buckled down” in a climate of fear and blogs are resurfacing, said a prominent journalist. New ones with a news focus include Fiji Uncensored and Coup Four and a Half.

Another journalist, who has written widely for international media, said: “It just isn’t worth the risk now. We have wives and children and with no independent judicial system, we can be detained without charge.”

Other editors and journalists are concerned about how quickly a culture of good news and no politics has taken over at some media organisations.

In May 1987, after the first coup by Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, Pacnews refused to be censored and moved into exile for seven years in Auckland (New Zealand) followed by Honiara (Solomon Islands) and Port Vila (Vanuatu) before returning to Fiji.

But now journalists are worried Pacnews and other media are bending too far to appease the regime.

One local journalist told the Pacific Media Centre: “Journalism has sunk so low as a result of the rule by decree that a state radio reporter rang an economist and asked, ‘Can you say something positive about the 20 percent devaluation’.

“Isn’t that shocking?”

Media developments recorded by Pacific Media Watch since April 10:

April 13: Three foreign journalists - Sean Dorney of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and Sia Aston and photographer Matt Smith from New Zealand’s TV3 - were expelled from Fiji.

April 13: Fiji Television reporter Edwin Nand was detained for about 36 hours over an interview he did with expelled Australian reporter Dorney. The interview was widely distributed to international media.

April 15: The regime ordered ABC to shut down its two FM transmitters in the capital Suva and in the tourist town of Nadi. This move also affected Radio New Zealand International because it also relayed programmes via the ABC transmitters.

April 15: Journalist Kavai Damu from the web-based news service Fijilive was detained for questioning about a story he wrote about the devaluation of the Fiji dollar. He was released later with a warning.

April 16: The regime detained Pita Ligaiula, a reporter for Pacnews, over his stories filed to the international news wire Associated Press. He was released after being held for about 12 hours.

April 22: Government censors forced Pacnews to remove an online story about the UN Security Council's condemnation of the scrapping of the constitution. Editorial staff removed the story, but refused a demand by the censors and police to screen stories.

Instead, Pacnews stopped publication of all Fiji news stories.

The Pacific Freedom Forum, a collective of Pacific journalists worried about growing repression against the region’s media, has launched a news group and blog and has protested over the “spin not journalism” stance of the regime.

And to give its free media message a higher profile in support of Fiji journalists, the PFF has promoted a global online petition.

Dr David Robie is director of the Pacific Media Centre at AUT University. Photo: Radio Fiji.

Blogs rule as Fiji regime cracks down on media