By Josephine Latu: Pacific Media Watch
NUKU’ALOFA: With many Pacific nations facing tough crises – Fiji’s fourth coup, Tonga’s constitutional upheaval and a divisive election in Vanuatu – a regional media conference has highlighted the challenge of covering major political events.
This was one of the topics explored by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA) conference in Tonga last week.
“The key role of guidelines in political and elections coverage” was the title of a key session at the conference, with presentations by Phil Molefe (pictured), head of international affairs of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), and Murray Green, director of ABC International.
“Guidelines are to the newsroom what grammar is to language,” said Molefe, who spoke in an interview outside of closed sessions at the conference.
He told Pacific Media Watch this was especially relevant in developing countries, where having a set of established guidelines could ensure that media organisations remain accountable to the public and not the government.
Using South Africa as an example, Molefe said media could make the transformation from state apparatus to public service by taking up new commitments, new goals, as well as editorial policies that ensure accountability.
Guidelines could also help to keep journalists’ personal beliefs separate from their work and enable them to maintain professional standards.
The CBA handbook Covering Elections in Small States: Guidelines for Broadcasters, by Mary Raine, was also distributed at the conference. The book contains sections on reporting campaigns, opinion polls and the right of reply.
Molefe said that enforcing guidelines was a team act among newsroom managers, editors, and subeditors.
However, working in the public interest should be upheld throughout the news organisation.
• The conference was held on February 9-13. Photo by Josephine Latu.