Tuesday, April 28, 2009

'Courage under fire' workshop moves to Samoa

Pacific Media Watch

A regional media event aimed at boosting Pacific journalism's capacity to face challenges to media freedom has been switched to Apia, Samoa, next week. Journalists from around the region will gather for the conference.

The Pacific Freedom Forum, UNESCO and Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) "Building Courage under Fire" three-day workshop was originally planned to take place in Suva, Fiji, this week, but was relocated due to the current emergency restrictions in place there.

On April 10, the Fiji President, Ratu Josefa Iloiloi, abrogated the Fiji constitution, sacked the judiciary and postponed elections until 2014. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was reappointed and rule-by-decree included a censorship crackdown on news media.

“While we felt that Fiji at this point in time would have been the ideal workshop venue, given our theme, we have a responsibility to ensure the funding support we received is used effectively> This would have been impossible given the emergency regulations in place there,” says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea.

Part of the cancelled event in Fiji was a regional UNESCO World Press Freedom Day celebration on May 3. The current emergency "laws" there make such an event illegal.

“The Fiji media situation shows clearly how media freedom affects all Pacific Islanders - not just those who work in the media. We want to look at ways to encourage that understanding, not just in our newsrooms, but across our communities and in the homes and minds of more Pacific people.”

Laumaea is joining delegates from Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and the host country at the media freedom workshop.

“Overall, the intent is not to single out any one country, but to ensure the Pacific context of the universal right to free speech and expression of opinions gets some timely attention and forward-thinking debate from journalists to enhance their everyday work,” he says.

The Pacific Media Centre and NZ Commission for UNESCO will be represented at the workshop.

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