By Josephine Latu: Pacific Media Watch
Amnesty International is gearing up to launch a “demand dignity” campaign with a focus on human rights and poverty in the Pacific region.
The dignity campaign is a global project to promote social and economic human rights, focusing on poverty issues.
The role of the media in this campaign has been highlighted at a special seminar hosted by the School of Communications at AUT University, labelled “Putting human rights at the heart of Pacific journalism”.
Amnesty's deputy director in New Zealand, Rebecca Emery, said: “We find that the understanding of human rights among the media and the New Zealand general public is probably not as well understood as it should be."
The organisation is seeking to develop a “new media network” to bring more awareness about human rights issues in the region.
Emery added that Amnesty was expanding its focus from civil and political rights, to social and economic rights, and that development in the Pacific was seen “a rights issue”.
“We will be looking at the slums in the Pacific – first up, Fiji, then the Solomons and Vanuatu,” she said.
TVNZ’s Pacific affairs correspondent Barbara Dreaver also pointed to poverty as the “biggest issue in the Pacific”.
She gave the example of Kiribati, where “prostitution [of young women] to foreign fisherman, sometimes encouraged by their families”, was a reality of the struggle for survival.
Dreaver also spoke about human rights in the Fiji and her own experiences.
She added that “fearless” reporting was needed to bring attention to human rights abuses that communities may prefer to keep hidden.
However, she said journalists needed to report on solutions as well as the problem.
Pacific Cooperation Foundation programme coordinator David Vaeafe said that in a survey conducted at the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) conference in the Solomons in 2007, Pacific journalists identified three main human rights themes as priorities:
• governance, leadership and freedom of expression;
• environmental rights;
• and children’s rights.
He announced that the Pacific Cooperation Foundation was currently working with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission on a learning website for environmental rights reporting, due to launch in at the PINA conference in Vanuatu in mid-July.
The site will include online tutorials, training modules, documents about freedom of information laws, and Pacific country profiles.
“It will be a live working site that will be updated constantly,” he said.
“It’s accessible to everyone and people can go through the training modules at their own pace.”
The modules were written by four journalists from the Pacific and New Zealand, and covered print, radio, television and online reporting.
Picture: Fiji soldiers keeping the press at bay (Radio Fiji).
Josephine Latu is a masters student in the School of Communication Studies and also contributing editor of the Pacific Media Centre's Pacific Media Watch database.
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