Sunday, May 17, 2009

PIMA chair resigns over Pacific media 'politics'

By Josephine Latu: Pacific Media Watch

Tagata Pasifika reporter Aaron Taouma (pictured) has stepped down from his post of interim chair of the New Zealand-based Pacific Islands Media Association.

The executive committee will meet later this week to discuss his successor.

Taouma announced his resignation in a letter later circulated on Pacific Islands Journalists Online, saying PIMA was “pushed towards certain political directions”. This went against the founding documents of the organisation.

He wrote that a recent PIMA news release about media freedom “may have been at odds with PIMA’s constitution and general Pacific media opinion”.

PIMA was not just a forum for journalists but everyone involved in Pacific Islands media, he added.

According to PIMA spokesperson Phil McGrath, Taouma’s statement followed PIMA’s stand in support of journalists at the Pacific Freedom Forum conference held in Samoa on May 6-8.

This was during the height of debate surrounding Television New Zealand’s controversial report by Pacific affairs correspondent Barbara Dreaver on gangs, guns and drug smuggling in Samoa.

Barbara Dreaver, being a member of PIMA, approached the executive for support,” McGrath told Pacific Media Watch.

Supporting journalists
“Our position at the time was that we support the right of any journalist to investigate and report - without fear of attacks - either personally or professionally,” he said.

McGrath added that an executive is “all about compromise”.

Dreaver’s television exposé ran on April 6 and included footage of young Samoans smoking marijuana, wielding machetes, and discussing the drug trade in Samoa.

It also reported that guns were smuggled into Samoa from the US and drugs from New Zealand.
The Samoan government has since filed a broadcasting standards complaint against TVNZ . The government alleges the report damaged the country’s reputation as a tourist destination and that Dreaver’s crew staged interviews with “actors”.

TVNZ rejects this claim and is vigorously defending the Dreaver report.

In his resignation letter on May 10, Taouma said “recent reports have…brought to light the issues of ‘parachute reporting’ and sensationalised single-angled accounts of events in the Pacific Islands”.

However, PIMA deputy chair Chris Lakatani, who accepted Taouma’s resignation, said PIMA was not a political body and had “no advocacy issues in its constitution”.

“We haven’t come to our members and said, ‘well what do you think of [the Barbara Dreaver] issue’, because we don’t have any mandate to make statements on those issues,” he told Pacific Media Watch.

“We will not support her just because she is a member of PIMA, but just like any other regular journalist, we support her right to be protected.”

McGrath said PIMA’s statement concerned the rights and freedoms of journalists across the entire Pacific.

Several Samoan newspapers have published articles with personal attacks on Dreaver and the issue was debated at an evening talanoa session of the UNESCO-funded PFF workshop in Apia.

Pacific Freedom Forum
Pacific Media Watch
'Gangsta paradise' vendetta against Dreaver
Dreaver story on Samoan gangs [video]


Anonymous said...

PIMA needs to ask itself what its real purpose is. Its actions and decisions in the last two years show it wants to do things, but it can't, because it says that it's not in its Constitution. Apart from this years conference, which was great, all we've seen PIMA do is publish press releases by Tom, Dick and Harry. But when it comes to making a stand, it's powerless.
There's time for fresh blood in PIMA, it needs principled people to stand up and make statements in what it believes Pacific journalism is about. Not some PR body just hanging around for statements to be made by others, then publishing it on its own site.

Anonymous said...

Move On PIMA Aaron is no great loss

Jellico said...

Frankly I don't know what the fuss is about. Chairman resigns because he doesn't agree with something, fine, appoint someone else. Plenty Pacific talent out there.

Anonymous said...

hahaha, all I can say is what goes around comes around Aaron. Remember when you had your own agenda going for a while there, and dominating the whole PIMA committee, well its about time you went.

Anonymous said...

What a shame another great PI has been allowed to fall on the wayside as infighting, pevishness and petty sentiments get in the way of what PIMA is supposed to be about. Good on Aaron for bringing this issue to light and showing up what yet again could have been a strong united body with clear public intentions. But as with so many others like it, has imploded into selfish bickering!! COME ON PIMA GET WITH THE REAL WORLD!!!!

Anonymous said...

What you don't know is that Aaron hasn't fallen at all, neither did his committee turn on him. So that comment abou t what comes around is completely wrong. Maybe he stood down because as he stated he had actually moved on last year but stayed in because no one else was dumb enough to take the role and maybe enough was enough. He was the best thing to happen to PIMA and those that he chose to be in the committee should work with what he started to make PIMA even better.

Anonymous said...

Since the BSA ruled in favour of Samoa Government. Should this article reflect more about what was wrong with the dreaver story?