Friday, May 1, 2009

Target Fiji in Samoa - how to beat censorship, media repression

Pacific Media Centre

A media freedom strategic planning workshop due this week in Fiji and climaxing with a World Media Freedom Day event in Suva on Sunday, May 3, has ended up exile. It has been moved to Samoa next week - censorship by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama's regime is to blame.

The Pacific Freedom Forum reports that journalists and observers from 12 Pacific nations and all forms of mainstream media are making their way to Apia, Samoa, for a "Courage under Fire" media freedom event.

The workshop takes its ‘Project XIX’ theme from Article 19 (XIX) of the UN Declaration on Human Rights. Article 19 confirms the right to express an opinion or idea without fear for one’s safety, and forms the basis for what is commonly known as media freedom or free speech.

Lead trainer Deborah Muir is the Sydney-based programme manager for the International Federation of Journalists, and will bring a strong background in media training, advocacy, and development to the event.

Co-trainer Kalafi Moala is an award-winning media veteran, newspaper publisher and author recognised for his achievements by the Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA), University of the South Pacific and Amnesty International.

He is currently chief executive of Taimi Media Network in Tonga. Project XIX national counterpart Vicky Lepou, lecturing in journalism at the National University of Samoa, also forms part of the training team.

“The Courage under Fire workshop comes at a critical time for free speech for Pacific journalists, and the insights and information which Deborah, Kalafi and Vicky will bring to the table make an ideal mix for meeting the needs of our training group,” says Project XIX facilitator Lisa Williams-Lahari.

“As journalists, it’s good to turn the lens inwards and examine ourselves as much as we put the spotlight on others. These events always provide that opportunity. But our trainers are also geared to help us take journalism to the next level, in terms of speaking out in creative ways - not just to protect the rights of people to be informed, but the right of the next generation of journalists to report what Pacific people think on issues, without fear or favour,” Says Lahari.

“In this respect, we are especially honoured to have NUS journalism students as part of our regional workshop group and we look forward to the energy and experiences of our future media managers as we also debate and chew through the current real-life situation of newsroom issues around article XIX.”

While Muir and Moala will be focusing on sessions around freedom of expression and the right to information, the PFF facilitator is keen to develop strategies from the discussions which will strengthen the relatively new PFF.

Lahari, from her own background as a Pacific journalist, advocate and trainer, says for this event, she has “picked up a unique air of excitement around the current activity which is good to see".

"It bodes well for ownership and involvement by Pacific journalists in their own industry ‘family’. Most of us are part of an online network. We are looking forward to meeting each other and our chair Susuve Laumaea for the first time, at this meeting."

The workshop was made possible by a grant from UNESCO, with support from the SPC Regional Media Centre and the global freedom of expression body IFEX, under its Outreach programme.

Journalists and observers from Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Hawaii, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu will be representing their organisations for the May 6-8 event.

The New Zealand contingent includes AUT's Pacific Media Centre director David Robie with support from the New Zealand National Commission of UNESCO.

Cartoon of Voreqe Bainimarama by Malcolm Evans for Pacific Journalism Review and digitally modified by Josephine Latu.

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