Wednesday, August 5, 2009

PINA summit fails to stand up for media freedom

Pacific Media Watch

Matangi Tonga editorial by editor Pesi Fonua

PORT VILA: The Suva-based Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) continues to struggle to establish itself as a champion of media freedom in the Pacific Islands.

Meeting in Port Vila last week, about 200 PINA members and observers from around the region were addressing the important issue of access to information.

But what appeared to be a sincere intention by the former PINA board to turn its biannual convention into a Pacific Media Summit under the theme "Breaking Barriers - Access to Information'" did not live up to expectations.

Despite the great effort to attract as many participants as possible to attend the Vanuatu PINA inaugural summit, their contributions did not see the light of day, because most participants were not permitted to attend the AGM, and so some serious observations made by working
journalists and media people were not translated into the decision-making process.

No decisions
The few members who were tasked to evaluate and to take action on matters raised during plenary sessions and panel discussion simply could not make any decision, and for the first time ever at the end of a PINA convention there was no communiqué.

The PINA secretariat and its board restricted its thinking capacity by closing its membership registration in March, so that any member who did not pay its membership fees by March 31 would not be able to vote at the annual general meeting in July.

Unfortunately, many regular members of PINA had not paid their dues by that date and so were not permitted to either attend or to vote in the AGM in Vanuatu, although they were present to participate in the various workshops, plenary and other sessions preceeding the AGM.

It was an unfortunate decision to disallow voting of a significant number of members who were there, particularly at a time when PINA needed as many constructive contributions that it could get to help with its decision-making process.

A mere 24 members (who were paid-up at March 31) were left to deal with the numerous pressing issues that PINA has to deal with to regain its credibility.

Fiji media suppression
The Fiji government suppression of its media dominated the summit plenary sessions, for very good reasons, because the PINA secretariat and its regional news outlet PACNEWS are based in Suva, Fiji, and of course participants were saddened by stories of Fijian journalists of how their work was being censored and how they were working under threat by the military government. Even the Fiji journalists testimony in Vanuatu was made difficult by the presence of Fiji military censors taking part in the meeting who said they were there to report back to
their military government.

It appears that PINA voluntarily decided to become a lap dog instead of a watchdog:

* PINA shied away from revoking the PINA membership of the Fiji Ministry of Information - the same ministry that places censors in news rooms in Fiji;

* PINA brushed off the suggestion to remove the PINA secretariat and the PACNEWS from Fiji;

* PINA did not make a strong statement against media suppression in
Fiji, which had been a proposition that a majority of participants
supported during the summit.

Meanwhile, one of two decisions that the PINA AGM made that was relayed through the "coconut wireless'" was that there had been a new approach to the selection of the president and the vice-president of PINA.

The president of the host country, in this case Vanuatu, would become president and the vice president would be the president of national news association that will host the next PINA convention, the Cook Islands.

The new PINA board members are:

President: Mosese Stevens, president of the Vanuatu Media Association, a public relations consultant
Vice-President: John Woods, editor of the Cook Island News
Radio representative: managing director of the Solomon Islands
Broadcasting Commission
TV representative: Tapinga Lavemaau, a camera operator with the Tonga
Broadcasting Commission
Print representative: Michael Jackson, publisher/editor of a newspaper
in Niue
National organisations representative, Samisoni Pareti, a journalist
with Islands Business International, Fiji. (Fiji apparently no longer has a national media association).

The feeble outcome of the PINA Pacific Media Summit 2009 is a matter of grave concern for many Pacific Islands journalists and media people who sincerely believe that there is still a need for a credible regional news association.

Pacific Islands News Association
Matangi Tonga
Cafe Pacific on PINA 2009


Fiji Media Council said...

Re the report: “Fiji apparently no longer has a national media association”. This is incorrect, Fiji has a media association the Media Council (Fiji) Ltd. The Council is active and all the main media organisations in Fiji are members, the Council is a financial member of PINA and a nominated representative attended the Port Vila meeting. We look forward to a circulated correction of this inaccurate report.

Bob J. Pratt
Executive Secretary
Media Council (Fiji) Ltd
PO Box 11852

PINA said...

The Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) would like to clarify a few points raised by your editorial.

The association does not profess to be perfect and know it all except to say that it is willing to listen and hear constructive suggestions, ideas that would propel the organisation forward.

This is not the old PINA but the new PINA and priorities need to be re-examined to fit into the day and age that we live in.

As mentioned to financial members and those holding on to their
membership fee at the PINA retreat that the new PINA board will take on board the various resolutions from the Pacific Media Summit workshops and general sessions.

New PINA president Moses Stevens has reiterated that the association believed in dialogue and would deliver a strong message at a proposed meeting with the Fiji government on the imposition of the Public Emergency Regulation that that prohibits the media from carrying out its duty without fear or fervor.

The PINA Secretariat would also like to clarify that the Fiji Media Council is alive and a functioning member of media in Fiji and PINA. The Fiji Media Council has been championing the work of its Fiji members who are also members of PINA.

PINA would welcome your [Matangi Tonga] membership fee to go along with your constructive ideas.

Malo 'au pito

Matai Akauola
Chief Executive

Anonymous said...

Factual errors on this article:-

Moses Stevens is a journalist by trade and not a public relations consultant.

Moses worked for 15 years as a journalist with Vanuatu Broadcasting & TV Cororation. He was news manager when he left the company.

Stevens was one of four founding journalist of today's Vanuatu Independent newspaper.
Stevens has worked as Station Manager of Capitol FM 107.