A group of established media veterans have formed a new group – the Pacific Media Association (PMA) – after this week’s resignation announcement by former vice president of the main regional body, the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) John Woods.
The new media organization includes as key members Samoa Observer founder Savea Sano Malifa, Vanuatu Daily Post editor Marc Neil-Jones, former Fiji Sun publisher now an editor at the Samoa Observer Russell Hunter, Taimi Media Network CEO Kalafi Moala, and Cook Islands News editor John Woods, among others.
Moala said the plan was to support independent media while avoiding organisational bureaucracy, and unlike PINA, the PMA it would be open to members from Australia and New Zealand.
“It’s been long overdue to have an ‘industry driven’ media association in the Pacific whose core values include press freedom and the united and co-ordinated effort to lift Pacific media to a high level of journalistic performance. Our independence is vital if we are going to fulfil our professional duties to our region,” Moala told Pacific Scoop.
Woods resigned earlier this week over alleged lack of transparency and maladministration in PINA, as well as the lack of action over Fiji’s media controls.
“Today’s media freedom situation in Fiji… is totally intolerable. A body like PINA should have led the outrage 24 hours ago. I am ashamed that we have reneged on our constitutional obligation to oppose censorship and media controls in Fiji,” he stated in his letter of resignation, circulated on the Pacific Islands Journalists Online network.
In response, PINA president Moses Stevens told Radio New Zealand that the organisation stood by its approach, stating: “Fiji is not a normal democratic government… It’s a military regime and we cannot deal with the situation as we would deal with a normal democratically elected government.”
PINA is currently based in Fiji, where the media has been heavily censored by the military regime in power.
Lisa Williams Lahari, founder of the Pacific WAVE network, said she was “sad but not surprised” at the recent PINA developments.
“This week’s crisis proves the point that we need to get regional media in order,” she told Pacific Scoop.
“I want an association that’s different from PINA. Anyone who as observed the repeated calls for transparency would know it’s a confirmation there’s a lot of trouble,” she said.
Lahari called for a new approach to regional media in forming alliances with new Pacific advocacy groups and media networks that have formed in the past few years.
She said her organisations, Pacific WAVE network and the Pacific Freedom Forum group, were ready to sign on to the PMA.
It is yet uncertain where in the Pacific the new organisation will be based, although Samoa has been suggested due to its air links and media environment.
Photo: Taimi Media Network CEO and publisher of the Taimi 'o Tonga newspaper Kalafi Moala is one of the founders of the new Pacific Media Association.