Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pacific journalists defend free media in latest PJR

Pacific Media Centre

Sophie Foster, assistant editor of the Fiji Times, is among leading journalists who have lambasted curbs on media freedom in the latest edition of Pacific Journalism Review.

She condemned the “growth of self-censorship” within Fiji’s media industry while revealing the findings of a recent survey of mainstream journalists.

Foster took sudden leave at the Fiji Times after a newsroom upheaval last week that saw former editor-in-chief Netani Rika resign and Sunday Times editor Fred Wesley become appointed acting chief editor.

She wrote in the “Media freedom in Oceania” edition of PJR being published by AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre tomorrow that self-censorship was already a feature of the Fiji news media.

“With journalists now coming face to face with the fact that the whole truth or freedom of expression is not being fully exercised, some are now having to consider self-censoring stories they work on – because they know that, unless they do, their stories won’t meet the censors’ approval,” she wrote.

“The fact that journalists are beginning to consider this course of action – considering going against their professional ethics and beliefs – is a telling factor and a worrying one for the future of freedom of expression in Fiji.”

According to her survey, the “vast majority” of responding journalists said they needed censorship lifted to do their job better.

The survey also found that “100 percent” of respondents did not believe the work they did was a threat to security.

“Many of the journalists who do the work they do in Fiji, do so because they believe they are in the midst of delivering a public service and a public good – one that involves them being the watchdog for the average citizen, keeping an eye on the injustices, insufficiencies, inaction and highlighting these things for the purpose of making a better Fiji,” Foster wrote.

Most of the edition commentaries were presented at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day conference hosted by the University of Queensland in Brisbane in May.

Authors include Papua New Guinea Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek, Pacific Freedom Forum coordinator Lisa Williams-Lahari and co-chair Susuve Laumea; Samoa Observer publisher and editor-in-chief Savea Sano Malifa, Cook Islands News managing editor and secretary/treasurer of the Pasifika Media Association (PasiMA) John Woods; Transparency Vanuatu president Marie-Noelle Ferrieux Patterson; Vois Blong Yumi Project leader Francis Herman; and Pacific Media Centre director Associate Professor David Robie.

Research papers include several about the three-month-old Media Industry Development Decree, “collaborative journalism”, the non-government organisation and civil society community and “life under censorship” in Fiji (by Shailendra Singh of the University of the South Pacific), and one article focuses on two newspaper case studies in media freedom in Tonga.

In the editorial, Associate Professor Martin Hadlow of UOQ's School of Journalism and Communication noted that the UNESCO conference “provided a platform for journalism and media professionals from the Pacific region to gather in special pre and post-conference workshops to discuss concerns and fears about repressive regimes”.

Supported by a grant from the UNESCO Office of Pacific States, this edition of PJR – now in its 16th year of publication – was jointly edited by Martin Hadlow, Marsali Mackinnon and managing editor David Robie.

PJR website
Order copies of v16(2) here
Malcolm Evans website

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