Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fiji media restrictions analysed by Amnesty International

Pacific Media Centre

Amnesty International has taken a staunch position against Fiji’s military government, stating that a new law that came into effect on June 25 will further restrict Fiji’s fourth estate from doing its job.

In the report Amnesty International states the new law delivers another blow to media in Fiji, and reasons that “Despite the Government’s amendment of the draconian draft decree, journalists can still be imprisoned for being critical of the Government”. The Fiji Times has also been given an ultimatum to get rid of its owner Rupert Murdoch or be shut down.

Fiji’s journalists continue to have their reports scrutinised by the military regime’s censors. Newspapers, radio, television broadcasts, and internet news is scanned to ensure the news has a positive slant, favouring this regime.

Some journalists have been attempting to beat the censors by publishing critical reports to the internet, only to have the items noted by the government and ordered to be removed.
And in a move to ensure Fiji’s media companies are majority-owned by Fijians or Fiji, the Fiji Times has just three months to comply or be shut down. (See the 3News report.)

Amnesty International states: “Despite the Government’s amendment of the draconian draft decree, journalists can still be imprisoned for being critical of the Government.”

In a statement, Patrick Holmes, CEO of Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand, said: “The past actions of the Fijian Government have shown that it does not have any real commitment to upholding media freedom.

“Amnesty International fears that the decree’s vaguely worded provisions will be used to punish peaceful critics of the Government,” Holmes said.

See also:
3News video report:Fiji Times given three months to ditch Murdoch as owner.
Amnesty International’s statement: Fiji Media Law A Blow To Media Freedom
Dr David Robie’s analysis: Fiji’s media decree

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lack of reporters, resources big challenge for Pacific media, say local journalists

By Josephine Latu, Pacific Media Watch

A serious lack of reporters and financial resources means that “some stories do not get told”, say some journalists from the region.

Three visiting correspondents from the Pacific Islands, including Samoa Observer editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa, Matangi Tonga photojournalist Linny Folau and Cook Islands News political journalist Nerys Case, discussed the challenges faced by local media at a public forum held on Friday at the University of Auckland.

Folau said that although the Matangi Tonga website – the most popular online source for Tongan news – gets over 60 million hits every year, all reporting is carried out by only herself and the editor, Pesi Fonua.

“The challenge is a lack of resources and trying to remain afloat as a small organization,” she said.

She added that young people in Tonga are “just not attracted to journalism” as a career due to the demands of the profession.

With such a small pool of reporters, Folau said: “The result is that news gets left out. [We] can’t cover everything, daily, and… we have to pick and choose. The challenge is [selecting] what’s more important.”

In the Cooks, the daily newspaper Cook Island News is sustained by only three reporters plus the editor, John Woods.

Nerys Case, originally from the UK, took up the post of political journalist at the paper, after her position was advertised three times with no local applicants.

“There was no interest, it’s not seen as an attractive area of work,” said Case.

Threat of the watchdogs

Due to lack of manpower, local news only trickles to overseas audiences, as the Cook Islands News website is only updated once a week.

Case added that political reporting was especially challenging, as most politicians do not appreciate the watchdog role of media.

“Many believe the media is an irritating fly to be swatted away. They don’t see us as holding them to account – they think we should just leave them alone.”

Meanwhile, the editor of the Samoa Observer, Mata’afa Keni Lesa said that most of Samoa’s journalists do not have proper training. Although the newspaper trains recruits on the job, “as soon as the next job opportunity shows up, they’re gone”, he said.

Lesa added that the Samoa Observer was “the lone voice of opposition” in a one-party state, and was seen by the government as a threat.

From the audience, Lisa Williams-Lahari, founder of the Pacific WAVE Media Network, commented that Samoa had some of the most “punitive” media laws in the region which in some ways, were “worse” than the Fijian regime.

The panel discussion was chaired by University of Auckland’s Dr. Steven Ratuva and also included award winning Samoan journalist at the New Zealand Herald Vaimoana Tapaleao.
The three visiting journalists were in New Zealand on a week-long exchange programme sponsored by NZ’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. As part of the programme, they visited the Beehive in Wellington as well as various media organizations, including meetings with MP’s and leading media professionals.

Pictured Top: Samoa Observer editor Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Above: Panellists - NZ Herald's Vaimoana Tapaleao, Matangi Tonga's Linny Folau, Cook Island News' Nerys Case, University of Auckland's Steven Ratuva (back row), and Samoa Observer's Mata'afa Keni Lesa.

Above right: Founder of Pacific WAVE media network, Cook Island journalist and human rights activist Lisa Williams-Lahari

Josephine Latu is a postgraduate communication studies student from Tonga at AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre who is also contributing editor of Pacific Media Watch.

Young people not interested in journalism careers, say Pacific media veterans

By Gladys Hartson, Pacific Media Watch

Most young Pacific people do not see journalism as a bona fide career path, according to three Pacific Island journalists who are in New Zealand this week as part of an inaugural exchange programme sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

At a panel discussion held at the University of Auckland Centre for Pacific Studies on Friday, Samoa Observer editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa said that while the challenges faced by island media are “multiple [and] too many to name”, the lack of training, resources, and manpower were key problems.

This also becomes an issue when recruiting new journalists into the newspaper.

“We get some young people coming through with some training – not top of the line training… But still, we train so many people [on the job] but as soon as the next job opportunity shows up, they’re gone,” he said.

Lesa has a small staff of less than ten people.

“We try work hard with what we got”, he added.

From the Cook Islands News daily paper, Nerys Case, a political journalist originally from the UK, said she has seen a “massive loss of population” in Rarotonga, especially as young people leave the country for better job opportunities overseas.

Cook Island News currently only employs three reporters, she said.

“There seems to be no interest from the young people to become journalists. It’s not seen as attractive”.

Similarly, Matangi Tonga Online photojournalist Linny Folau said that although there is a journalism training programme in Tonga that targets high school leavers for certificate and diploma qualifications, the number of enrolments are low.

“Maybe they think it’s too demanding… Some go through the programme and get the knowledge but after working in the industry, they don’t like it,” she said.

New Zealand Pacific media

Meanwhile, award winning journalist from the New Zealand Herald Vaimoana Tapaleao said there is a real lack of Pacific journalists in mainstream media in New Zealand.

As a result, “huge expectations” are placed on the few Pacific staff in mainstream to cover and be knowledgeable about all things Pacific.

Tapaleao encouraged more young Pacific people to pursue a career in journalism, in order to fill this gap and bring more Pacific –relevant stories into the mainstream.

“When you walk into our office, you can tell straight away there’s only one islander, and the only other Polynesian I know is the Maori Affairs reporter,” she said.

Participants discussed the possibilities of having more opportunities for NZ-based Pacific journalists to spend time with their colleagues in the islands, as part of an ongoing exchange programme.

Gladys Hartson is a Graduate Diploma in Journalism student at AUT University and is working with Pacific Media Watch.

Pacific journalists visit PMC on MFAT exchange

Pacific Media Centre

Two Pacific journalists, along with representatives from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) met with the Pacific Media Centre team on Thursday June 24th to build networks and get familiarised with the centre's activities.

Editor of the Samoa Observer Mata'afa Keni Lesa and Cook Islands News political journalist Nerys Chase were accompanied by senior diplomat and director of the Auckland MFAT office Warwick Hawker and senior policy officer for the Pacific Division Helen Tunnah.

Matangi Tonga photojournalist Linny Folau could not make it due to illness.
Over a light brunch, the visitors were shown a promo video about the centre produced by former AUT communications students John Pulu and Sophie Johnson, followed by a Powerpoint presentation by Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Josephine Latu outlining the work of the organization. This covered a range of PMC projects in journalism training, research and news production.

Highlights included the twice-annual Pacific Journalism Review academic journal published by the centre, the new Graduate Diploma in Pacific Journalism programme to begin at AUT next year, the on-going Pacific Media Watch project, and the increasingly popular student-driven news website Pacific Scoop, a joint venture with independent media organization Scoop.

Reliance on international collaboration and networking with universities and associates in the region was also highlighted. Discussions about media developments followed.

Present at the meeting were PMC Asia Pacific Editor and Pacific Scoop co-editor Selwyn Manning, PMW contributing editor Josephine Latu, PMW reporter Gladys Hartson-Shingles, post-graduate student Tupouseini Taumoepeau, and former Fiji Post publisher and MA student Thakur Ranjit Singh. AUT Pasifika student advisor Isabella Rasch also attended briefly with a student.

In the photo (fromt left): MA student and Fiji political commentator Thakur Ranjit Singh, Cook Islands News political journalist Nerys Case, Samoa Observer editor Mata'afa Keni Lesa, PMW reporter Gladys Hartson, PMW contributing editor Josephine Latu, AUT post-graduate student Tupouseini Taumoepeau, Pacific Scoop editor Selwyn Manning and MFAT senior policy officer, Pacific Division Helen Tunnah.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

National Pacific Radio Trust is here to stay, insists chair

By Gladys Hartson, Pacific Media Watch

The chairman of the National Pacific Radio Trust is confident that the Pacific Media Network which operates Niu FM, Radio 531pi, and Pacific Radio News is here to stay.

Fa’amatuainu Tino Pereira says the outlook "can only get better from now on", despite poor attendance at Trust meetings held with Pacific communities earlier this month. Trust members and management met with members of the Pacific community in Dunedin, Wellington, Tokoroa and Auckland earlier this month.

While Pereira acknowledged that the turn out wasn’t great, he said the feedback from the community was invaluable.

Concerns raised

Concerns raised at the annual general meeting from the community, ranged from news content on the community language progammes to the future ownership of the network.

Pereira said that while people recognised it’s important to know what is happening in the Pacific, they also pushed for more local content about Pacific communities living in New Zealand.

“It’s important for the community to have their say, we try to cater to everyone’s taste, however we are never going to satisfy everyone”.

The network receives three million dollars a year to run the stations. While there has been no increase in funding allocated to NPRT in this year's government budget, Pereira said funding is confirmed for the next three years, with no decrease.
Still, even with the funding from the government, the station needs to raise $1.5 million in advertising revenue in order to keep operating.

Pereira says the market out there is very competitive: “We are going up against mainstream fully commercial stations.”


The future ownership of the network was also raised at the AGM.
Pereira said people want to see the station in community hands, owned and operated by the people. The feedback was that “our community don’t want to rely on government funding forever”.

The network has undergone major restructuring over the last few years, and Pereira said it has had a new leadership team since August 2009.

He said NPRT has stabilised its financial position and according to its Statement of Intent, it forecasts a surplus in the next three years.

The trust is fully aware of the phenomenon of new media with the introduction of social networking sites like, Twitter, Blog sites, Face Book.

He said: “I accept it’s a new ball game and we have to accept the new digital age is upon us, that’s the way it is going.”

The veteran broadcaster said the introduction of such sites has given our young Pacific people a different medium to express their views and opinions: “I welcome this as long as it’s done with integrity and dignity without offending people.”

Pereria said the objective of the Trust members and management is to address the issues raised by the community, and to implement it in the best way they can with the resources they have.

“I have absolute trust in the staff, their talents and aspirations for the network, and our future. We are a work in progress,” he said.

Gladys Hartson is a Graduate Diploma in Journalism student at AUT University and is working with Pacific Media Watch.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pacific journalists to visit PMC this week

Pacific Media Watch

Three Pacific journalists from Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands will be visiting the Pacific Media Centre this Thursday as part of a week-long exchange programme sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, focussing on policy and social issues as well as political journalism in the Pacific region.

The visiting journalists include Samoa Observer editor Mata'afa Keni Lesa, who is also the Samoa correspondent for Reuters, AFP and the Associated Press; Matangi Tonga Online photojournalist Linny Folau, who covered key stories such as the MV Princess Ashika sinking and Royal Commission of Inquiry hearings in Tonga; and Cook Island News political reporter Nerys Case, who has held a number of senior editorial positions in various magazine publications in the UK.

The journalists will also be visiting other established media organizations such as TVNZ and Spasifik magazine as part of their tour.

For more information on their PMC meeting (Thursday, June 24, 10am -12pm, AUT Tower WT002): See a flyer

Inquisitive Pasifika journalist stood down from Radio 531pi

By Gladys Hartson, Pacific Media Watch

Members of the Pacific community have come out in support of a popular radio announcer after he was stood down from his weekend show Talanoa Pacific on Thursday.

According to a blog, Efeso Collins, an announcer for Radio 531pi posted a notice on Pacificeyewitness website stating he received an email from the programme director of Pacific Media Network, Pere Matai, outlining serious matters had arisen since they last spoke two weeks ago, and as a result he would be rested from presenting this weekend.

The handling of $4.8 million dollars of taxpayer’s money granted to an organization called Pacific Islands Economic Development Agency Ltd (PEDA) created huge debate amongst the listeners. (See Pacific Scoop analysis for more on this issue.)

Collins said he and many in his community wanted answers from the government and PEDA.

Collins and his colleague, host of Island time and head announcer Mary Pahi, posted blogs on the website regarding the PEDA issue expressing their difference of opinion on the matter. (See Collins’ entry) and (Pahi’s entry).

The polarised positions expressed on the website demonstrate how sensitive this issue (of PEDA receiving almost $5 million of Government funds over the next four years) has become.

“It saddens me it has come to this, and somehow I have become embroiled in this issue,” Collins added.

A masters graduate from Auckland University, he said: "If we as Pacific media are not prepared to ask the ‘hard questions’ who will? We need to stop pandering to those who control the funding”.

Pacific Media Network receives government funding.

"What kind of a message does that give our Pacific broadcasters/journalists? If you’re not nice to people of influence when you conduct an interview, they won’t continue to fund us?” he said.

Collins would not go into the details why he has been rested from the show. According to his blog he would await the outcome and would be seeking legal advice.

Pere Maitai via text said he will not be commenting on an internal staff matter.

Pacific Scoop contacted Chair of the National Pacific Radio Trust, Tino Perira, seeking clarity on why Collins was stood down from the radio station. Perira said he was aware of the issue but would not comment stating only that it is a management issue and that Radio 531pi’s management will deal with it.

Gladys Hartson is a Graduate Diploma in Journalism student at AUT University and is working with Pacific Media Watch.

More on Pacific Scoop:

Analysis: Questions over NZ Govt's funds to PEDA raise serious concerns
Govt's $4.8million package to Pacific EDA questioned

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Congratulations to AUT grad Vaimoana Tapaleao, Qantas Junior Reporter of the Year

Pacific Media Centre

The Pacific Media Centre wishes to congratulate Samoan journalist and NZ Herald reporter, Vaimoana Tapaleao, on winning Junior Reporter of the Year at the 37th annual Qantas Media Awards held in Auckland last weekend.

Tapaleao (23) graduated from AUT University in 2008 and joined the New Zealand Herald team soon after as a South Auckland reporter.

During her last year at university she was an intern at Spasifik magazine, and later won the Maori Television prize as well as the Storyboard award for excellence in diversity journalism.

At the Qantas event, the awards judges said that Tapaleao’s "impressive" portfolio would have "pushed the seniors hard".

This included an extensive series of news stories of the tsunami in Samoa, and an in-depth report about the individuals whose lives were lost in the sinking of the ferry MV Princess Ashika in Tonga, for which she was recognized by the NZ Human Rights Commission late last year.

"Her on the spot reporting in her native Samoa where family were tsunami victims showed true professionalism. Tapaleao was also able to put a human face to the Princess Ashika ferry sinking in Tonga with an extended tribute ," the judges said.

According to contributing editor for Pacific Media Watch, Josephine Latu from Tonga, Tapaleao's achievements were an "excellent example of just how far young Pacific Islanders can go in the industry".

She said: "It's a well-deserved award. I'm so proud she's Samoan! The Pacific Media Centre team wishes her all the best."

Full list of Qantas Media award winners with judges' comments
Vaimoana Tapaleao's stories on the New Zealand Herald

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Deadline approaching for Bruce Jesson Journalism Awards nominations

Calls for nominations for the Bruce Jesson Journalism Awards will close at the end of the month (30 June). Two awards are offered each year, including one for senior journalists and one for "emerging" student journalists in New Zealand. The award is aimed at promoting critical, analytical journalism that will contribute to public debate on important issues in New Zealand.

Press Release

The Bruce Jesson Foundation was established in 1999 to commemorate one of New Zealand’s greatest political journalists, the late Bruce Jesson, by promoting vigorous political, social and economic investigation, debate, analysis and reporting in New Zealand. To this end, the Foundation holds an annual lecture and sponsors two annual Bruce Jesson Journalism Prizes for ‘Senior’ and ‘Emerging’ journalists respectively.

The Senior Journalism Prize offers an emolument of up to NZ$3,000 to assist writers aiming to produce the kind of critical and analytical journalism exemplified by Jesson’s work as a columnist in Metro magazine, as editor of The Republican and as the author of several influential pieces of book journalism. The prize is a self-nominated award dedicated to in-depth journalism projects on public issues that might not be undertaken, completed, or published without non-commercial subsidy.

The Emerging Journalism Prize recognises “outstanding recent work by New Zealand print journalism students.” It shares the senior award’s broad aim of seeking "critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism or writing which will contribute to public debate in New Zealand on an important issue or issues," but it differs in three important respects:

• It is focused more narrowly on the already published work of print journalism students (though, exceptional unpublished work may occasionally be considered).

• It seeks nominations from heads of New Zealand Journalism Schools or journalism programme leaders rather than from the student journalists themselves.

• It offers a fixed emolument of NZ$500, together with certificates of commendation for one or more runners-up.

Nominations for the 2010 Bruce Jesson Journalism Prizes are hereby sought from either the writers themselves in the case of the senior journalism award, or from heads of New Zealand journalism schools or journalism programme leaders in the case of the emerging journalism award. Nominees’ work will be assessed by members of the Jesson Foundation’s Journalism Subcommittee: Jon Stephenson (convener), Joe Atkinson, Simon Collins and Pacific Media Centre director David Robie.

Nominations together with appropriate supporting documentation including, for the emerging journalism award, copies of the nominated articles, should be forwarded by Monday, June 30, 2010 to Dr Joe Atkinson, Secretary of the Bruce Jesson Foundation by email, or in hard copy c/- Political Studies Department, University of Auckland, PB 92019, AUCKLAND.

Further inquiries to Dr Atkinson by mail or email as above or by phone (09) 373 7599 ext. 88094, or to AUT's Pacific Media Centre director Associate Professor David Robie by email or phone (09) 921 9999 extn 7834

Patron: Professor Noam Chomsky
Chair: Professor Jane Kelsey
Secretary: Dr Joe Atkinson

Bruce Jesson Foundation

Thursday, June 3, 2010

PMW assists Tongan journalist in local mentor programme on human rights

Pacific Media Watch

Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Josephine Latu has been signed on to become one of 18 mentors in a pilot programme launched this week by Tonga’s Women and Children Crisis Centre.

The inaugural I-YEL program will run over a period of 12 months and will aim to encourage, prepare and challenge young people to be advocates for human rights with a special focus on women and children’s rights, social justice, gender equality and the overall goal of promoting the elimination of violence against women and children.

As part of the I-YEL’s Ta’okete (big sister) Mentoring scheme, 18 young women from the ages of 18-35 will each be paired up with another “inspiring female leader”, who can provide one-on-one mentoring and coaching in the career path the girls wish to follow.

PMW’s Josephine Latu has been paired with deputy editor of the Taimi 'o Tonga, Telesia Adams.

‘Shocking’ domestic violence

Adams started work with the Taimi as a court reporter in 2006, where she was “shocked” at the number of domestic abuse cases against women and children in Tonga.

“I reported their stories making use of the power I have as a journalist to let their voices be heard… In the back of my head there's the question what more can I do?”she said.

She then signed up for the I-YEL programme to expand her background on human rights issues.

Adams said that Tongan media is “dominated” by women, and people are becoming used to seeing young women in the profession.

Director of the WCCC, ‘Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki said “through leadership development, career exploration and vision-setting, we hope that the I-YEL 2010-2011 in-take will be equipped with the appropriate skills to make wiser decisions – decisions that will help them live a life free from violence and abuse and to promote gender equality throughout Tonga.”

Other mentors include veteran broadcaster Katalina Tohi, NZ award-winning poet and writer Karlo Mila Schaaf who will be mentoring her partner online, Koe Kakai editor and political activist Mele Amanaki, human rights activist Betty Blake, and Tonga National Youth Congress director Vanessa Lolohea.

Women and Children Crisis Centre, Tonga