World Press Freedom Day 2024: Pacific reporters identify issues

While the world marks World Media Freedom Day, in Papua New Guinea, one of the big issues is the loss of experience in the sector.

The World Press Freedom Day is marked annually on 3 May and this year it is dedicated to the importance of journalism and freedom of expression in the context of the current global environmental crisis.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) president Kora Nou told RNZ Pacific journalists serve as watchdogs, storytellers, and advocates, but they are facing a crisis of their own.

He said threats to press freedom, censorship, harassment, and attacks on media independence undermine their ability to fulfill their vital role in society.

RNZ Pacific’s PNG correspondent Scott Waide says a compounding factor is the loss of experienced journalists.

“Young journalists with very little real world expereince are being forced into management positions to fill in the void that has been left by seasoned journalists.

“That is very risky for the industry becasue when they face intimidation there is nobody to fall back on to get guidance on this kind of intimidation.

The headquarters of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, or FBC, in downtown Suva.

While in Fiji, veteran journalist Samantha Magick says the sector there is still learning to adjust to the removal of the 2010 Media Industry Development Act (MIDA).

The draconian law was brought in during the Frank Bainimarama era and severely limited the freedom of journalists to do their jobs.

It was lifted by the new coalition government headed by Sitiveni Rabuka last year.

Magick, who writes for Islands Business, said there is a lot of rebuilding that needs to happen in their sector.

“I think in some quarters there was this expectation that things were going to be a lot more robust and the reality is that there has been a generation of reporters who have operated in a context.

“We need to build their confidence and competence and that’s true for the media but also for the sources that we go to,” she said.

In Tonga, another veteran journalist Kalafi Moala said advertising can become a big issue.

“To me, the big challenge is Tonga is that advertising money can become the issue. It tries to dictate whether there is press freedom in Tonga or not.

“In other words, the challenge is to be able to be free irrespective of how it affects those that advertise in the newspaper [or] how it affects those that actually own the media.”

According to Reporters without Borders press freedom index, which compares the level of freedom enjoyed by media and journalists in 180 countries, New Zealand has the best ranking in the region at 13, Samoa is at 19, Australia at 27, Fiji at 44, Tonga at 45, Papua New Guinea at 91.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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