Learn from Pacific on media freedom issues, says PMC head
Friday, May 3, 2019
AUCKLAND (Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): The head of an Auckland-based Pacific media watchdog says New Zealand “takes media freedom for granted” and could
learn a lot from its Pacific neighbours.
“For the last few years we have been sitting fairly pretty in the world press freedom index where we are seventh at the
moment – we have gone up one place from last year and we just take it for granted,” said Pacific Media Centre director
Professor David Robie.
“Everything’s fine. Hunky-dory here.
“But around most of the world, particularly in the Pacific, World Press Freedom Day
is a really important thing because there is a constant struggle going on.”
Radio 95bFM’s The Wire host Jemima Huston was asking Dr Robie on a pre-Media Freedom Day special of the Pacific Media Centre’s Southern Cross programme
about why the event was barely observed in New Zealand.
Also being interviewed was Pacific Media Watch
contributing editor Michael Andrew. He said last month’s call by traditional chiefs on the Federated States of
Micronesia island of Yap for the expulsion of a local US journalist had “opened up a whole bunch of scrutiny from abroad
to see what is actually going on there”.
Asked by Huston why he thought media freedom stories did not get covered as well in New Zealand as in the Pacific, he
replied coverage of Micronesia was “in the shadows” because of US colonisation history which had kept the region out of
Australian and New Zealand attention.
Across the Asia-Pacific region, many events are happening to mark World Press Freedom Day
In Fiji, University of the South Pacific student journalists are staging a debate on the theme of “links between quality
information, elections and democracy.”
The panel will be led by the Wansolwara journalism training newspaper
editor Rosalie Nongebatu, of the Solomon Islands, and she will be joined by Kirisitiana Viuwai, Apenisa Vatuniveivuka
and Eparama Warua (all of Fiji).
In the Philippines, where journalists and the media have been under severe pressure for many months, with award-winning
editor Maria Ressa of the popular Rappler
digital media website being arrested on trumped up charges, a lively programme is being planned.
Staging a “freedom festival”, the organisers, including from the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)
, described the government attacks on the media as “grave and more direct”.
“We, a community of journalists, photojournalists, and artists, have come together to #fightback and mark the day in
hope, courage, and unity, so we may all protect and defend our fundamental freedoms and the people’s right to know,” the
The activities include the release of a “State of the Philippine Media” report on the “Killings, attacks, and threats on
the Philippine media, June 30, 2016 to April 30, 2019, a protest at the Department of Defence in Aguinaldo military camp
in Manila, and an online screening of the documentary Portraits of Mosquito Press.
LISTEN: The Pacific Media Watch media freedom special on Southern Cross:
In Timor-Leste, an all-day World Press Freedom Day event is planned and one of the keynote speakers is former PNG Post-Courier publisher and Asia-Pacific media training consultant Bob Howarth.
Addressing hate speech, he praises New Zealand in his keynote.
“New Zealand’s media are setting an example for the rest of the world as a result of the Christchurch mosque killings in
March. They have agreed to focus reporting on the massacre victims and not the white supremacist currently facing
justice,” he says.
He also speaks with pride about the Timor-Leste Press Council
launching a campaign to lobby Google and Facebook to add Tetum to the list of languages they can translate
automatically to other languages.