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Author calls for NZ help for Pacific media

Author calls for NZ help for Pacific media in an era of coups and conflict

New Zealand must take a higher profile in media training and help raise journalism standards in the South Pacific to strengthen democracy in the region, says an AUT academic and author of a book being launched next week (EDS: Feb 24).

Dr David Robie, author of Mekim Nius: South Pacific Media, Politics and Education, says more effort needs to be made to boost the region’s media skills in reporting national development and covering conflict, coups, sedition, treason, human rights violations and corruption.

Better New Zealand government funding and more specialist media expertise would help boost this training, he says.

He also calls for more support for the sustainability of the region’s three major journalism schools at the University of Papua New Guinea, University of the South Pacific and Divine Word University in PNG.

“New Zealand once led the way in journalism training in the Pacific,” he says. “It established the South Pacific’s first journalism school at UPNG in 1975 at a time when such institutions were in their infancy in New Zealand.

“But New Zealand has been pushed into a backseat, replaced by other donors such as Australia’s Ausaid, which now dominates the region’s training agenda.”

Dr Robie says the Pacific's media industry has become a captive of training donor agencies. Training now is often tailored to the donor’s needs rather the needs of journalists or the media industry.

“What would be most beneficial for the region is more aid that supports capacity building for the homegrown journalism schools,” he says.

He says low pay, poor working conditions and lack of training are fundamental threats to the independence of the Pacific region’s media. He calls for the industry to work towards reforms.

While some countries, such as Papua New Guinea, now have a strong pool of trained reporters produced by the two journalism schools, others like Fiji have suffered because fewer than half of their journalists are trained - “and it shows in local media standards”.

Dr Robie, a senior lecturer in journalism and publications coordinator at AUT’s School of Communication Studies, paid tribute to the late journalist Ross Stevens and the late journalist and historian Dr Michael King for their roles in establishing the UPNG programme. He said they pioneered “a generation of trained journalists”.

He also praised Murray Masterton, who founded the USP journalism programme in Fiji in 1987. Dr Masterton is now retired in Nelson.

Dr Robie headed the journalism schools in PNG and Fiji for a decade. His students won a string of international awards with their newspapers, Uni Tavur (UPNG) and Wansolwara (USP).

Mekim Nius will be launched by MP Keith Locke, foreign affairs and Pacific spokesperson of the Green Party, and Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) president John Utanga at AUT’s Art and Design building atrium, St Paul St, at 5.30pm, Thursday, February 24, 2005.

It is published by AUT and the USP Book Centre and distributed by South Pacific Books Ltd,

For more information please contact:

David Robie PhD
Senior Lecturer in Journalism
Diversity and Publications Coordinator
School of Communication Studies
AUT (Auckland University of Technology)
Te Wananga Aronui o Tamaki Makau Rau

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