REGION: PNG minister calls for more investigative journalism for Pacific
Pacific Media Centre: Pacific Media Watch, 19 May 2008
By Associate Professor David Robie
PORT MORESBY: Papua New Guinea's acting Education Minister Tony Aimo has a made a plea for more investigative journalism and a stronger commitment to "accessible and affordable" community media in the Pacific.
He told a three-day UNESCO regional journalism educators workshop in Port Moresby that a free and pluralistic media was a key to democracy and development in the Pacific.
"I believe a vibrant democracy needs independent and pluralistic media," he said at the workshop's closing session.
"Independent means media independent from government, political or economic control .
"By pluralistic, I mean the end of monopolies of any kind and the existence of the greatest possible number of newspapers, periodicals and newsletters and broadcasting stations reflecting the widest possible range of opinion within the community."
IMAGE: UNESCO’s Abel Caine (left) and Minister Tony Aimo (right) at the workshop ... seeking solutions for the region. Photo: David Robie.
Aimo challenged the media and journalism educators to ensure that they had the investigative capacity to carry out this role.
"However, access to media channels and messages depends not only on the existence of channels, but also on their effective distribution, accessibility and affordability," he said.
Most media concentrated on cities and covered few issues related to rural and underprivileged people.
He cited a recent "Who makes the news?" survey by the Manila-based Centre for Media Freedom and Responsibility, which showed that nearly 80 percent of news in national media outlets focused on capital cities.
Aimo, who established Papua New Guinea's first electorate radio station and website, said the media could "make or break" societies and needed to put much more effort into reporting grassroots community voices.
Hara Padhy, Paris-based communications development division specialist, and Abel Caine, Apia-based communication and media adviser, outlined UNESCO's response to priorities highlighted by the region's journalism educators.
Low-cost technology infrastructure assistance, such as studio-in-a-box broadcast facilities, digital cameras/videos and UNESCO open-sourced education software. Capacity building funding. Creation of a database of Pacific journalism schools, including a portal link project with AUT University's Pacific Media Centre. Training of trainers. Development of textbooks and texts translated into local languages. Twining programmes and student exchanges.
Caine said it was imperative for Pacific journalism schools to prepare for the internet age and to make use of web-based technologies to develop education strategies.
He cited Newsline Samoa website as an innovative media news organisation setting the pace in the South Pacific with a low-cost and highly interactive format.
The development of the PMC's media resource portal in New Zealand, which includes a Dspace Pacific media database, was also raised.
Image: PMC’s director Dr David Robie … a journalism educators' milestone. Photo: Matai Akauola.
Caine noted this was the first conference of journalism educators in the region and he hoped this would be the start of regular consultations.
The next educators workshop is expected to coincide with the PINA conference in Vanuatu in August 2009.
The workshop included three days of discussions about the region's journalism education challenges, resources problems and issues, and cooperation between the schools, faculty and media industry.
The discussions were led by professor Michael Cobden, a Canadian journalist and media educator who played a key role in developing the UNESCO model journalism curricula for emerging democracies publication launched in Singapore last year.
Represented at the meeting were the journalism schools of Divine Word University of Madang; Fiji Institute of Technology; University of PNG; University of the South Pacific; University of Technology, Lae; and AUT University's Pacific Media Centre (PMC) and Australian National University's Centre for Public Awareness of Science together with the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA); PNG Media Council and local media trainers.
Four other journalism vocational schools in Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu were also invited but failed to provide required advance educational reports.
Associate professor David Robie, director of AUT's PMC who headed journalism schools at UPNG and USP for almost a decade between 1993 and 2002, said: "This workshop was a milestone in journalism education for the region. It was a valuable consultation and should lay the foundations for closer Pacific cooperation."
Photo gallery Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility Samoalive Newsline Tony Aimo’s Ambunti-Dreikikiri district website UNESCO database for African journalism schools Full text of minister Tony Aimo's speech