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Green MP: Better NZ Media Coverage Of Pacific

Green MP Calls For Better NZ Media Coverage Of The Pacific

AUCKLAND (/AUT/Pacific Media Watch/): Green Party foreign affairs spokesman Keith Locke has called for better South Pacific coverage by New Zealand news organisations, saying the media fails to adequately explain the region.

And he called for New Zealand media to publish more reports by Pacific Islands journalists.

Speaking at the launching of the new book /Mekim Nius: South Pacific Media, Politics and Education/ by journalist and media academic Dr David Robie at Auckland University of Technology last night, he cited the poor coverage of the French Polynesian political crisis.

"We are very short of mass media journalists who take a Pacific wide interest, covering a region that is so diverse in culture, language, and politics ¬ and so important to us," he said.

Although there was good work done on regional affairs by some journalists in New Zealand, "as a country we are still not gaining a full understanding of what happens in the South Pacific".

French Polynesia was rightly in the news at present after the ousting of veteran politician Gaston Flosse from the territorial presidency.

Pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru will contest the presidency on Monday after winning the latest election and having served as president for four months last year.

"If Oscar Temaru and his party coalition do get to run the government that will be a tremendous progressive development for the Pacific as a whole," Locke said.

"But how much have the people really taken in about the struggle of Maohi people of French Polynesia over the years, and the role that Oscar Temaru and his independence movement have played?

"There is still a big challenge ahead for us to help the flowering of an independent media in the Pacific, and to improve our own media, so that New Zealanders can truly play our role as partners for progress in Pacific."

Locke singled out Radio New Zealand International, Television NZ¹s Pacific affairs news team and /Tagata Pasifika/, the /New Zealand Herald¹s/ Angela Gregory, news agency journalist Michael Field and David Robie as journalists who had contributed to better understanding of the region.

It was a challenge, in the context of development journalism, to keep "objectivity and tell the truth" while respecting traditions.

Robie¹s book /Mekim Nius/ showed parallels with Maori media in New Zealand, said the Green MP.

It also stressed the importance of journalism ethics among training journalists.

"I think it was this ethical strength, which carried over to important elements of university officialdom, that kept the Papua New Guinea and Fiji journalism courses going, even when there was opposition to them from important figures in the university or the political establishment," Locke said.

"One of the frustrating things for me reading in /Mekim Nius/ about the achievements of the Pacific student journalists, and what they have achieved in their subsequent careers, is that we get so few of their articles coming through to our media."

Diversity in ownership of media was also important, said Locke.

Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) chairman John Utanga, of Television NZ¹s /Tagata Pasifika/, and AUT¹s Office of Pasifika Advancement director Michael Jones and School of Communication Studies head Associate Professor Barry King also spoke at the launching.

Robie praised the journalism school founders in Papua New Guinea, New Zealanders Ross Stevens and Michael King and American Father Frank Mihalic, and in Fiji, New Zealander Murray Masterton and Frenchman Francois Turmel, for their achievements.

"They left a lasting legacy for journalism education in the region," he said.

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