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What does good journalism mean? Lisa Er talks to David Robie

What does good journalism mean? Lisa Er talks to David Robie

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lisa Er
INTERVIEW: AUCKLAND (Green Planet FM / Pacific Media Watch): Freedom of the press describes the right to gather, publish, and distribute information and ideas without government restriction.

This right encompasses freedom from censorship, but does our media really have complete freedom in New Zealand? We need to ask this question when we see the government’s response to Nicky Hager’s investigative journalism, and Channel 7 is removed from TV in spite of having half a million viewers.

A journalist was recently no longer required by the New Zealand Herald after writing an honest critique of the TPPA, and what happened to Campbell Live and why?

David Robie, professor of communication studies and Pacific journalism, director of the Pacific Media Centre, journalist and author answers these questions and more.

Are journalists part of a movement that merely holds up a mirror to society with all its cynicism, or are they part of a process of empowerment and action for a better world?

Why are certain topics ignored? Perhaps the headings would not be sexy enough. Perhaps sport and tabloid news are appealing to the masses more than educated comment on important events in this country and around the world.

Have the corporations bought the larger media outlets? How do economic issues affect the impartiality of the media?

Optimistic view
In spite of all this, David Robie is optimistic about the work of "our last TV public broadcaster" - Maori TV.

However, he is concerned for his students as to what sort of career they can expect in New Zealand’s media.

Political crises and indigenous issues throw a spotlight on a region’s news media and its role in democracy.

David Robie champions media scrutiny in the Pacific and believes more research will contribute much to the communications industry. This is an area where young journalists can go and experience stories that need to be reported, but they might be dangerous assignments.

For example in West Papua people are being arrested and detained for taking part in peaceful activities.

The victims of security force harassment and violence in West Papua are predominantly those who have publicly expressed their support for self-determination or independence.

We hear little about this in New Zealand, although Māori Television did a story recently. The journalists were escorted by the Indonesian authorities, however.

Embarrassing Indonesia
Perhaps if the world’s mainstream media reported on this it would embarrass Indonesia into modifying their behaviour somewhat.

Also “Understanding our neighbours is vitally important and researching and publishing on the media is an important goal for good governance for the region,” says Professor Robie.

Having been a journalist on board the Rainbow Warrior on the voyage leading up to the bombing in 1985, David has always had an interest in peace.

He talks on how peace journalism can challenge "war voyeurism".

Is a peace keeper keeping peace peacefully when carrying a gun, for example.

Peace journalism explains conflicts and the reasons for them in some depth. It gives all parties a voice, whereas war journalism is propaganda oriented and is mainly concerned with victory.

“The idea of peace journalism troubles some journalists – mostly due to a lifetime of relying on ‘conflict’ as a core news value. This is surprising, because in this era of ‘infotainment’ and super-hype in news media, this peace notion is much more about reasserting basic news values such as truth, context, fairness and depth.”

Reporters and editors have the choice to create opportunities for society to consider non violent responses to conflict.

This is an example of where journalists can be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.

* David Robie has written 10 books on the region’s politics and media, includingMekim Nius: South Pacific politics, media and education; Eyes of Fire, a book about the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, and Don’t Spoil My Beautiful Face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific (Little Island Press, 2014). He was awarded the 2005 PIMA Pacific Media Freedom Award and the 2015 Asia Communication Award.

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