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Govt Supports Media Initiatives, Assures Vayeshnoi

SUVA: Assistant Minister for Information Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi says government fully supports the initiatives of the Fiji Islands Media Association and its effort at revamping its training programmes, the Daily Post reports.

This follows a meeting initiated by FIMA today with the Assistant Minister. FIMA president Rita Narayan and executives of the Association discussed the concerns raised by Vayeshnoi during a recent PINA national association's workshop, at the lack of transparency including support for FIMA's training programmes at the Fiji Journalism Institute.

Vayeshnoi noted that UNESCO's support funding [to] FJI had been suspended awaiting an audited account of the institute's finances.

The current office holders inherited problems associated with accountability and transparency in the utilisation of funds earmarked for training.

Ms Narayan told Vayeshnoi that the Auditor-General was expected to hand over a completed audit of the FJI records soon.

"We hope then to call our next annual general meeting in June," she said.

Vayeshnoi expressed government's concern at the lack of accountability and transparency in the handling of funds by previous executives of FIMA.

He also acknowledged the need to improve working conditions for local journalists, should have the support of the media industry.

Vayeshnoi added that there was a need for journalists to be represented under one umbrella or association to look into the welfare of journalists including pay and work conditions.

He said FIMA, as the national organisation representing the media in Fiji, should take the matter up as one of its urgent initiatives.

He also stressed that the government was committed to the training of local journalists and had underlined this factor in its manifesto programme.

Vayeshnoi called on the media owners to give their full support for the Fiji training programmes which could be cross-credited towards the Fiji National Training Council and USP Journalism degree programme.

Government, he said, manifested its commitment towards the training of journalists by continuing to provide premises for the FJI and by offering to assist in the recruitment of training coordinators.

Meanwhile, the head of USP's School of Journalism, David Robie has called on the Assistant Minister to discuss the school's programme, including Vayeshnoi's concern about working conditions and salaries of journalists which the USP's journalism school shared.

Vayeshnoi acknowledged USP's contribution towards uplifting the standard of journalism with a number of Journalism graduates now entering the media industry.

Robie told the minister that while the majority of journalists in Papua New Guinea do have formal training and qualifications, "this is not the case in much of the rest of the

region, including Fiji where newsroom staff have traditionally been school-leavers with little or no experience."

Robie said the median age of journalists in a Fiji newsroom survey was 22, and the median experience was two-and-a-half years.

Vayeshnoi also discussed work and pay conditions of local journalists who appeared to be less paid than their counterparts in other sectors of the industry.

He described his meeting with Robie as "fruitful" and said he looked forward to further meetings with local and regional training institutions like the USP to assess the government's contribution towards training programmes for the local media and other institutions connected with the mass media.

+++niuswire

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