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New media challenges ahead for Pacific journalists

New media challenges ahead for Pacific journalists

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* See PMW item 3163

SUVA (Pacific Media Watch): Pacific journalists need a better understanding of the impact of their reporting on society and the responsibility of media in an age of rapidly changing new media technologies, says a prominent Fijian editor and columnist.

Writing in his new "Breakfast with Mesake" column in the Sunday Post on 28 January 2001, acting editor Mesake Koroi responded to this week's call by interim regime Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase for higher journalism standards with an appeal of his own.

"I will be shot by my media colleagues for saying this but, unfortunately, some of us do not quite understand the impact that the media has in this changing environment and to consider the responsibility it bears for this impact," Koroi wrote.

He cited the prime minister, who is closely related, as "taking a swipe at the media", expressing concern with what he described as "continuing problems of journalistic standards" in Fiji.

"He [prime minister] even went to the extent of saying that a lot of money and resources have been invested in media training, but he sometimes wondered what had been accomplished," Koroi wrote.

"Mr Qarase described some journalists as 'uncertain interviewers, poor verbal communicators, having problems with accuracy and are short on current affairs knowledge'.

"That's quite a mouthful from the prime minister but he may have a point there."

Koroi acknowledged that it was "not easy" to consider the deeper responsibilities of the media in a developing country in a rapidly changing world of technologies.

"The phrase 'yesterday's news' suggests the typical attention span of newspapers and television news," Koroi wrote.

"Yet it is important that the institutions that help us understand what is happening in the world around us also understand themselves.

"In other words, we in the media have to understand the impact of our reporting on the society and the world we describe to our readers."

Koroi attended last week's World Media Association conference in Tokyo with Fiji's interim Information and Communications Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.

The conference theme showed that new technology was providing greater access to news and information, about more subjects, and in a greater variety of forms than ever before.

"Of course, this process is more advanced in the developed world, but no country, including Fiji, is unaffected by it," Koroi wrote.

"The internet has removed the filter on the news we receive - a development with both positive and negative potential.

"It has also created the 24-hour news cycle.

"However, quite apart from news content, the internet is having a major impact on the political process in democracies, as politicians devote more and more energy to influencing media perceptions.

"Now, on the other hand, media is also inescapably a part of economic globalisation, both as a source of understanding it and as a player in it."

Power balances were also changing in the region.

"New regional power dynamics are emerging, especially in Asia and the Pacific and regional ethnic conflicts have acquired greater importance," he wrote.

"That I believe is something the media here in Fiji [and the Pacific] can chew about."



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.

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