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Journalist Raps NZ Travel Journalism With A Whine

Pacific Journalist Raps NZ 'Travel Journalism With A Whine'

By Juliet Rowan, an Auckland University of Technology student journalist covering the Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) conference

AUCKLAND (AUT Journalism/Pacific Media Watch): New Zealand mainstream media coverage of Pacific issues is often little better than travel writing, says Agence France-Presse correspondent Michael Field.

The New Zealand-based correspondent, who has the distinction of being the most banned journalist in the Pacific, derided the coverage as "travel journalism with a whine" during a keynote address at the two-day Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) conference in Auckland.

He said New Zealand journalists covering the Australian-led intervention in the Solomon Islands in July wrote stories about the "nobility" of New Zealand¹s involvement rather than properly analysing the political situation.

He suggested their objectivity may have been compromised by the fact they flew as a group to the Solomons on an Air Force plane.

Field, who has covered many of the region's major stories over the past decade and has been banned in Kiribati, Nauru and Tonga for controversial reports on environmental and political issues, said the Pacific tends to be a region ignored by New Zealand journalists unless "there¹s a rugby game or when there¹s a freebie".

He was also critical of the media¹s use of the term "failed state".

British magazine Economist had published an article that labelled the Solomons a failed state.

Field said Australia used this and similar reports as justification for intervening in the country to stop ethnic rivalries.

But he questioned the notion of the Solomon Islands as a failed state, saying the troubles were limited to the capital, Honiara.

Outside the capital, which was home to only 20 percent of the people, local authorities functioned smoothly, he said.

He added that labels like "failed state" ignored the country¹s many achievements, such as innovative communications that meant a leading non-government organisation had established email links by radio to remote parts of the country.

Field said "troubled state" was a preferable term to use for such countries.

"It¹s important for journalists to define things before politicians do," he said.

The two-day PIMA conference includes many Pacific media speakers, such as columnist Tapu Misa, Samoan lawyer Olinda Woodroffe and Tahitian campaigner Maire Bopp-Dupont, from the Pacific Islands Aids Foundation (PIAF) in the Cook Islands.

Fiji's former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Tupeni Baba and Listener editor Finlay Macdonald launched the Pacific Journalism Review, now published at Auckland University of Technology.



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 based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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