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Doubts Cast On Media's Nation-Building Role

Doubts Cast On Media's Nation-Building Role

By Erica Lee

SUVA (Wansolwara Online/Pacific Media Watch): An education professor based at the University of the South Pacific has cast doubt on the role the media could play in nation-building and conflict management in the South Pacific.

Professor Konai Thaman, the UNESCO Chair in Teacher Education and Culture, said the media¹s message was lost on most Pacific people because it operated in languages that were foreign to them.

She said that in Fiji, and elsewhere in the region, the majority of television programmes were in English and Hindi, and that television and films did not reflect the cultures or languages of the indigenous majority populations.

"How then, one may ask, is a medium such as television or the internet going to support efforts in nation-building and conflict management in Fiji or indeed the Pacific region, if they operate in languages that are foreign to most Pacific inhabitants?"

Prof Thaman, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the university, was the keynote speaker during Media Freedom Day activities organised by the university¹s Journalism Students Association and journalism programme staff.

Speaking on the theme "The role of the media in supporting nation-building and managing conflicts", Prof Thaman derided the use of highly "Western Eurocentric, north-based paradigms and conceptual models" that had failed to consider Pacific cultures and their world views about nation-building, conflict management and development.

"We must be careful not to advocate something simply because our own education was largely through it, or that our jobs largely depend on it,² she said.

The academic added that "the mass media is often blamed for the marginalisation of most indigenous cultures and peoples, including those in Oceania², and that that the media was often perceived to be directly and indirectly responsible for the globalisation of values that often led to national disunity, unpeaceful and unsustainable development.

She pointed out that that the increasing number of mega mergers between major international media companies may actually lead to restrictions in, rather than improve access to, the free flow of ideas and access to information.

She suggested the media should shift emphasis from simply providing and producing predominantly foreign information and entertainment to becoming an important means of communication and helping people make sense of what is happening to and around them.

"I believe that this is possible if there is commitment and the will on the part of all of us," she said.



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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