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NZ Media Coverage Of Pacific Under Fire

NZ Media Coverage Of Pacific Under Fire

AUCKLAND (Te Waha Nui/Pacific Media Watch): New Zealand media coverage of the South Pacific has been blasted by a Fiji columnist writing in the new journalism school newspaper Te Waha Nui as being mostly about sun, sea and sandy beaches.

Former Fiji Times journalist Sudesh Kissun has criticised the poor coverage of recent news events such as the jailing in Fiji of Vice-President Ratu Jope Seniloli for taking an illegal oath as "president" during the attempted coup in May 2000, and the political resurgence of pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru as the new President of French Polynesia.

"Kiwis deserve the truth behind Pacific Islands tourist brochures," declared the headline on Kissun's regular column.

Kissun wrote that beneath the glossy tourism image "lurk major problems - most Pacific Islands are on the brink of economic collapse, democratic processes in some islands are non-existent and the roots of poverty are growing deeper in many societies".

He blamed the media for failing to inform New Zealanders about the problems.

"New Zealand media can play their part in delivering a better future for Pacific Islanders by an increased and balanced coverage of the Pacific," Kissun wrote.

"Out of sight, out of mind is not the right policy for media organisations in New Zealand as far as the Pacific is concerned."

Kissun pointed out that Pacific Islanders made up almost 8 percent of New Zealand's population.

"They may not buy newspapers every day but they have a right to know what's happening back home. New Zealanders have a right to know what's happening in their Pacific neighbourhood."

Kissun wrote that one of the few Pacific stories known in New Zealand was publisher Kalafi Moala and his newspaper Taimi 'o Tonga's struggle for democracy in the kingdom of Tonga.

"Moala's story is better known in New Zealand simply because the Taimi 'o Tonga saga has received considerable media coverage here," Kissun wrote.

"And Moala can thank his contacts among New Zealand-based journalists and the fact that his newspaper is an Auckland-based operation."

The 24-page nationally distributed Te Waha Nui is published by Auckland University of Technology's School of Communication Studies.

In today's edition, the paper featured a poll on the forthcoming local body elections, Pacific news and features, political columnists and a story about human rights groups condemning the ongoing delays in justice over the detention of Algerian politician Ahmed Zaoui.

Zaoui has been imprisoned for 20 months and it has been more than a year since the Refugee Status Appeals Authority declared him a refugee.

Dr David Robie, diversity and publications coordinator of the School of Communication Studies, said Te Waha Nui was currently the only newspaper published by a New Zealand vocational journalism school.

"But another one is planned so student journalist publishing should become very lively in future," he said.

Dr Robie and colleague Allan Lee are publishing advisers with the newspaper.



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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