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Focus On Press Freedom Hot Spots

Focus On Press Freedom Hot Spots

http://www.cpu.org.uk/sydney_2005/forum/publication9.html

By Nidhi Dutt

SYDNEY (/CPU Online/Pacific Media Watch/): Representatives from across the Commonwealth today revealed press freedom was under threat from political and economic interference as well as self-censorship in areas spanning the Pacific, Africa and Asia.

Governments had attempted to license publishers or register journalists in Tonga and Nigeria, the CPU editors forum in Sydney was told.

The publisher of /Matangi Tonga /and chairman of the Tonga Media Council, Pesi Fonua, spoke of the lack of concrete ethical guidelines and their impact on press freedom in countries like Tonga.

Fonua cited the severe lack of government accountability in addition to domestic ramifications of insensitive reporting by the international media to be the major problems facing the Tongan press.

Similarly former CPU Astor Award winner and managing director/editor-in-chief of /The News/ magazine and /PM News/, Bayo Onanuga, said the Nigerian press endures constant oppression because of its influence.

The immaturity of press models and lack of financial resources in developing regions like Africa made editors and journalists extremely vulnerable to political forces, he said.

In Nigeria, the reliance of publications on government funding also limited the extent to which they could accurately and safely report government and political matters in addition to civil and religious issues.

Executive editor of /New Age/ in Bangladesh, Nurul Kabir, said partisan politics in Bangladesh was eroding public faith in the facts presented by the press and such a lack of trust made the manipulation of press freedom easier.

He said self-censorship endangered democracy.

"Self-censorship is suicidal, particularly for the development of professional journalism," Kabir said.

"The practice cannot continue for long without compromising a core concept of professional journalism."

Other delegates highlighted press freedom challenges in their own countries.

The owner-operator of the Falkland Islands News Network, Juanita Brock, told of moves by the Falklands government to set up their own media in competition with private operators and to exclude independent media from their press conferences.

Malaysian editor Toman Mamora asked whether the media in developing countries should be a partner with government in managing change and whether pushing press freedom too far could offend cultural sensitivities.

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