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Training for Fiji Journalists to Boost Skills

In an effort to further facilitate information and active engagement between citizens and their governance institutions, representatives of various media houses in Fiji are currently in a five-day capacity building workshop aimed at boosting existing skills in the areas of parliamentary reporting and investigating the opportunities and challenges that the role of social media plays in reporting.

One of the challenges for journalists in Pacific island countries previously identified, is that they are expected to cover a variety of different topics making it difficult to specialize and effectively report on specialist areas such as parliamentary reporting.

Facilitated by the Pacific Assistance Media Scheme (PACMAS) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the training runs parallel with the April sitting of the Parliament of the Republic of Fiji. The training aims to build the skills and confidence of journalists in reporting parliamentary proceedings.

As a practical component of the training, the last two days will provide an opportunity for journalists to work with mentors as they directly report on the parliamentary debates. Mentors assist with all aspects of the work of journalists such as identifying good stories and sources, helping with creating contact with Members of Parliament and Secretariat staff as well as commenting on writing style and editing.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation International Development (ABCID) Lead, Jo Elsom highlighted that the training will enhance parliamentary coverage of pertinent development issues.

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“PACMAS works to improve the capacity of journalists and communication practitioners in the Pacific to report responsibly on and mediate discussion about key issues affecting development”, said Elsom.

She added, “Many of these issues arise and are debated in Parliament. The media play an important role in communicating to citizens what is happening in Parliament and what it means for the community.

Citizens are best informed by media stories that are accurate, fair and balanced. And yet for journalists, the rules and processes around parliamentary reporting are complex. With our partners, this training aims to support them to understand those complexities, so they can do their work well.”

The broad outlook on the development of media in Fiji indicates a transition and a shift as journalists and media companies try to adapt to a rapidly changing media landscape.

In many Pacific island countries there is a growing trend in seeing the value of capacity building for journalists who report on parliament says the Team Leader – Effective Governance for the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, Dyfan Jones.

“Workshops and trainings such as the one being organized in partnership with PACMAS are important in the context of improving good governance and creating a better understanding for citizens of the way their parliament works.”

He added, “Proceedings in Parliament can often be technical and procedural, so the more a journalist understands the details of what is going on in parliament, the better they will be able to report”, said Jones.

“Parliament and Members of Parliament recognize that the media has an important role to play in ensuring that citizens are aware of the issues being debated in Parliament and the decisions that are taken. It is in the interests of Parliament, MPs, the media and citizens that journalists have an opportunity to increase their knowledge and improve their parliamentary reporting skills.” he says.

As an extension of the training, the Fiji Parliamentary Reporters Handbook, which has been developed by PACMAS with support from UNDP will be launched on Wednesday (3 April) at the Fiji Parliament.

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