Friday, 8 May 2009

PFF outcome statement | project xix | samoa

"A free and independent media, reflecting diversity of opinion, is a precondition of pluralist societies and an integral part of national development" 
Pacific Islands Forum, Pacific Islands News Association, Rarotonga, 1990


Outcome Statement | Project XIX | "Courage Under Fire" | 6th -8th May 2009, Apia, Samoa 


In 2008, a group of media volunteers set up the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) as an internet-based "media freedom" monitoring group.

Volunteers expressed concerns at a lack of response to clear cut incidents of media freedom threats.

More than 40 delegates from 12 Pacific nations closed the inaugural meeting of PFF with a call to action for governments and media workers in the region.

Delegates note the inaugural meeting moved from Suva, Fiji to Apia, Samoa due to actions by the interim regime.

The PFF meeting issued this unanimous communiqué:

In sessions over the last three days, we have strengthened our knowledge of the right of all Pacific people to enjoy freedoms of speech, and access to a free media.

We delegates heard first hand reports of attacks on media freedom and individual journalists, and applaud "courage under fire" shown by journalists sharing their stories with us.

We agree that :

Increased attacks on media freedom in a number of Pacific Island countries pose a growing threat to the quality and diversity of regional journalism and to the public's right to know.

PFF calls on Pacific governments to :

Act on long overlooked regional and international agreements supporting media freedom and public access to information, such as the Rarotonga Media Declaration of 1990 and Article XIX of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Participants agreed to :

Formalise the PFF as a registered organisation with the mission to monitor and expose threats to media freedoms, and boost media capacity.

Report outcomes from the meeting to the online PFF community for final consultation, amendment and improvement.

Build relationships with the umbrella organisation, the Pacific Islands News Association, at its upcoming biennial general conference in Port Vila, Vanuatu, late July 2009.

Other priority outcomes:

Launch a media monitoring project to establish a detailed database of threats against media freedoms.

Initiate constructively critical awareness programmes supporting media freedoms in areas of high priority like Fiji, West Papua and some small island states including Tuvalu.

We support the view that imposition of media restrictions in Fiji is a regional crisis which has to be resisted if our region is to have lasting stability.

We reiterate our position that the PACNEWS service should be moved out of Fiji to maintain its independence

We strongly urge Pacific governments and media colleagues alike to accept open debate, criticism and public feedback as the lifeblood of democracy, which must be embraced in order to give all Pacific citizens a voice.

PFF also commits to :

Conduct systematic monitoring of threats and attacks on media freedoms and the safety of journalists.

Stepping up engagement with governments and agencies.

Promote Insurance and other personal and professional securities for journalists.

Pursue the equity and security of women in the media in the Pacific as outlined in Section J on Women In the Media from the Beijing Platform for Action and its Pacific application.

Working with regional media resources engaged on similar objectives such as International Federation of Journalists, USP Journalism Programme, AUT Pacific Media Centre, SPC Regional Media Centre, and the National University of Samoa, Media & Journalism Department.

PFF is very happy to have held its inaugural meeting in Samoa, where the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) was registered in 1976. We end this communiqué by expressing our commitment to media freedom in the Pacific as a cornerstone of achieving human rights for all.

Delegates at the Apia meeting applaud and thank UNESCO for stepping up and addressing the urgent media regionalism and unity gaps and issues the Pacific faces.


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

pacnews should move from fiji - pff



Regional news service PACNEWS should move from Fiji to reassert independence following emergency regulations cracking down on all outlets.


Delegates to a UNESCO supported workshop on freedoms of expression, information and media heard questions raised today about the future of PACNEWS.


"I think it should move, definitely," said Taime o Tonga publisher Kalafi Moala.


Journalism lecturer David Robie told the meeting there was precedence for moving Pacnews, following its relocation to Vanuatu during the first Fiji coup in 1987.


Fiji Times editor Netani Rika said there was support for the idea of moving PACNEWS given control by military appointed newsroom censors.


But he said questions over the future of the secretariat for Pacnews owner PINA were for members of the Pacific Islands News Association to decide.


"I think that PACNEWS should move as a first step but PINA should make its own mind up."


PINA holds its next biennual meeting in July this year.


However questions remain over membership in PINA, with the secretariat so far failing to respond to industry inquiries about fees and other details.


National Media Associations representative at PINA Cherelle Jackson raised the PACNEWS question at the start of discussions at a three day meeting initiated by the Pacific Freedom Forum, a new advocacy group started by regional media less than a year ago.



Tuesday, 5 May 2009

kelea damages decision excessive PFF

Pacific Freedom Forum Media Release

Kele’a damages ruling excessive, says Pacific Freedom Forum

For immediate release: Thursday 16 April 2009: The Pacific Freedom Forum, a regional media freedom and advocacy organization has expressed its concern about what appears to be an excessive and punitively draconian, defamation order handed down on April 8, by the Tongan Supreme Court against the local newspaper, Kele'a and its staff.

The finding was reported by Matangi Tonga Online on April 9, 2009.

Kele'a and its staff were ordered to pay TOP 500,000 (US$ 229,505.20) to the defamed individual, plus their costs.

"By no means does the Pacific Freedom Forum object to the finding of the Supreme Court, nor do we support what appears to be reckless and irresponsible publication of defamatory material by any media outlet," says Pacific Freedom Forum chair Susuve Laumaea, of Papua New Guinea.

"But the order imposed by the Tongan Supreme Court is too severe and borders on fantasy when it comes to payment in a nation where, on a per capita basis, the fine would be equivalent to an $8.3 million judgement in New Zealand - an unheard of amount even for a much bigger country and economy,” says.

“It is clear the order will bankrupt both the newspaper and its staff and send people home.”

PFF co-chair Monica Miller of American Samoa says the finding “brings to mind the severe fine and suspended sentences imposed on the Fiji Times' and its then senior staff over an admittedly contemptful publication of a letter in January, 2009."

"There is a place for punitive damages to be imposed on a media outlet for especially reckless and irresponsible publication which damages a person's valuable reputation, and, according to Matangi Tonga, publishing a statement from the Tongan Prime Minister's office dated April 8, 2009, Kele'a seems to have behaved both recklessly, and irresponsibly, throughout this whole affair."

"The Pacific Freedom Forum trusts that this severe and draconian fine imposed on a newspaper will not set a precedent for other Tongan or Pacific Region courts to use such methods to control or intimidate the media in their respective countries," Miller says. ENDS


PFF interim Chair

Susuve Laumaea
Sunday Chronicle Newspaper
Papua New Guinea

Mobile: 675-684 5168
Office: 675-321-7040

PFF interim co-Chair

Monica Miller
KHJ Radio
American Samoa

Mob 684 258-4197
Office 684 633-7793

The Pacific Freedom Forum are a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media.

We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance.

In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.

XIX builds courage under fire, envisions freedom

. . .

PFF project XIX:

"Building courage under fire and visioning freedom in the Pacific"

Less than a year after starting, the Pacific Freedom Forum has been recognised by three major media organisations - UNESCO, the Pacific Islands News Association and the International Federation of Journalists IFEX service.

Responding to growing concerns about freedoms of information, expression and media across the region, UNESCO has agreed to partner with PFF to deliver a regional workshop on these issues.

Advocating for all island states and terrorities, PFF is in partnership with UNESCO, serving: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.

UNESCO promotes freedom of expression and freedom of the press (media) as a basic human right. These rights are enshrined in Article 19 (XIX) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The UNESCO Apia Office Communication & Information (CI) Sector is supporting the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) Project XIX Workshop.

The Workshop is funded by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). More information on IPDC can be found at:

Expected results of the Workshop include:

  • increased awareness by Pacific journalists and policy makers on the rights of media workers
  • a list of existing media freedom provisions in Pacific legislation and measures to protect and enhance these provisions around World Press Freedom Day
  • agreement/launch of PFF strategic plans
  • selection of the Pacific delegate to the Global Freedom of Expression Forum in Oslo, Norway in June 2009 (

Abel Caine
Adviser for Communication & Information
UNESCO Office for the Pacific States
Apia, Samoa

Original invitation for Expressions of interest:

Are you the kind of journalist who wants to be the best kind of journalist there is?

Do you want to combine your newsroom, real world experience with advocacy to help Pacific audiences get more media-savvy?

Want to take your skills to the next level with some strategic planning/thinking while you soak up the background to freedom of expression, information access and how the two make media freedom work so much fun?

Most importantly, do you want to shape and be a part of ensuring the future of independent and free media industries in the Pacific region?

If you nodded to any of the above, the Pacific Freedom Forum wants to hear from you!

Original outline

From Mon 27 April to Sun 3 May (7 days) in Suva, FIJI ISLANDS, and with the support of IPDC funds from UNESCO, SPC through its Regional Media Centre will be host venue to a two-phase regional workshop helping to support the vision of a better Pacific which rests, along with other critical issues, on the need for Pacific people to enjoy access to information about how their nations are run and how they can participate and be involved in decisions about their lives, a free and independent media, and the right to express themselves freely.

Project XIX participants will:

  • receive technical skills in campaigning and advocacy for media freedom
  • acquire in-depth understanding of Article 19 and global Human Rights commitments for regional and constitutional protection of media freedom/freedom of expression
  • join the dots on relevance of international human rights conventions for the Pacific Plan and governance issues; to what goes on in newsrooms
  • understand the rule of law in their Pacific constitutions covering Freedom of information, expression and the media; and how it applies to everyday journalism
  • share knowledge and expertise for monitoring and reporting instances of abuse of article XIX
  • gain insights on strategies to widen pressure and networks on instigators of infringements through the good practice of other media freedom advocates
  • participate in visioning for regional media initiatives to advocate Article XIX.
Original questions for EOI

1) Describe how you feel about your work in journalism, in your organisation, in one sentence?
2) What does media freedom mean to you?
3) Attendance to Article XIX denotes a commitment to be part of or help with any follow on activities aimed at promoting media freedom to the Pacific Community: why do you think this commitment is so important and how do you see Project XIX helping you to deliver on that?
4) Describe three highlights: people, stories or events that make information, expression and media freedoms so relevant to the Pacific media.

5) You have a blank cheque and the job to plan the May 3 World Press Freedom Day event in your community. Describe in a short paragraph what you propose to do, and why.

Below, email from UNESCO regards response from Fiji to hosting PFF XiX:

from Caine, Abel

16 April 2009

To all,

I have been told politely by a senior official in the Fiji Ministry of
Information that the proposed UNESCO - PFF FOE Workshop would "NOT" be welcomed.
I hope the PINA delegation will achieve more.

The informal consensus for the alternate Workshop location seems to be Apia
the week beginning Mon 4th May.
Plan B - Apia the week after Mon 11th May
Vila during the PINA Pacific Media Summit has been ruled out as time is needed between the Workshop and the Summit to formulate and present PFF's Strategic Plan.
Suva later in the year has been ruled out as we needed to hold this event sooner rather than later in order to (also) send a strong message to all PIC Govts on the vitality of media freedom.

The deadline for EOIs to attend the Workshop has closed but if you fervently believe:

a) You are a battle-scarred media freedom veteran and can strongly tell your story;

or b) You are/will be facing mortal tests to media freedom in your country and you have the capacity to learn from your Pacific colleagues and campaign like a fearless champion in your country...then tell us who you are.

. . .




IFEX Outreach, IFJ add to UNESCO support for Pacific Freedom Forum

May 1 2009 – As World Press Freedom Day is celebrated around the world this Sunday May 3, journalists and observers from 12 Pacific nations and all forms of mainstream media are making their way to Apia, Samoa, for a ‘Courage under Fire’ media freedom event.

The workshop takes its ‘Project XIX’ theme from Article 19(XIX) of the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

Article 19 confirms the right to express an opinion or idea without fear for one’s safety, and forms the basis for what is commonly known as media freedom or free speech.

Lead trainer Deborah Muir is the Sydney-based Program Manager for the International Federation of Journalists, and will bring a strong background in media training, advocacy, and development to the event.

Co-trainer Kalafi Moala is an award winning media veteran, activist and author recognised for his achievements by the Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA), University of PNG and Amnesty International. He is currently CEO for Taimi Media Network in Tonga.

Project XIX national counterpart Vicky Lepou, lecturing in Journalism at the National University of Samoa also forms part of the training team.

“The Courage under Fire workshop comes at a critical time for free speech for Pacific journalists, and the insights and information which Deborah, Kalafi and Vicky will bring to the table make an ideal mix for meeting the needs of our training group,” says Project XIX facilitator Lisa Williams-Lahari.

“As journalists, it’s good to turn the lens inwards and examine ourselves as much as we put the spotlight on others. These events always provide that opportunity.

"But our trainers are also geared to help us take journalism to the next level, in terms of speaking out in creative ways - not just to protect the rights of people to be informed, but the right of the next generation of journalists to report what Pacific people think on issues, without fear or favour.”

“In this respect, we are especially honoured to have NUS journalism students as part of our regional workshop group,” says Lahari, “and we look forward to the energy and experiences of our future media managers as we also debate and chew through the current real-life situation of newsroom issues around article XIX.”

While Muir and Moala will be focussing on sessions around freedom of expression and the right to information, the PFF facilitator is keen to develop strategies from the discussions which will strengthen the relatively new Pacific Freedom Forum. Lahari, from her own background as a Pacific journalist, advocate and trainer, says for this event, she has “picked up a unique air of excitement around the current activity which is good to see. It bodes well for ownership and involvement by Pacific journalists in their own industry ‘family’.

"Most of us are part of an online network. We are looking forward to meeting each other and our chair Susuve Laumaea for the first time, at this meeting!”.

The Project XIX: Building courage under fire event is the first regional activity of its kind initiated by the Pacific Freedom Forum; and was made possible by a grant from UNESCO, with support from the SPC Regional Media Centre and the global freedom of expression body IFEX, under its Outreach program.

It was relocated from Fiji to Samoa after new ‘emergency laws’ made it impossible to hold an open and free media forum there.

Journalists and observers from Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Hawaii, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu will be representing their organisations for the May 6-8 event, which will close with a special program hosted by UNESCO and the Journalists Association of Western Samoa (JAWS).ENDS


PFF interim Chair
Susuve Laumaea Sunday Chronicle Newspaper Papua New Guinea
Mobile: 675-684 5168 Office: 675-321-7040 Email:
PFF interim co-Chair
Monica Miller KHJ Radio American Samoa
Mob 684 258-4197 Office 684 633-7793 Email:

The Pacific Freedom Forum are a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media.

We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance.

In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.