"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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.