Sunday, 2 May 2010

WPFD 2010 statement: Pacific Freedom Forum

PFF applauds ex-Tonga Attorney-General, calls on stronger Pacific governance through action on Freedom of Information


Brisbane, WPFD 2010: As Chilean journalist Monica Gonzalez Mujica is officially recognised as the 2010 recipient of the UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize today, the Pacific Freedom Forum applaud and honour the integrity of the former Tonga Attorney General John Cauchi, who this week publicly resigned his post in protest at the interference of Tonga's government in the judiciary.
"In resigning and stating his reasons for doing so, the Tonga AG has effectively blown the whistle on Pacific leaders who say one thing to their people and try to subvert a process which must be above political  interfence and control. We commend him for using his right to go public on the shameful lack of good governance and transparency which this has uncovered," says PFF Chair Susuve Laumaea of Papua New Guinea.
"This year's global theme of Freedom of Information is timely for Pacific governments, not just media colleagues and our audiences. PFF remains committed to advocacy work to build bridges of understanding with our Pacific leaders on the positive impact of FOI legislation," says Laumaea.
Laumaea and other members of the PFF are in Brisbane at the University of Queensland this week joining the global commemorations of World Press Freedom Day 2010.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova will formally present the 2010 award to Gonzalez Mujica in a special ceremony this evening. Assistant Director-General Abdul Waheed Khan, who leads UNESCO's Communication and Information Sector, head of the UNESCO office for the Pacific Visesio Pongi and the office's Communications and Information Adviser Paul Hector are also among those attending the meeting.
Pacific representation to panel events organised by the hosts at the University of Queensland has highlighted threats to free speech and freedom of information across the Pacific.
Continued media censorship in Fiji, anti-transparency legislation cutting back Ombudsman powers to implement the Leadership Code of ethical practice in Papua New Guinea, and legislation aimed at hampering free media in Samoa were among the issues which Pacific journalists have heard from regional speakers.
Transparency International head Marie Noelle Ferriux-Patterson described the chilling implications of the lack of accountability and culture of impunity over attacks on media in Vanuatu.
"These kinds of actions by leaders directly contradict commitments made under national, regional and global agreements, including signed support for freedom of information", says PFF co-chair Monica Miller.
PFF urges all governments to:
i. Step up legislative commitments to and implementation of FOI in the Pacific 
ii.Independently review all media, defamation and accountability legislation in Pacific nations so that the aims of good governance are met. 
iii. Foster bridges of understanding on the role of the media in assisting FOI work as a critical part of thriving democracies in our Pacific world.  --ENDS.

CONTACT: 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.

Pacific media freedom soup: HIV/AIDS, media regionalism, and the right to know

Below is the text of a statement given on Sunday 2 May in Brisbane at the University of Queensland by Lisa Williams-Lahari, founding member and Projects leader of Pacific WAVE (Women Advancing a Vision of Empowerment) Media Network. Her presentation followed that of PNG’s Susuve Laumaea, Chair of the Pacific Freedom Forum. Fiji's Sophie Foster, of the Fiji Times, Samoa’s Savea Sano Malifa of the SONG (Samoa Observer Newspaper Group) and Vanuatu’s Marie-Noelle Ferrieux-Patterson, former Ombuds and President for TI (Transparency International) in Vanuatu also featured on the afternoon panel.


Kia Orana tatou katoatoa it e aroa maata o to tatou Atua, Talofa lava, I bid you warm Pacific greetings. This week last year, the inaugural meeting of a regional media freedom watchdog group, the Pacific Freedom Forum, was happening in Samoa. 12 months later, to the exact week, we are witnessing the inaugural meeting of a regional network of women in Pacific media, called WAVE. We have delegates from both groups here at this event, one a regional media freedom monitoring and advocacy body – the other a newly confirmed network of women working in news and media in the Pacific region. Together, both groups form a constituency of almost 400 online members spread across the Oceania region’s 22 countries and 9million people – not forgetting many millions of square kilometres of saltwater in all that. So we are excited to affirm our place at this key event.
I’m going to dive in to the overall theme of this session with an invitation to have some media freedom soup with me.