Regional media freedom watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum are urging the Pacific Islands News Association to return to the mandate of supporting a free media; and withdrawing from any involvement with Fiji's new Media Industry Development Authority, MIDA. The Authority is a key part of the Fiji regime's Media Decree.
"The announcement this week of the appointment of PINA Coordinator Matai Akauola as the Fiji media representative to the regime's MIDA has shocked and dismayed colleagues who feel PINA's founding commitment to media freedom for the Pacific community has been betrayed," says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea of Papua New Guinea.
"As coordinator of a regional association whose key objective is promotion of freedom of expression and information, Akauola now faces the difficult task of choosing his regional appointment or his regime one," he says.
"It is painfully clear that his usual stance of 'engagement from within' to explain PINA's silence on Fiji has now reached the point where wearing the regime hat means he can't effectively wear the media freedom one."
Confirmation of appointments came from regime information channels and not via PINA. It's understood the decision to accept the appointment was an executive one and has yet to be formally shared with all PINA members.
"We sympathise with the difficulty and complexity of the Fiji situation, but remain duty-bound to our colleagues in Fiji and the Pacific to raise the alarm on the appalling lack of judgement by someone who has just renewed a full time contract position to uphold regional values on media freedom and standards. We encourage the full PINA membership to call for a review of this decision by their Coordinator," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller of American Samoa.
"PFF is not disputing the issue of the Media Industry Development Authority members from Fiji. We note that a former employee of the University of the South Pacific, a regional agency, is chairing the MIDA. But Akauola is currently a regional servant of an organisation whose mandate is to resist threats to media freedom, not welcome them", says the former PINA President.
"PINA and PFF are the only Pacific-specific members of the Global freedom of expression body, IFEX. The decision by the PINA coordinator to accept the regime appointment not only shames the body he is employed by, but calls PINA's membership of IFEX into question." --ENDS
CONTACT: PFF interim Chair Susuve Laumaea | Sunday Chronicle Newspaper | Papua New Guinea Mobile: 675-684 5168 | Office: 675-321-7040 | Email: email@example.com PFF interim co-Chair Monica Miller | KHJ Radio | American Samoa Mob 684 258-4197 | Office 684 633-7793 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.