Monday, 17 March 2014

SAMOA: Unity key for Samoa media council law

RAROTONGA (17 March 2014) - Journalists and editors in Samoa need to overcome their industry differences if they are to have any hope of ensuring plans for a Media Council do not suffer political interference, warns the Pacific Freedom Forum.

"Unity is key," says PFF Chair Titi Gabi.

"Whatever professional and personal differences exist between the media players in Samoa, they need to find common ground in the fact that a media dominated by a single sector is much less effective."

The government of Samoa has fast-tracked plans for a statutory Media Council, pushing a year ahead of a two year timeframe recommended by the country's Law Reform Commission.

That timeframe was to allow media a final chance at self-regulation, after more than a decade of industry division over the issue.

Now government has signalled its intention to pass a draft Media Council Bill as early as 2014.
PFF co-chair Monica Miller said passage of the bill ignores early criticism from the country's only industry body, JAWS, the Journalists Association of (Western) Samoa.

"We understand that JAWS has dropped its objections and is in fact now recognised in the draft bill as the statutory body responsible for appointing council members," she said.

"However this is far from a clear endorsement."

Speaking from Pago Pago, Miller recognised strong concern remains among some media organisations who claim JAWS is now dominated by members who support the government.

They point to the fact that the JAWS president elected for several years is a government worker, working as a public relations official.

JAWS President  Uale Papali'i Taimalelagi de-registered the organisation last year and, despite promises, has not yet re-registered it.

Miller acknowledges strong criticism of the draft law from media organisations pointing at years of political interference in other institutions aimed at building good governance.

But she said that the draft bill also proposes removing a long controversial clause in the Printers and Newspaper Act 1993 that forces media to reveal sources in legal actions.

"Some news media refused to engage with media council talks while such a draconian provision remains on the law books," said Miller.

"If passed as drafted, however, the Media Council Act offers an opportunity to not only to get that provision revoked, but for news media to use their majority and ensure that this new body represents the interests of all, not just government, as claimed."

The draft Media Council Bill (2014) proposes replacing the 1993 automatic disclosure requirements with new provisions that provide strong public interest protections for sources, overseen by the courts.

PFF CHAIR | Titi Gabi PNGEdge.com | Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea | PO Box 7776, Boroko, NCD, PNG | Mob: +675 706 86875 | titi.gabipng@gmail.com

PFF CO-CHAIR | Monica Miller KHJ Radio | Pago Pago, America Samoa | Mob: +684 258 4197 | Office: +684 633 7793 | monica@southseasbroadcasting.com 

COORDINATOR | Ricardo Morris Republika Media | Suva, Fiji | Mob: +679 904 1215 | ricardomorris@gmail.com 

The Pacific Freedom Forum is 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.

Monday, 10 March 2014

NEW CALEDONIA: PFF concerned over editorial independence and uncertainty at only daily newspaper

RARATONGA (11 March 2014) -- The Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF), the regional media rights and monitoring network, is concerned about the state of editorial independence in New Caledonia’s only daily newspaper, Les Nouvelles Cal√©doniennesand stands in solidarity with the dwindling number of journalists that remain at the paper.

According to Pacific Media Watch, a statement by the Nouvelles Cal√©doniennes Journalists’ Association accuses the French High Commissioner of putting pressure on their editorial board, which they say has given in to his demands to publish an article he authored attacking the newspaper’s journalists.

The association’s statement, translated from the French, says journalists were “at the end of their tether and their energy” after High Commissioner Jean-Jacques Brot brought repeated pressure on the newspaper’s board to print his article.

This latest incident comes on the heel of a turbulent eight months at the newspaper, which in the past month has seen almost half of its 44 journalists resigning.

“We are extremely concerned about our colleagues in New Caledonia, especially since it is only a month away from the municipal election and three months away from the major provincial poll,” said Titi Gabi of PNG, the chair of PFF.

“A newspaper should be able to function independently at all times, and even more so in the lead-up to elections. Journalists must be able to freely report news and opinions to give as many voices as possible equitable coverage.

“If the political leanings of the newspaper’s major shareholders are allowed to affect New Caledonia’s only daily paper, it is questionable whether political coverage will remain balanced,” says Gabi.

PFF co-chair Monica Miller, who is based in American Samoa, called on political actors in the French territory to allow the media to operate without undue influence.

“We must condemn the actions of the French High Commissioner in putting further pressure on a newspaper that is without an editor-in-chief and Noumea bureau head, and could also soon be without an assistant editor-in-chief,” Miller said.

“We also call on Les Nouvelles Cal√©doniennes’ shareholders and directors to respect their journalists as professionals and be transparent with them about the developments at the newspaper,” Miller said.

Pacific Media Watch says in the past eight months, the journalists at the newspaper have regularly gone on strike because of instability, which allegedly began after the newspaper’s former editor, Xavier Serre, left in July 2013.

“With reportedly only two journalists left to cover news in Noumea, the quality of the newspaper’s journalism during this important period will no doubt suffer. It is crucial not only for the newspaper, but for New Caledonia as a whole, that the acrimony between journalists, their bosses and political actors is resolved and not become the professional downfall of the newspaper.”


ENDS

PFF CHAIR | Titi Gabi PNGEdge.com | Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea | PO Box 7776, Boroko, NCD, PNG | Mob: +675 706 86875 | titi.gabipng@gmail.com

PFF CO-CHAIR | Monica Miller KHJ Radio | Pago Pago, America Samoa | Mob: +684 258 4197 | Office: +684 633 7793 | monica@southseasbroadcasting.com 

COORDINATOR | Ricardo Morris Republika Media | Suva, Fiji | Mob: +679 904 1215 | ricardomorris@gmail.com 

The Pacific Freedom Forum is 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.