Friday, 30 May 2014
KIRIBATI: Public broadcaster must uphold ethics, right of reply
Suspended Kiribati journalist Ueretan Bauro. Photo / Facebook
Rarotonga Cook Islands Wednesday 28 May 2014-- Regional media monitoring network the Pacific Freedom Forum has condemned the suspension of Kiribati journalist Ueretan Bauro by his state-broadcaster bosses, and says public broadcasters must uphold media ethics and standards if they are to serve their taxpayer-funded mandate.
The call comes as news emerges of the suspension of Bauro by management Radio Kiribati for 'failing to follow instructions' after he gave Opposition MP Tebuai Uaai right of reply to allegations in the state newspaper Te Uekera, that he had failed to return public funds during an official travel 12 years ago. The Te Uekera article did not feature any comment from the MP.
"We call on Radio Kiribati to reverse this curious decision as there was no specific instruction in this case. It seems a journalist with more than a decade of experience in his field has been unfairly punished for seeking to balance and follow up on a story that was already in the public domain," says PFF Chair Titi Gabi of Papua New Guinea.
"We remind Kiribati's elected leaders, and all our Pacific governments, that media agencies funded by public money must serve the public interest. This includes being informed by all elected leaders from both sides of Parliament, on any matters involving public money."
The trail of events leading up to Bauro's suspension began on May 5, when the Kiribati Independant newspaper published a release from Opposition MP Tebuai Uaai circulated to all Kiribati media. In the release the MP referred to allegations of misuse of public funds around travel entitlements for a Cabinet Minister who had taken his spouse with him on an official travel several years ago. At the time government had denied the claims but Uaai had based his release this month around new information that the Minister had since reimbursed the state for his wife's travel. He challenged government to clarify the matter.
After the Uaai release, the state newspaper published counter-allegations from Government alleging Uaai himself owed public funds from overseas travels during his time in office a decade ago. There was no right of reply given in that story, so the MP went to Te Uekera and Radio Kiribati asking to respond to government allegations. Ueretan Bauro, who was in the newsroom when Uaai visited, agreed to give him the right of reply and aired his story.
By last week he was was suspended for 20 working days for 'not obeying management', who have cited his employment contract clause where he has 'agreed to obey instructions' as the reason for his removal.
"We stand in solidarity with and commend journalists who stand by their ethics and integrity in the public interest, and ask his managers to reconsider this punitive decision," says PFF co-Chair Monica Miller of American Samoa.
"We also recommend to Kiribati and all Pacific parliaments that media awareness seminars be part of their induction training programs for all MPs, following on from any General Election. This will go a long way towards helping elected leaders understand the independence of government media as a powerful way of keeping in touch with the people who put them into power."--ENDS
Kiribati journalist suspended for defiance
PFF Chair Titi Gabi | Freelance Journalist | Papua New Guinea Mail: PO Box 7776, Boroko, NCD, Papua New Guinea | Mob: (675) 7314 3929 | Email: email@example.com
PFF 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.