The death in Fiji of media and communications worker Losana McGowan are among concerns raised in Fiji this month.
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Saturday, 18th April 2015
For immediate release
Rarotonga, Cook Islands:
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Violence and threats against media - at home or at work - are tragic and inexcusable, says the Pacific Freedom Forum.
"The death this month of a regionally reknown media worker in her own home is tragic," says PFF Chair Titi Gabi, about the death of Losana McGowan.
"A second incident, the assault this week of a student newspaper editor, also in Fiji, is inexcusable."
Finally, there was the a veiled threat by Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama against the Fiji Times for reporting comments from the Leader of the Opposition.
“In terms of balance, the report actually favoured the government, seeking a government response, to an opposition response to a government statement.”
Bainimarama accused the Fiji Times of “yet another grossly irresponsible piece of journalism.”
He went further in his media attack, while responding to accusations of racial bias in the country’s top boarding schools:
“Rather than report dispassionately and in the interests of national stability, the Fiji Times is controlled by a cabal that manipulates the news agenda and uses inflammatory language to create disunity, division and instability and to advance its own political interests.”
Those accusations were rejected by Fiji Times Editor Fred Wesley, who pointed out that freedoms of speech are protected under the constitution.
Gabi called on authorities in Fiji and their counterparts around the region to answer critics with “facts, not veiled threats.”
While the three incidents were unrelated, Gabi says they highlight the need for more attention on violence and threats against media workers, with the alleged USP assault particularly disturbing.
"The allegations against the head of the University of the South Pacific Student Association reflect not just on Fiji but the whole region," says Gabi.
"If proven, the USPSA president should resign."
PFF says that the USP authorities should treat the assault as a potential test case against a growing culture of impunity around the region.
PFF co-Chair Monica Miller is also calling on the university to get involved if the student association fails to take appropriate action.
"USP must send a strong signal to our future leaders – constitutionally protected freedoms of speech reign supreme."
"The message must be that politicians of all ages should keep their hands off the media."
“It is time for Fiji authorities to step out of the long shadow of their coup culture and lead the region in human rights, instead of the region again showing them the right way to go.”
PFF joined the Fiji Media Association and the International Federation of Journalists in expressing deep sadness at the death of Ms. McGowan.
She died after an attack at her home not thought to be linked to her work, with her partner handing himself into police for prosecution.
PFF is also calling on regional organisations to work with counterparts such as Pacific WAVE Media Network to continue identifying key areas needing attention ahead of World Press Freedom Day.
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EDITORIAL: Tribute To Losana McGowan
USPSA Federal chair attacks student editor
Five years, zero audits
Editorial: A call to action
Fiji Times defends reporting of Opposition
Wesley: There's no political agenda
Attack on Fiji Times is unfortunate: Wesley
Fiji govt attack on newspaper 'overreaction' – PFF
Pacific WAVE Media Network
PFF Chair Titi Gabi | GM PNG Loop | 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
PFF Editor Jason Brown | Aotearoa New Zealand | Mob: +(64) 224340831 | Email email@example.com
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.
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