Monday, February 20, 2006

Balanced media in the Pacific

Four codes of practice for Pacific island media have been drafted by Thomson consultant Ian Beales as part of the Commonwealth Media Development Fund (CMDF) project.
After years of mutual antipathy between the Samoan government and the independent media on the islands, a change of leadership in 2003 brought a thaw in relations.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi suggested the press should introduce a code of practice – despite the fact that such a US style code existed and was operational, having been adapted by the Journalists Association of Western Samoa (JAWS).
However the executive of JAWS felt that it was time that Samoa had a tailor-made code and, possibly,a self-regulatory Media Council to adjudicate upon alleged breaches of it. JAWS therefore sought assistance from The Thomson Foundation and Beales spent two weeks in Samoa, consulting widely with members of the media, Government and civil society.
The outcome is not one but four suggested interlinked codes, aimed at providing both general and specific rules and guidance, for the whole media spectrum and specific media branches covering broadcasting practice in radio and television; advertising practice in newspapers, magazines and cinema as well as licensed TV and radio; and the Cinema and DVD(an advisory code only).
The Foundation is now seeking further CMDF support so that Beales can return to Samoa and help create a Media Council and implement the codesposted 31-January-05

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Pacific public broadcasters underfunded

03/10/2005Our Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney, shares his first impressions of a major report that has just been released on the state of the media in the Pacific Islands. Called Informing Citzens, it has been funded by AusAID under the Australian Government's Pacific Media and Communications Facility.Let me say from the start that this is no comprehensive review of the Informing Citizens Report. I just have not had the time, yet, to read it all cover to cover. And that could take me a while. After all it is 480 pages long and one quickly discovers that this no tome for the casual reader. To begin with, there is an extraordinarily long list of acronyms. In fact, eight pages of acronyms. I do not lie. Eight pages of acronyms - some 300 of them are listed. Is the Pacific a world leader in acronymania? Some organisations in the region have very catchy acronyms. I must admit I've always liked JAWS - that's the acronym for the journalism association in Samoa. In fact, it's so catchy it has survived the country's name change. When it was set up, Samoa was still known as Western Samoa and that is where the W from JAWS came from. Now that the nation's official name has been shortened to Samoa, JAWS should have become JAS - but the journalists there, understandably, have kept the much more aggressive name, JAWS, as their association's title. I did not know a lot of the other acronyms listed. AGE for instance. That apparently stands for Accelerated Girls Education. DAFF is the Department of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries in Niue. MELAD is not some English aristocratic organisation but the Ministry of Environment Lands and Agricultural Development in Kiribati which the report informs us has one computer (without internet access). I did recognise FAO as the Food and Agricultural Organisation - but I learnt that there's another FAO. In Tuvalu, an FAO is a Foreign Affairs Officer. CDI also gets listed twice. It's the Centre for Democratic Institutions in Australia and the Community Development Initiative in Papua New Guinea. About the longest acronym in this extensive eight-page list that you have to flick through before you get to the actual report itself is, I believe, ICESCPR. Did you know that stands for the International Covenant on Economic, Social, Civil and Political Rights? Enough on the acronyms. One section of the report I have read highlights the poor plight of public service broadcasting in the Pacific. Not one of the PSBs - sorry, Public Service Broadcasters - not one, according to the report, receives sufficient recurrent funding from government for technical maintenance, equipment replacement and upgrades, technical supplies and infrastructure. Station equipment can be outdated, broken down and inadequate and studios are often in need of significant overhauls to make them more functional. The report says lack of on-going maintenance and available technical support for the studio and transmission equipment has been an issue for well over a decade. It says the pressure to corporatise, combined with reduced annual subsidies, has meant that some public service stations in the Pacific are more focused on raising revenue and selling airtime than developing their services. Before I finish I should mention one acronym that is surprisingly absent from that list. While RNZI, Radio New Zealand International, is there, RA - Radio Australia is not. Shame!

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Samoa's Leaders Receive World Press Freedom Day 2004 Awards

Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi and Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefoni were presented World Press Freedom Day 2004 awards in Apia this week. The awards by JAWS (Journalists Association of Western Samoa) were in recognition of the two leaders' strong support of media freedom, said JAWS president Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia.
Autagavaia told UNESCO-supported World Press Freedom Day ceremonies at Hotel Kitano Tusitala of the major changes that had taken place in Samoa in recent years. This meant Samoa's news media are now amongst the most free in the Pacific Islands, he said. The award citation hailed Tuilaepa for "his unceasing promotion of and belief in transparency, accountability and good governance". Misa's award citation hailed "his unceasing promotion of and belief in freedom of information and freedom of expression". Autagavaia and Samoa Observer editor-in-chief Savea Sano Malifa, in remarks during the award ceremony, outlined the freedom of expression and information Samoa today enjoys. But both also appealed to the government to remove remaining restrictions. They urged Tuilaepa, Misa and their cabinet colleagues to:
remove the Printing and Publishing Act introduced by late former Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana to try to force news media to reveal their sources of information;and
remove the criminal libel laws, which Autagavaia described as a relic from the colonial past.Autagavaia also urged Tuilaepa and Misa to encourage the government-owned national TV and radio services to be more accessible to all viewpoints. He said senior state-run radio and TV station people should not be scared to put all viewpoints and news on air.

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Cox Center Director Gives Lecture to Journalism Students

Journalism practice differs around the world, but one constant concern of journalists is good writing, Dr. Lee B. Becker, a journalism professor at the University of Georgia, told students in the journalism program at Samoa Polytechnic in late February.
"Everywhere that journalism is practiced, journalists want people to read what they write and view and listen to what they produce," Dr. Becker said. Artists may write simply for the love of writing, but "Journalists write so that others read or listen to or view what they produce."
As a consequence, good writing skills are crucial for journalism, Dr. Becker told the Polytechnic students as part of a three-hour lecture and discussion on February 27 at the campus in the Samoan capital of Apia. The presentation was the first of two Becker gave to the 22 students enrolled in the nascent journalism program at the Polytechnic. The second day's presentation focused on definitions of news.
Dr. Becker was in Samoa to meet with the leader of the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) and to visit the Polytechnic. He also held a media forum with members of the Journalists Association of Western Samoa (JAWS). Samoa was formerly called Western Samoa.
Dr. Becker is director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
The Cox Center has collaborated with PINA on a large number of training programs since the Center was founded in 1985. Since 1997, the Cox Center and PINA held two journalistic workshops in Fiji and one in Papua New Guinea.
While in Samoa Dr. Becker and Apulu Lance Polu, president of PINA and publisher/editor of Le Samoa Newspaper, outlined plans for a workshop at the 2005 PINA conference, planned for Tonga. The topic will be selected by PINA, which will participate in its administration.
In the Media Forum organized by JAWS and attended by 15 of its members, Dr. Becker fielded questions ranging from the coverage by the U.S. media of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to the openness of the media to outside criticism. Dr. Becker said that examples of critical coverage of US policy toward the Iraqi invasion existed from the start, but he said coverage has become even more critical since the US has failed to find weapons of mass destruction, the existence of which was used to justify the invasion. The Media Forum was held in the morning of February 27 at Hotel Kitano Tusitala in Apia.
Dr. Becker said it has been his experience that journalists, when subjected to scrutiny from outside, often "start to act very much like government officials when they are being investigated. I think it is hypocrisy, and I think it is unacceptable." He added that if the journalists really believe in the value of transparency and openness, "you should go even further than those you are criticizing in opening up what you do to other people. You explain processes. You should acknowledge errors."
In the presentation on writing at the Polytechnic, Dr. Becker reviewed the basics of news writing structure and explained why journalists have developed specialized writing techniques to tell news stories. Nora Tumua, senior lecturer in the journalism program at the Polytechnic, had asked Dr. Becker to provide a broad overview for her students on journalistic writing.
The journalism program is in its third year of operation. Students spend an intensive year with the basics of journalism, after which they earn a certificate. The students enter the program after completing their secondary educational studies.
In the presentation on news definitions, Dr. Becker said that journalists make basic decisions about the types of news they will cover through the way they structure their news coverage. Newspapers in the US use a "beat" system, he explained, in which journalists are assigned to cover certain topics because the editors want stories on the topics in the newspaper.
Dr. Becker asked the students to break into three groups and make decisions about the kinds of news they wanted covered in a daily newspaper for Samoa. They also were asked to make decisions about the amount of Samoan, regional and international news they wanted covered in the paper and then justify these decisions to the full class.
In a meeting earlier in the week, Perive Tanuvasa Lene, chief executive officer at the Polytechnic, and Dr. Ema Kruse Vaai, academic director and depute chief executive officer, and Dr. Becker explored ways in which the Cox Center and the Grady College at Georgia could collaborate. Dr. Becker promised to work to assist the Polytechnic in development if its journalism program.

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