Comments by government information advisor raise concern
The former mainstream broadcast journalist, now a senior communications adviser to the Pacific's largest developing country, had told other participants who disagreed with his statement he agreed with some of their views. Just hours later he told Radio Australia journalist Bruce Hill twice in the same interview that it's not the job of PNG's journalists to challenge government, and that the media should work in partnership with governments and be more responsible in their reporting.
"It's concerning to see a former senior journalist now revoking the basic premise of journalism. If Pacific journalists can't report the truth about the powerful and challenge those who want to keep information secret, they are not doing their jobs," says PFF chair Titi Gabi of Papua New Guinea. "We urge all Pacific governments to welcome enquiries from the media and coverage, however critical or positive, of their performance. And the same applies to the other sectors of society who are the watchdogs of governance -- we in media must also welcome the same challenges on the work we do."
The Pacific Freedom Forum leadership is not at the Fiji meeting along with other regional media networks including the Pasifika Media Association, with many choosing to stay away in protest at having a regional media event in one of the region's most repressed nation for free speech and free media. Journalists from those organisations are attending the Pacific Media Summit in Suva as individuals.
"We stand in solidarity with our PNG media colleagues and commend their work at a difficult time in the nation's history, especially as the country enters an election period in the next few months," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller, "and we are concerned that government media officers attending the current media summit may be hoping to use its hosting in Fiji as a chance to push their agenda for media control disguised as responsibility."
"Our position from our membership, even those individual journalists at the summit, is clear: the role of the media as the fourth estate mandates us to challenge those who want to keep information secret. The public is best informed by journalists when we speak truth to power, and make the powerful truthful."