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PINA president urges media to deal with new barriers and frontiers "the Pacific way"

(PINA/IFEX) – 4 May 2011 – As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) on May 3, we, the media community in the Pacific are mindful of the new barriers and frontiers that confront us daily.

To that end, Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), with its limited resources, has provided funding support for World Press Freedom Day activities in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tonga, Niue and Fiji. The activities will help explore strategies in dealing with emerging barriers that confront the media in Pacific Island nations.

"We have developed a framework to deal with the realities emerging on the ground from our different communities. In 2010, the PINA Board resolved to engage with our island governments to address issues dear to our communities," said PINA President, Moses Stevens.

"We have been criticised for taking this path, but as islanders living in the islands we believe we know what must be done."

The first ever Editors' Roundtable since the coming into force of the restrictive Public Emergency Regulation (PER) was organised in Fiji by PINA and the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA), Stevens said.

"We hope the outcomes of the Roundtable will be communicated to the government in Fiji," he said. "We respect governments that have given us the space to do our work in a professional manner."

Stevens said that no government in the Pacific was perfect in dealing with the media and a blanket statement of condemnation continues to fall on deaf ears.

"Let us remind ourselves of the barriers in our island nations that need breaking to enable the media to work freely and access information."

Stevens said that while most governments in the Pacific are still operating under the Official Secrets Act, some have shown a willingness to come up with their own Freedom of Information Bill. Still, getting access to information remains difficult, he said.

The PINA President also pleaded with media practitioners not to take media freedom for granted as a tool to escape scrutiny.

"We should be establishing self-examining mechanisms to ensure that we practice our trade with much responsibility and dignity.

"Let us take this press freedom day to revisit our editorial policies, style guides, code of ethics (. . .) which lay the foundation for professionalism in our practice, thereby recommitting ourselves to our fundamental duties of providing truths, which will help our people in making informed decisions for themselves and those coming after them," said Stevens.

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