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PNG media pioneer honored on WPFD day

(PFF/IFEX) - Wednesday, May 2, 2012, Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS - The Pacific vanguard of free speech and media freedom continues to rest with individuals who stand up to defend those rights, says regional media freedom watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum, PFF.

PFF chair Titi Gabi of Papua New Guinea will be noting that largely unresourced reality when she calls for a minute's silence before a WPFD Editors Forum on Media ethics and elections 2012 to be held this morning at Hideaway Hotel in Port Moresby. The silence will honour the late Yehiura Hriehwazi, one of Papua New Guinea's leading journalists, who died suddenly on 8 January 2012. Hriehwazi was a fearless advocate for stronger investigative journalism and a founding member of the Pacific Freedom Forum. A print journalist who began his career with the PNG Post Courier in 1981, he reached senior management levels in a prolific career which had taken him across the world and the region whose journalists knew him so well.

UNDP-PNG's Investigative Journalism awardee Haiveta Kivia stressed to regional media colleagues in March 2012, that he owed his success to the powerful mentoring he received from Hriehwazi.

"As we join the global celebrations this May 3 across the dateline, PFF recognises its network, strength and solidarity is derived from the individual passion and commitment of its members. Spread out across the three sub-regions of the Pacific, our media monitors and advocates, like Yehiura, are vigilant of that freedom to do the work of journalism. We are well aware that many governments want to dictate and shape how their nations are informed, even trampling their rights to share opinions and views freely with each other," says the PFF chair.

"Yehiura encouraged solidarity within the media industry because he believed in the power of collective voices standing up for media standards and freedom. His sudden loss is still deeply felt by those of us who continue the work he began," she says.

Gabi, who has initiated a new national media workers union to refocus attention to the Pacific's largest country-level industry group, says the current outreach drive of PNG Media Workers Association has revealed that journalists continue to feel isolated and alone when threats occur to their journalism practice, livelihoods or personal safety.

"Levels of self-censorship, depending on where journalists live, continue to be a strong threat to media freedom in our part of the world. What we are seeing at regional and national level is a growing awareness that we can be stronger with a unified voice - and today is a timely moment to honour Pacific colleagues who have paved the way," she says.

The joint hosting by the Papua New Guinea Media Workers Association and the International Federation of Journalists of the Pacific World Press Freedom Day event is supported by both groups with additional resources from UNESCO Pacific, UNDP Papua New Guinea, and the IFJ- EU Pacific Media, Human Rights and Democracy project. In the last 12 months, the PFF issued 45 statements on media in the region - more than half of them coming from Vanuatu, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

"Individuals like Yehi Hriehwazi show that our best Pacific resource is our people. His tireless input and enthusiasm for the work of monitoring media freedom and ethics, helping the PFF to organise and keep a consistent flow of alerts since August 2008, leaves an inspirational lead for us all to follow," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller of American Samoa.

"It is great to see the Pacific WPFD launches happening today in Yehi's home nation. PNG is at a point in its history where the watchdog and independent voice of the media is vital. We join our colleagues in honouring a founding father of the PFF, and extend support and solidarity to those celebrating May 3 across our Pacific community."

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