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Pacific Ombudsman concept to be debated on World Press Freedom Day

Pacific Freedom Forum

UPDATE from Pacific Freedom Forum: Pacific Media ombudsman advances regional accountability (5 May 2013)

A Pacific event marking the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day on Friday 3 May 2013 is aimed at improving self-regulation for Pacific newsrooms - a regional media ombudsman.

"Common to all our countries is the issue of ethics and how different news outlets deal with complaints about media stories," says PFF co-chair Titi Gabi of Papua New Guinea.

The event is being convened by Pacific Freedom Forum, PFF, in partnership with the Media Association of the Solomon Islands (MASI).

It's the first time the Solomon Islands will host the Pacific regional World Press Freedom Day event.

"The WPFD global platform for discussing media freedom issues is an opportunity to open up discussion on a model for Pacific news ombudsmen, adapting what works worldwide to what can work for our region," states Gabi.

Efforts to set up national-level media councils to help with self-regulation and accountability have been made in Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Islands.

From a regional media perspective, a recent PacMAS funded report confirmed the ongoing challenges of resourcing and support for national associations.

Researching previous WPFD outcomes, a theme emerging for PFF - a regional media monitoring network - is picking up on breaches of ethics and standards at the national level.

A core group of media managers coming to Honiara are stepping up to make a commitment to a standards process, because they want something that works, states PFF Co-Chair Monica Miller.

"The notion of having a Pacific media standards body was raised as a way of meeting the challenge of bias, lack of in-country experts, and lack of resources in many small developing communities to handle complaints procedures," says Miller.

"For WPFD 2013, we're suggesting that a step forward might be a model involving a Pacific Media Ombudsman working online with a small regional group.

"We have to stress this is not about displacing what is already working in-country, but adding local and national standards to a regional space where the neutrality of an Ombudsman can build faith and credibility in the whole process."

Five Pacific countries are involved in the initial stages of the Pacific Media Ombudsman call. Media outlets from the host country discussing the concept of the Pacific Media Ombudsman will be joined by colleagues from the Cook Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu for the focus event.

"Not all we hoped for were able to attend, such as Samoa, and the PMO office can look at working through any issues impeding regional ownership."

In another first for media regionalism, the Pacific Islands News Association, PINA, will also be attending the event to assess how the concept might be developed for its own members.

The two day event, supported with a WPFD grant from UNESCO's Office for the Pacific States in Samoa, wraps up on WPFD Friday 3 May with a press freedom lunch open to the public, around the "Safe to speak" global theme.

Along with host country support, other partners to the event are SPC-RRRT, UNDP, and SPREP who will be running climate change training for regional media managers and Solomon Islands journalists.


In 2013, a key global event for journalists and media practitioners reaches a 20-year anniversary.

Every 3 May, UNESCO World Press Freedom Day represents an opportunity to commemorate the fundamental principles of press freedom around the globe and to honour outstanding journalists who've demonstrated courage in standing up for media ethics and free expression.

The 2013 global theme is "Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media".

At the global level, UNESCO's Communications and Information sector marks the celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2013 with a conference and the Awards ceremony of the annual World Press Freedom Prize.

As a global event, World Press Freedom Day goes back two decades to the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1993, following a seminar on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press. This seminar took place in Windhoek, Namibia, from 29 April to 3 May 1991, leading to the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media.

Calling for the establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press, declaration members emphasized the importance of a free press to development and maintenance of stable democracy, including towards economic development of a nation.

WPFD celebrations came to the Pacific for the first time in 2010, when it was hosted in Australia by the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

The following year, the Pacific Freedom Forum and the International Federation of Journalists initiated the Pacific WPFD with support from UNESCO and the then-emerging PacMAS program at NUS in Samoa in 2011.

In 2012, the Pacific WPFD event went to Papua New Guinea, with support from the IFJ Pacific Media Monitoring project and PNG Media Workers Association. At the WPFD 2012 event in Port Moresby the first IFJ Pacific Media Freedom report was launched.

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