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Kiribati media freedom essential to adapting to climate change

(PFF/IFEX) - 4 February 2013 - Kiribati needs robust media freedoms if it is to adapt successfully to future challenges from climate change, says the Pacific Freedom Forum.

"That is why PFF is welcoming the return to publishing by the Kiribati Independent fortnightly newspaper," says PFF chair Titi Gabi.

"Without independent news media, there is no guarantee that people of Kiribati will get all the information they need to survive and adapt successfully to future climate change challenges."

PFF welcomed recent reports from Pacific Media Watch noting that the paper had been out of circulation for six months, but was to start publishing again.

Kiribati Independent editor and publisher Taberannang Korauaba closed the paper down in June last year after the country's ministry of Communications laid a complaint with police.

The complaint alleged the newspaper had breached the Newspaper Registration Act.

"Any substance to the complaint appears doubtful, given that government has not responded to written requests for clarification from the newspaper's lawyer," says Gabi, based in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

The Kiribati Independent has a print run of 500. In 2010, the Kiribati census recorded a total of five journalists, one editor, three media officers, seven writers, three photographers and 23 radio announcers working in-country. There were some 5,000 television sets in household use.

PFF co-chair Monica Miller said the census shows a remarkable degree of media diversity for a small, remote location with few resources, and that press plurality was essential to a healthy democracy.

"There is extensive reporting on how climate change processes have become swamped in political controversy," says Miller.

"However for countries like Kiribati, climate change is not a remote possibility but a daily reality."

Miller says media freedom can help keep governments accountable and on-track, ensuring that people and not political processes come first, including in climate change.

PFF notes that budget documents call for the Communications ministry to "inform, entertain, and educate the people of Kiribati through the media, preferably through modern information and communications technology."

Miller says that the Kiribati Independent is a vital contributor to these outcomes, providing i-Kiribati everywhere with an independent source of information.

PFF supports a recent editorial by the Kiribati Independent calling for the government to regard the newspaper as a partner in development.

"We join the newspaper in hoping that the government of the day pays more attention to the message of the media rather than punishing them," says Miller, based in Pagopago, American Samoa.

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