The Pacific Media Partnership Conference two-day convention started in Apia yesterday.
Held in the conference room of the Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Building at Sogi, it was well attended by local and overseas journalists.
Journalists were picked to speak on different topics. The speakers on the topic “Development and Conflict, what can the media do to help poverty alleviation,” among other “issues”, were:
* Allen Arifeae, executive director of the National Broadcasting Corporation of P.N.G.,
* Savea Sano Malifa of the Samoa Observer;
* Ms Cait McMahon, managing director of Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma-Asia Pacific, Australia; and
* Joseph Caine, Outremert 1’ere, New Caledonia.
This is what Savea wrote:
Colleagues and friends, greetings and welcome.
We are here to talk about poverty alleviation, among other issues facing our societies, and discuss “how the Pacific media can play a positive role in putting the spotlight on these concerns.”
These are big issues which have been with us for many years, and I am therefore not sure how the Pacific media, “fragmented” as it is today, can go about helping to solve them.
The Samoa Observer is now 34 years old, and in all that time, we thought we were playing “a positive role in putting the spotlight on these concerns,” with the idea of eliminating them all.
And yet today, they are still staring us all in the face, and what’s more they are refusing to go away.
So what do we do? What we have to be clear about though is that solving these problems is not the media’s job. That is the responsibility of our elected politicians who are paid by public taxes, to run and manage our countries.
On the other hand, the media’s job is to provide a forum for public debate which function is to inform, educate, and entertain.
It is important to remember also that in most of our countries, the media are both public and private.
Whereas the public media is owned and managed by the government, the private media is owned and operated by members of the public.
Now the problem is that our politicians, who are elected on the strength of their promises that they will take care of all those issues we are now talking about, are absent minded; the moment they are in office they forget all the promises they have made.
And the sad part is that the public media in our part of the world are always busy protecting and defending their governments, so that they are never focusing their “spotlight” on the issues those governments are supposed to be solving.
What’s more, some government ministers will personally discourage practicing members of the private media from shinning that spotlight, by physically assaulting them in their offices.
In Vanuatu sometime ago, a government minister, accompanied by thugs, entered the office of a newspaper there and viciously attacked the paper’s publisher. The Minister was unhappy about a story about him published in the paper.
Poverty is a terrible shame. It is such a shameful stigma on our societies and in our collective conscience so that the need to shine the “spotlight” on it, with the idea of helping to alleviate it, should be everyone’s top priority.
Everyone from the government to the church, the media, the rich, and even the poor themselves must contribute habitually to the effort to alleviate it.
Indeed, governments should not be too preoccupied with the job of remaining in power that they are oblivious of their responsibilities, towards alleviating poverty in their countries.
The need to create employment opportunities is imperative.
Governments should cut back on taxes to allow their public sectors to create new jobs, because with jobs families are able to earnregular incomes, their children are educated, crime is reduced, poverty is alleviated, everyone is happy.
In the Pacific today, the media is “fragmented” and divided. We know why.
Because like our governments, our media is corrupt; which is why it is very difficult to alleviate poverty in our part of the world.
Two years ago, a new media organization called PasiMA (Pasifika Media Association), was formed here in Apia. Its board is made up of former disappointed members of PINA.
When Fiji’s Island Business Magazine, in an editorial on 16 May 2012, called for regional media unity, I wrote, as the chairman of the board of PasiMA, that “without transparency and accountability, there can be no media unity in the Pacific.”
At PasiMA, we maintain that media practitioners have no right, criticizing governments for alleged corruption, when they themselves are corrupt.
At PasiMA, we are dedicated to the principles of transparency and accountability to the public, while focusing on the job of alleviating poverty and crime, improving the standard of living in the countries of our region, by making sure press freedom and critical opinion are never silenced.
That is PasiMA’s focus.
Today, with funding from the British government, PasiMA is close to completing its online training programme designed for working journalists, and media personnel.
The former Deputy High Commissioner in the Solomon Islands, Tom Oppenheim, made a special visit to Apia, to offer his government’s support.
Accompanied by the Australian media specialist, Professor Martin Hadlow, they insisted that “the most essential component of the project should be investigative journalism.”
The PasiMA board agrees.
We believe that given the disturbing trends of bureaucratic corruption spawning poverty around the region, investigative journalism should be given top priority.
PasiMA’s training programme consists of:
And so, how is PasiMA “putting the spotlight on those issues and concerns” we are worried about?
By moving forward steadily with its online educational programme so that regional journalists are well trained on making sure that that spotlight is never dimmed.
PasiMA believes that to be fully effective in its role as a media organization, it has to be completely free to operate; it also believes that all its members should be free to operate without restrictive policies or “degrees” holding them back.
As for the Samoa Observer, it too has been doing its bit to assist in the effort to alleviate poverty in Samoa. How?
With its Save the Child’s Fund, it has been assisting parents with children needing specialized treatment overseas, with their airfares. It has been doing for many years now.
Still, we agree that the need to alleviate poverty in our small island countries is imperative. They have got to be addressed by everyone.
Let us be reminded that these issues will not be solved even if regional media unity is achieved. They will be solved only if government and media corruption are removed, and accountability and transparency are not abused.
Thank you for your attention.
The suggestion by the Tautua Samoa Party last week for the Government to look at the possibility of granting student loans to allow more students to gain a university qualification is an interesting thought.
First, it’s a popular idea; a recommendation that members of the public will immediately embrace. All you need to do is read the story on page 3 of your newspaper today to know that the Opposition will gain a lot of support. Given the financial difficulties most families are experiencing, who would say no to a loan? And knowing some people, they’ll just take the money and run with total disregard to whether they can repay it.
Let’s see. The Public Service Commission (PSC) has sacked another Assistant Chief Executive Officer (ACEO). The termination of Mulipola Atonio Mulipola, the ACEO of the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries (MAF) is the second high-profile sacking in less than a month.
The first one was an ACEO of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development who was convicted for theft as a servant.
The editorial published in this newspaper on 14 September 2012 under the title “In that case then, who wants a government?” and was subsequently posted on the paper’s website, received quite an interesting mixture of online comments indicating worry.
It discussed the evidently affable relationship between the governments of Samoa and the Peoples Republic of China, with the latter pouring millions of aid dollars into the former, so that it seems clear enough why many Samoans here and abroad are worried.
A few years ago when an 8.0 magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that killed 143 people on the south coast of Upolu - destroying millions worth of properties - Samoa reaped a windfall in terms of assistance.
Money-wise, millions worth of aid came from left, right and centre. At the time, it seemed like anyone and everyone wanted to give a little – and a lot - to help. Which was fantastic for Samoa of course because such help enabled the Government to do many things – including giving $18,000 worth of assistance - to every family whose home was wiped by the deadly waves.
A few years later, another natural disaster devastated Samoa.