SAMOA: 'Dire need' for trained journalists, says Apulu
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Taina Kami Enoka
APIA: Despite the journalism programme at the National University which is now 11 years old, Samoa is in dire need of trained journalists.
So says founder and editor of Talamua Media, Apulu Lance Polu during a speech at a cocktail party for journalists and supporters to mark World Media Freedom Day on Friday night.
Last year, the journalism programme produced only five graduates.
“It is a dismal and disappointing result when the programme leaders seem to be thinly spreading their time on activities that are not their core function to deliver the course that has been in place,” he said.
And without properly trained journalists and media practitioners, Apulu believes that media freedom will ultimately be skewed.
With the fast changes in the world and technology, the core function of the serious mainstream and independent media will have been compromised and eventually swallowed.
The last months have seen revolutions in major Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt.
These have emerged mainly through the use of the internet and social networks enabling the masses to connect and share information.
They have been empowered by that information and motivated to bring down their powerful political leaders who have been national institutions for up to 30 years.
Apulu said the emergence of citizen journalism, use of digital technology and the internet had impacted on the conventional way of reporting and journalism.
“We have members of the public sending us photographs and videos taken on mobile phones, dropping us leads and reporting incidents from around the country, we have information websites with their own slant,” he said.
And then there were social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Bebo and Twitter.
“It is crucial for us in the mainstream and independent media to train and fully engage those who will continue and carry our work into the future,” he said.
This would enable well-trained journalists in school and on the job to bring balance, responsibility and professionalism to the information already reported and spread on social networks and websites with their own slant and agenda.
“That’s why, in my view, our media and journalism programme at the National University of Samoa is of great importance and it needs both the course lecturers at the university and we, the media practitioners, to work together to get the best results.”
The US Embassy is supporting media freedom in Samoa, Apulu said.
UNESCO also had the support of the US government in celebrating media freedom in Washington this week.
“Interestingly for me, this came at a time when the US foreign policy on terrorism and the war in Afghanistan was veiled by the talk of US troops withdrawal.”
At the same time, there was the quiet but persistent search for Osama bin Laden. We are told that the FBI, had wind of bin Laden's hideout since September last year.
But no word came out in the US media that supposedly could have jeopardised the capture and bin Laden’s eventual killing.
Apulu said that Samoa would join the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the US Peace Corps movement its contribution to Samoa in a few months.
“For many of us, we were educated by the Peace Corps, introduced to the American way of life…, worked alongside many of them and some of us had our first romantic experience with a palagi woman in the Peace Corps.”
In any event, it is the American way of life that most democracies emulate especially the freedom to religion, freedom to associate, the freedom to think and the freedom to express oneself. That is extended to the freedom of the media to report and to report responsibly and without fear or favour.
Such are noble ideals, Apulu said.
He said the media should not hide behind the veil of media freedom to advance personal convictions and agendas.
“Convictions that may trample on the freedom of others, the public and individuals, especially when at times our reporting contains fabrications that later requires one to publicly apologise and chip away at the media's integrity and journalists at large.”
Professional journalist associations such as JAWS have codes of ethics. The newly formed Pasifika Media Association (PasiMA) had compiled one and the newly formed Media Alliance formed in Apia, was also putting together a code of ethics and talking about developing a regional complaints council.
Codes of ethics and practice
As a practising journalist, editor, publisher and media owner himself, Apulu said that it was one thing to have a code of ethics and another to put it into practice.
“But our work is in the public domain. Everyone reads, sees and hears what we do. And we are always under public scrutiny, including our mistakes and our biases.
"And I have always said that we, the media, should never underestimate our audience.”
Apulu believes that media freedom is a concept that must be taught and spread like an infection in any democracy.
It is equally important for the media and the public that it serves to understand and fully appreciate the importance and role of the free flow of information in any democratic society. - Samoa Observer/Pacific Media Watch