FIJI: USP students press forward for media freedom
Friday, May 11, 2012
AUCKLAND (PMC Niusblog / Pacific Media Watch): Covering the Pacific Islands isn't a simple task. Each country has its own unique culture and broad issues. There are so many political stories, so many development stories and the whole region is a fast-growing focus for new investors as well as the competing world powers of the United States and China.
That’s why it was so helpful to actually be in Fiji last week for the UNESCO-founded World Press Freedom Day events.
They were organised by the University of the South Pacific's journalism programme in the School of Language, Arts and Media (SLAM), with some admirable work done by the USP Journalism Students Association and the Fiji Media Watch organisation.
As Pacific Media Watch contributing editor, I was assisted by the Pacific Media Centre, as well as USP, and I spoke at the student events on campus as well as the official university event, which also featured the US Ambassador, Frankie A. Reed, a former journalist herself.
I learnt a lot from the students of the journalism school, often working away in their newsroom, with boards of previous student newspaper editors and prize-winners on the wall. It’s a who’s who of current media figures, and if the current "gang" working on Wansolwara continue to produce the sort of material such as the current edition, the awards should continue to come.
With the Public Emergency Regulations lifted in January, perhaps the students are the ones best placed to test the boundaries of the regime’s tolerance and will be able to get away with more than the mainstream press.
I gave the example of AUT University’s student journalists who covered the Pacific Islands Forum last year for Pacific Scoop and were praised for the depth and breadth of articles while the mainstream media were sidetracked by the Rugby World Cup.
The student journalists expressed their concerns in a frank discussion of the problems with the current media landscape, and there are more basic issues than state control of the press. Ronish Kumar, who has worked in a Fiji newsroom and recently returned from a student exchange in Canada, said conditions for journalists were a world apart.
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