Report – By Henry Yamo
Fair, balanced and ethical reporting can help safeguard freedom of the press from intimidation and enable a healthy flow of information in the Pacific, says a blog-publishing academic
Speaking during the 2012 World Press Freedom Day seminar hosted by AUT’s Pacific Media Centre, Professor Crosbie Walsh said issues of press freedom cannot be looked at in isolation.
Journalists, particularly in the Pacific, should not be attacked but be protected, he said.
Professor Walsh, who founded the development studies programme at the University of the South Pacific, said most often journalism and press freedom in the Pacific became an issue because of the way things were reported by journalists.
“Media freedom anywhere in the world is fragile. Journalists in the Pacific should not just push things out there to sell newspapers but should be more concerned with the consequences of their reports,” he said.
“Reporting in the Pacific has adopted the Western nature of journalism, which often seeks out violence and disagreements as news values worthy of reporting.”
Professor Walsh said better ways to report in the Pacific would be to find balance between different positions and try to avoid inciteful language and to try not to refer to race or regional differences unless they are particularly relevant to the story.
He said restrictions on the media, particularly in Fiji and PNG, stemmed from a background of unfair reporting and that is what journalists needed to be careful about.
“In Fiji alone, restrictions were placed due to unbalanced and biased reporting against the government. Most often, journalists would interview one government source and three sources against government and claim it was a balanced report,” he said.
In PNG earlier this month, a leading parliamentarian called for the government to review funding to the state-owned NBC Kundu 2 television station.
Governor Powes Parkop of the National Capital District was reported by The National as saying this during question time in Parliament when accusing the media of bias, giving more air time to government critics than government MPs.
Police in Madang, PNG, also described the reports by journalists as “misleading, incorrect” and had the potential of “inciting further problems”, including demoralising officers.
Professor Crosbie said: “There needs to a code of ethics for journalists in the Pacific to guide their performance to ensure balance with background information that puts news in perspective.
“This is what is sadly lacking in all Pacific reporting.”
Professor Walsh, now retired and publisher of high-profile blog about Fiji affairs, is also the founder of the Centre for Development Studies at Massey University in New Zealand.
Henry Yamo is a postgraduate journalist from Papua New Guinea on the Master of Communication Studies programme at the Auckland University of Technology.