By Samisoni Pareti in Suva
With the trial of three newspaper executives underway in Fiji in May on charges of sedition, the assault of a newspaper journalist in Papua New Guinea, the removal of the general manager and her news manager at the Tonga Broadcasting Commission and the re-introduction of libel laws in Samoa, press freedom is coming under severe attacks in all regions of the Pacific.
A survey by Islands Business reveals disturbing signs to silence or control the work of independent and free media in the islands, with most of these attacks orchestrated by public agencies. Equally alarming is the absence of a public outcry or condemnation from the media and the general public alike.
Long-time Pacific media commentator and journalist, now director of the Auckland-based Pacific Media Centre and convenor of Pacific Media Watch, Professor David Robie believes media freedom in the Pacific has never been under such severe stress as it is today.
“Ironically, in this digital era of social media and with a multitude of alternative and independent information sources and platforms available, mainstream media has faced a decline in media freedom,” he says.
“Notably two of the Pacific countries with the largest and strongest media industries,Fiji and Papua New Guinea, have faced a steady ‘chilling’ in their discourse. Increasingly in PNG, for example, the public and journalists themselves are turning to independent and respected blogs for trusted and ‘real’ information.
“There is a mainstream media silence on many issues, especially the under-reporting of social justice issues, the plight of refugees after closure of the Manus detention centre, climate change, and West Papua.”