Role of journalism pivotal in Pacific societies as a watchdog and to bridge communities


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PNG Communication Minister Timothy Masiu’s University of the South Pacific journalism awards speech in Suva last night was preceeded by a minute of silence to honour the memory of “our fallen comrades” in the Ukraine/Russia and Israel/Gaza conflicts. Other media people around the world who have “risked their own personal safety just to bring news and information to our citizens” were also remembered. At least 48 Palestinian journalists have been killed in the war on Gaza since October 7.

SPEECH: By PNG Information and Communication Technology Minister Timothy Masiu

It is good to be back here in Fiji five months after we planted the initial seeds of our closer cooperation between the University of the South Pacific (USP) School of Journalism and the PNG National Broadcasting Corporation.

I clearly recall the date — 19 June 2023 — when we officially signed the MoU between these two iconic regional media organisations.

In fact, we will begin the formal celebrations of NBC’s 50th week-long anniversary tomorrow until the actual day on Friday, 1 December 2023.

But before that, my managing director and I had to make this short visit to Suva to join in your own celebrations before we head back home again on Sunday.

Which now brings me to the primary reason for our gathering here this evening.

Tonight is all about the USP School of Journalism Awards.

USP Journalism Awards
It is about celebrating the outstanding achievements of our young journalists — our storytellers.

Today we recognise the hard work, dedication, and exemplary storytelling that has emerged from the vibrant and diverse community of journalists who have made their mark within USP.

The role of journalism as the Fourth Estate cannot be understated. The role of journalism is pivotal in our society.

It serves as the watchdog, the voice of the voiceless and the bridge that connects communities.

The journalists we celebrate today have embraced this responsibility with vigour, showcasing the power of words and the impact they can have on shaping our world.

In a region as rich and diverse as our Pacific, where cultures, languages, and perspectives converge, the role of journalism becomes even more crucial.

The stories told by our journalists contribute to the tapestry of our shared experiences, providing insight, fostering understanding, and building bridges across the vast expanse of our Pacific nations.

The USP Journalism Awards — founded in 1999 by former journalism coordinator Professor David Robie — not only recognise excellence in reporting, but also the commitment to ethical journalism, unbiased storytelling, and the pursuit of truth.

In an era where information flows abundantly, the responsibility of journalists to uphold these principles has never been more critical.

The stories we tell and the way we tell them shape the narrative of our societies, influencing opinions and, ultimately, driving change.

As we celebrate the nominees and winners today, let us also acknowledge the challenges that journalists face in the pursuit of truth.

The freedom of the press is a cornerstone of any vibrant democracy, and it is our collective responsibility to safeguard and protect it.

We must support the journalists who work tirelessly to uncover the stories that need to be told, even when faced with adversity.

To the winners, congratulations on your well-deserved recognition.

Your work serves as an inspiration to your peers, reminding us all of the power of journalism to illuminate, educate, and inspire.

Your commitment to excellence and your passion for storytelling are commendable.

To the faculty heads and mentors who have guided these aspiring journalists, thank you for your dedication to nurturing the next generation of storytellers.

Your influence goes beyond the classroom — it shapes the future of journalism in the Pacific and beyond.

Let me make another distinct observation before I conclude my short remarks.

This is especially where I feel that the NBC can play an even more greater role in training and mentoring our journalism students in our beloved Pacific.

And this is captured in the MoU we signed on 19 June 2023 in Suva between the USP Journalism School and NBC.

The MoU exemplifies the spirit of collaboration and commitment to excellence in journalism.

It is a testament to the recognition that the exchange of knowledge, resources, and expertise is essential in nurturing the next generation of journalists who will shape the narrative of our region.

The MoU signifies more than just a formal agreement — it represents a shared vision for the future of journalism training and mentoring in the Pacific.

By combining the academic rigour of the USP Journalism School with the real world experience and reach of NBC PNG, we are creating a dynamic platform for aspiring journalists to learn, grow, and contribute to the vibrant tapestry of Pacific storytelling.

Through this collaboration, students will have the opportunity to engage with seasoned professionals, gaining insights into the ever-evolving landscape of journalism.

The exchange of ideas, the practical experience, and the mentorship provided by NBC will undoubtedly enrich the educational journey of those who seek to make a difference through their words and images.

USP journalism awards founder professor David Robie
USP journalism awards founder Professor David Robie, guest speaker at the 2016 prizegiving, presents the awards. Pictured is the Storyboard Award. Image: Wansolwara

NBC editorial policy and content guidelines
Another aspect that our young student journalists can also learn from is the NBC editorial policy and content guidelines.

This also could be the only comprehensive, written document in our Pacific Region that provides daily ethical guidelines to our newsrooms back home.

This also provides greater editorial independence for the NBC from political or advertising interference. NBC has a proven record of no government interference in its daily news operations.

I also understand that our MoU is ready for immediate implantation. Let us kick start this early next year.

I wish to see the first lot of USP journalism students being embedded in the NBC main newsroom next year.

I also intend to see the first lot of NBC staff enroll at your Suva campus in the first semester in 2024.

We will be guided by Associate Professor Singh and his team on the finer details.

Refresher courses and upskilling of non-journalists
I also want to be guided by Dr Singh on suitable short term refresher courses here in Suva that our NBC staff can undertake.

Equally important, I wish for non-journalist NBC staff to also be given an opportunity to attain or upskill their qualifications too under our MoU.

I say this because, more often than not, we have broadcast officers, executive producers and producers who are forced to fill the gap on location when reporters are not readily available.

This is not a bad thing as reporters and broadcast officers can be encouraged and upskilled to areas of “specialist reporting”.

This means that the more knowledgeable and informed our broadcasters and reporters are, the better they can inform our general population.

I request that the USP School of Journalism or wider USP will have appropriate programmes to upskill or retrain our deserving NBC staff who are non-journalists.

In closing, let us embrace this moment as a reflection of the interconnected future we are building together.

May this collaboration inspire us all to continue championing the power of journalism to inform, unite and inspire positive change across the Pacific and beyond.

Thank you and congratulations once again to the winners of the USP Journalism Awards.

May your stories continue to resonate and contribute to the vibrant narrative of our shared Pacific identity.

Vinaka vakalevu.

Cafe Pacific Publisher
Cafe Pacific Publisher
Café Pacific's duty editor.
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