Friday, April 27, 2012

PINA deconstructed ... peace, progress and propaganda

THANKS to Pacific Media Watch for the following item about the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), media freedom and truth in the Pacific media. But first, this gem of a picture above. PARTNERS AT PINA: Pictured while dining with Fiji regime leader Voreqe Bainimarama at the Lagoon Resort in Pacific Harbour are arch critic Lisa Williams-Lahari (International Federation of Journalists Pacific campaigner and coordinator of the Pacific Freedom Forum, just behind VB in striped blouse); Pitt Media Group director Shona Pitt; former PINA president  Fr John Lamani, managing director of the Solomon Star; and Moses Stevens of Vanuatu, recently reelected to a second two-year term as president of PINA. (Source: PINA Facebook. Lisa has promptly pointed out on the PIJO network and elsewhere that this photo is out of context and not what it seems. She says she was in the picture at the insistence of her Cook Islands colleague Shona.) Since these items below were broadcast or published, Fiji-born journalist Graham Davis has written a devastating critique about "off this planet" commentary and his original article about PINA has been published in The Australian.

Media view 1 (April 26):
Academic criticises PINA for stifling dissent at media summit

Dr Marc Edge (Canada): Author and Head of Journalism at the University of the South Pacific - first PINA conference after less than a year in the Pacific:

QUOTE (in a Radio Australia interview with reporter Bruce Hill): The PINA conference organisers have to be very happy but they've managed to keep a lid on all the dissension. That was largely because many of the dissenters were not there, and those who were dissenters were either trying to act as conciliators, or were not able to make their voices heard because it seems most of the decisions were made behind closed doors by a small group. USP is an associate member of PINA, and I have wanted to bring up certain issues and I just found that there was no opportunity. Like I said they managed to keep a lot of the dissension out of the conference, but that doesn't mean there's not dissension. I was not impressed at all with some of the speakers, a lot of the panellists were forced to confess from the outset that they had no expertise on the subject. It seems just that whoever donated money as a sponsor was given time on the program whether they knew anything about the subject or not. Most of the sponsors donated money so that they could give sessions on different topics which were largely propaganda; things like non-communicable diseases dominated the agenda. And certainly it's white propaganda because it's for a good cause, but it's propaganda nonetheless. They were paying to get a captive audience of journalists in one spot to get out their message. 
Listen to the full radio interview

Media view 2 (April 23):
Pacific media 'at peace' after bitter infighting over Fiji:

Graham Davis (Australia): Fiji-born award-winning television investigative journalist who has had a lifetime of Pacific experience:

QUOTE on the Grubsheet blog: The South Pacific media has been wracked by deep division over how journalists should respond to the 2006 Fiji coup and Frank Bainimarama’s continuing hold on power. The last gathering in Vanuatu three years ago of members of PINA – the Pacific Islands News Association – was marred by bitter infighting, so much so that a group of mainly Polynesian delegates broke away and set up a rival organisation, the Pacific Islands Media Association ( PasiMA). There were unprecedented scenes of acrimony at the conference venue in Port Vila. One prominent delegate threatened to kill another. And the then editor of The Fiji Times, Netani Rika, stormed out in protest at the presence of two representatives of Fiji’s Information Ministry, one of whom was reduced to tears by the vitriol aimed in her direction. It clearly wasn’t the most pacific of occasions. And many delegates expected more of the same at the 2012 PINA summit in Fiji – the cause of all the trouble in the first place. Yet three years on, the hand of sweet reason appears to have descended on the region’s media professionals, judging from events at Pacific Harbour, the rain-drenched summit venue. The deeply religious head of the PINA secretariat, Fiji’s Matai Akauola, cast it as the hand of God bringing peace to his fractured media flock. Either way, the 2012 PINA summit was notable for healing some of the deep divisions of the past.
Read the full article

Media view 3 (April 2):
Peacemaker Moala helps bury the PINA hatchet:

Dr David Robie (NZ): Journalist, author and director of the Pacific Media Centre. This was his third PINA conference (two of them - in Fiji and PNG - on the host organising committee, but is not and has never been a PINA member):

QUOTE on the Café Pacific blog: Whether it was the 21st birthday (as celebrated by the cake at a gala dinner) or 40th anniversary (as flagged by a former president in the opening speech notes), last week’s Fiji milestones for the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) were notable achievements. There was a convivial and relaxed atmosphere at the Pacific Harbour venue – in marked contrast to the tense last Pacific Media Summit in Port Vila more than two years ago. And an optimistic mood about the future. Instead of beating itself up over unresolved differences such as The Great Fiji Divide or the Tired Old Vanuatu Feud, PINA seems to be picking up the pieces and moving on. A more inclusive atmosphere characterised this summit and the boycott threats fell flat. The peacemaker was veteran Tongan publisher and media freedom campaigner Kalafi Moala, the only journalist to actually put his campaigning credentials on the line and be jailed for trumped up contempt of Parliament charges by his kingdom. Moala has perhaps mellowed these days, but believes strongly that it is up to Pacific media “elders” to bury their differences and build on their common goals. As deputy chair of the rival Apia-based Pacific Islands Media Association (PasiMA), one of the key organisations to call for a last-minute boycott of the PINA summit, Moala made an impassioned plea – in his private capacity as publisher of the Taimi Media Network – to “go forward” in unity and diversity.
Read the full article

Disclosure: David Robie was not funded by PINA or any donor organisation to be at the Pacific Media Summit. He was there in his capacity as director of the Pacific Media Centre and independently funded by his university.

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