Friday, June 13, 2014

Pacific media 'too cosy' with political power, says author

From Pacific Media Watch

The Pacific Media Centre's director, Professor David Robie, has called for more emphasis on critical development journalism in the Asia-Pacific region.

Speaking on ABC's Media Report, Dr Robie said there was a tendency globally - and not just in the Pacific -  for journalism to be a "bit too cosy with political power".

"Agendas are often set in the media based around press galleries and what's seen as priorities by governments, whereas critical development journalism is really a proclamation - if you like - for ordinary people getting their values and their needs investigated and getting some sort of result from policy changes," Dr Robie told presenter Richard Aedy.

Discussing the state of media freedom in the Pacific, Dr Robie said West Papua was the most neglected region in the Pacific in terms of media coverage, mainly because there was "virtually no ready access into West Papua by journalists".

To report from West Papua without being sanctioned by the Indonesian government was risky for journalists, and even more so for their contacts and sources, added the author of the recently published Don't Spoil My Beautiful Face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific.

West Papuan Morning Star flag graphic.
Image: ABC Media Report
Because the Australian and New Zealand governments were "far more concerned with their ongoing relationship with Indonesia and they don't want to rock the boat", relatively speaking few journalists had shown an interest in reporting on West Papua.

The military backed government of Fiji posed a "huge problem" to the media although there were signs that some journalists were really starting to challenge many of the restrictions placed on them.

Media freedom 'dire'
In a separate interview with Radio Australia, Robie described media freedom in the Pacific as "pretty dire", especially in West Papua, with worries over Fiji.

Speaking in an interview with ABC Radio Australia's Mornings with Phil Kafcaloudes, Dr Robie gave a rundown on media freedom issues.

But there were some "bright spots", he said, including a "gradual opening in debate" in the media in Fiji with editors testing the boundaries with the post-coup general election due in September.

He praised the University of the South Pacific's journalism programme for organising a recent debate and publishing a special edition of its newspaper Wansolwara on media freedom.

Don't Spoil My Beautiful Face - Little Island Press.
Dr Robie has given wide-ranging interviews to international media, including Agence France-Presse global news agency, Media Report, Radio Australia, Radio New Zealand International and many publications have published reviews and discussion about the book.

Praising the book in Scoop/Werewolf, reviewer Dr Alison McCulloch wrote:
“[Robie] touches on some of practitioner issues in the final few chapters of the book, which because of their contemporary relevance, are among the most interesting. He challenges the ‘monocultural’ way we do news, and points to other approaches, among them what he calls ‘critical development journalism’: Instead of seeing everything through the lens of conflict – ‘on the one hand this, on the other hand that’ – which precludes complexity and nuance, how about a journalism that is allowed some “subjectivity” (horror of horrors!); that is sourced from the grassroots not just the elite; that is community and public-interest focused; that is, well, not so “monocultural”?

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