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USP World Press Freedom Day panel discusses media’s crucial role

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The audience listening in during the panel discussion.

A panel discussion to mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3 was jointly organised by the US Embassy in Fiji, The University of the South Pacific (USP) Journalism Programme and the USP Journalism Students Association.

The event,held at the Laucala Campus in Suva, Fiji, led to some lively discussions and interactions with the audience about the evolving state of the media and threats to free speech. .

Among the panelists was her Excellency Judith Cefkin,US Ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu, who acknowledged USP for creating the opportunity for discussions, saying that she was delighted to participate inan extremely important subject matter.

World Press Freedom Day is annually observed on May 3 to inform the international community that freedom of the press and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights.

This year’s theme is: "Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies".

Ambassador Cefkin said this is an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty. 

“It is also an opportunity to reiterate and emphasise the role of media as a pillar of democracy, which plays an important role as an informative bridge between governing bodies and public,” she remarked.

Panelists at the seminar.

Ambassador Cefkin stated that the media ensures transparency in Government and also affords Governments the means to communicate with its constituencies. 

Panelists at the event included Ms Sharon Baghwan-Rolls, Executive Director FemLinkPacific; Mr Nemani Delaibatiki, Managing Editor Training; Ms Elenoa Baselala, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, The Fiji Times and Dr Shailendra Singh, senior lecturer and coordinator of journalism at USP.

Ms Baselala highlighted the challenges of working for a daily newspaper, saying some people feared persecution if they expressed their views openly.

“So in a sense there is media freedom in that we are able to work freely but not so much in people coming forth in terms of freedom of expression,” she stated.

Mr Delaibatiki was of the view that if there was no media freedom in Fiji, there would not be such seminars held to mark World Press Freedom Day, adding that people were entitled to their own opinion.

Ms Rolls emphasised the importance of the media in highlighting issues faced by communities particularly with regard to food security, health and education especially for women.

Dr Singh said a lot has changed in the way the media works and one of the biggest challenges was how to remain relevant now that the media monopoly on defining and distributing news is gone for good. 

He added that the print media had lost huge chunks of readers and advertising revenue, particularly in western countries, with news consumers migrating to online platforms and hand-held devices. 

“This is not to say that mainstream media is dying or dead; just that it has a major fight on its hands,” added Dr Singh. Other issues discussed included:

  • Media freedom being an important pillar of democracy;
  • The advent of social media and how it has changed the way people receive and process information on a daily basis;
  • The appropriate use of social media; and
  • The challenges of working in the mainstream media.


This news item was published on 4 May 2017 03:20:50 pm. For more information or any High-Res Images, please contact us on email communications@usp.ac.fj


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