PIF Secretary General urges journalistic vigilance in the face of climate crisis

Ministry of Environment and Climate Change permanent secretary Dr Sivendra Michael, left, European Union Ambassador to the Pacific H.E Barbara Plinkert, and Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna, are garlanded by Journalism students. Picture: VENIANA WILLY



The 2024 World Press Freedom Day, organised by the Journalism Programme, became a platform where the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna stressed on the importance of media freedom and its linkage to environmental crisis.

Under the theme “A Planet for the Press: Journalism in the face of the environment crisis” Mr Puna underscored the critical role of a free press in addressing the pressing challenges of climate change. He highlighted the shared urgency between climate activism and the news profession, noting how both were often perceived as disruptors in contemporary narratives.

PIF Secretary General Henry Puna delivers his speech at the 2024 World Press Freedom Day celebration at The University of the South Pacific. Picture: VENIANA WILLY

Mr Puna drew attention to the alarming death toll of journalists, particularly in conflict zones like Gaza, and the pervasive threats faced by journalists worldwide, including in the Pacific region. Against this backdrop, he emphasised the vital importance of truth and facts in combating misinformation and disinformation, which pose significant obstacles to addressing climate change effectively.

“The challenges confronting the climate crisis and the news profession seem to share a common urgency,” Mr Puna stated.

The Secretary General’s address resonated with a sense of urgency, emphasising the need for journalism that informs, educates, and amplifies diverse voices, especially those from vulnerable nations directly impacted by the climate crisis. He stressed the imperative for a press that reports from the frontlines of climate change, advocating for a 1.5-degree Celsius, net-zero future as the paramount goal for survival.

“A press for the planet is a press that informs and educates,” Mr Puna asserted. “And, of course, for our Blue Continent, it must be a press of inclusive and diverse voices.”

He highlighted the Pacific Islands Forum’s commitment to transparency and accountability, noting the crucial role of media in communicating the outcomes and decisions of annual meetings. He cited instances where the presence of journalists enhanced the Forum’s advocacy efforts on climate, environment, and ocean priorities on the global stage.

Reflecting on past collaborative efforts, such as the launch of the Teieniwa Vision against corruption, Mr Puna underscored the symbiotic relationship between political will and journalistic integrity. He urged governments and media watchdogs to work hand in hand in upholding shared values of transparency, courage, and ethics.

Guests and Journalism students at the 2024 World Press Freedom Day at The University of the South Pacific. Picture: VENIANA WILLY

“It takes political will to enforce the criminalisation of corruption and prompt, impartial investigation, and prosecution,” Mr Puna emphasised.

Looking ahead to 2050, he expressed hope for a resilient Blue Pacific continent, built on the foundations of a robust and resilient press. He envisioned a future where stories of climate crisis give way to narratives of peace and prosperity, contingent upon achieving the 1.5-degree Celsius, net-zero target.

“In 2050, we will have achieved the 1.5 net zero future that will ensure our stories of the code red for climate in 2024 become the stories of a code blue for peace and prosperity beyond 2050,” Mr Puna envisioned.

In the present context, he commended the commitments made at the G7 Ministerial in Turin to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, emphasising the pivotal role of media in upholding democratic values and advancing collective aspirations for a secure and free society.

Mr Puna extended his best wishes to journalists and journalism students, acknowledging their vital role in shaping public discourse and driving positive change in the face of the environmental crisis. His impassioned plea served as a rallying cry for journalistic vigilance and solidarity in the pursuit of a sustainable future for all.

“To all our journalists here tonight, and to the journalism students, I wish you all the very best, and thank you for your attention,” Mr Puna stated.

Click on this link to read the full speech SG Puna’s speech at USP WPFD event, May 3, 2024

Kamna Kumar is a third-year journalism student at The University of the South Pacific

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