Pacific Freedom Forum, Rarotonga COOK ISLANDS -- The refusal by the Vanuatu Times newspaper to allow the subject of a front page article right of reply is an ‘alarming’ breach of media ethics, says the Pacific Freedom Forum, PFF.
Issue 57 of the Vanuatu Times singled out Vanuatu Daily Post Publisher Marc Neil Jones and his application for a broadcast licence, featuring his photo but not his comment. In the Times coverage, the Times Director who also leads FM107 Saby Natonga was one of three journalists featured. Vanuatu’s national Media Association President Evelyne Toa and PINA President Moses Steven also supported the call for government to reverse the process of granting Neil Jones his broadcast FM license. Noting what’s happened in Fiji as a positive move, they want to shut out anyone who isn’t ni-Vanuatu from the media industry.
"PFF trusts the Vanuatu government would maintain the provisions of the mama law, or Vanuatu's own constitution which guarantees equality for all citizens, and freedom of expression," says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea of Papua New Guinea.
Neil-Jones, who has taken on the establishment and his own media colleagues on media freedom issues, penned a Letter to the Times Editor. This was published in his Daily Post media outlet after his letter was ignored.
“Refusing anyone the right of reply to a news story where they are discussed and have their images published raises alarming concerns over professional standards and media ethics,” says Laumaea.
“The right of reply is a basic tenet of maintaining balanced reporting and journalistic integrity. We encourage the editorial team of the Times to support the code of ethics supported by the Media Asosiasen Blong Vanuatu, which commits to uphold this central key to balanced reporting."
But MAV President Toa has also defended the decision by the Times to deny Neil-Jones his right of reply, saying it’s the controversial publisher who has breached media ethics for choosing not to publish MAV or PINA press releases in his newspaper.
“A press release is not a letter to the editor, especially when the letter aims to provide a missing part of an already-published story,” says PFF co-chair Monica Miller. “What’s especially disturbing is the call for Vanuatu to do what Fiji is undergoing with media ownership under the current regime and the impact of that on media freedom."
“It would help audiences appreciate the issues more if the PINA President declares his interests when he does his opinion pieces on matters where his position conflicts with the issue he's commenting on. He is an employee of the Times and FM107, which would be in direct competition with the Daily Post and the new FM operation planned by Neil-Jones,” says Miller.
“We implore the PINA and MAV presidents to practice dialogue and engagement with all media colleagues in Vanuatu regardless of their skin colour. This is especially important given the commitment to freedom of expression and journalistic ethics are the founding mission of both MAV and PINA.” --ENDS
CONTACT: PFF interim Chair Susuve Laumaea | Sunday Chronicle Newspaper | Papua New Guinea Mobile: 675-684 5168 | Office: 675-321-7040 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org PFF interim co-Chair Monica Miller | KHJ Radio | American Samoa Mob 684 258-4197 | Office 684 633-7793 | Email: email@example.com The Pacific Freedom Forum are a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media. We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance. In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.