Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS----The 'serious concern' voiced by the United Nations over media rights abuses by Vanuatu's government is a milestone moment for Pacific media freedom work.
Regional monitoring watchdog the Pacific Freedom
Forum, PFF and other media groups have led ongoing campaigns calling on
serious abuses to media freedom in Vanuatu. PFF says the opinion expressed
this week by the UN's Pacific Office for Human Rights regional representative Matilda Bogner is
a welcome step by a key regional development partner opening up on an issue that's usually left to journalists to handle.
"It's good to see that the key
regional body of the UN agency tasked with human rights is helping to raise
the rights of journalists in this way," says PFF chair Titi Gabi
"The ability of journalists to do their work without fear or
favour means the public they serve can be informed without fear or favour. Vanuatu's leadership and other Pacific nations need to know that assaults and harassment of media workers undermines governance itself and lessens the credibility of leaders who allow it to happen on their watch," she says.
In her opinion published this week,
Bogner notes the key basis of a free media to governance and accountability
and points out guidelines for leaders in Vanuatu to help tackle the culture
surrounding harassment of journalists.
The Pacific Freedom Forum would especially welcome
a country or regional visit by the UN Special
Rapporteur on Freedom of
Expression, says Gabi.
"Journalists doing their jobs free
from interference or censorship are one of the core features of
thriving democracies. A country or regional visit by the UN special rapporteur assigned by Ban ki Moon to
investigate and advocate around freedom of expression would really help
Pacific governments understand their responsibility to protect, not control,
a free media."
PFF has previously called on Pacific agencies who partner
with media workers on training and development to raise their concerns
with Pacific governments on their development commitments which rest on
the support for human rights.
"We are mindful that regional agencies based
in Fiji, where military censorship and leadership by decree continues to
suppress freedom of expression and other key human rights, may themselves
self-censoring and fearing for their personal and professional safety."
says PFF co-Chair Monica Miller of American Samoa.
"It's the work of all of us, not just media and monitoring networks like PFF to sound the warnings when our governments
backtrack on their promises and agreements, especially on basic human rights.
So we look forward to more opinions from the UN on Article 19 in the Pacific, including the country where the regional office is hosted-- Fiji."--ENDS
UN Pacific OHCHR opinion: Free media essential for any society:
PFF on Vanuatu assault -- March statement
Titi Gabi | Freelance Journalist | Papua New Guinea
Mail: PO Box 7776, Boroko, NCD, Papua New Guinea | Mob: (675) 7314 3929 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.