Niue sets example with Media Awareness Workshop and building relationships with leaders

Lisa Williams-Lahari is the Pacific Island Forum’s Public Affairs Advisor congratulates Niue’s national broadcaster BCN for leadership in holding a series of media awareness workshops funded by UNESCO.

Ms. Williams-Lahari acknowledged this workshop as Niue leading in this type of training that does not require the use of expensive consultants to hold such workshops.

“I want to acknowledge the role of BCN in stepping up to the plate and showing the bigger countries of the region how it can be done, Niue style, and thank you for that media leadership”.

Niueans used to lead in the 80s when few islanders occupy the news media space with the likes of Hima Douglas, Lofa Rex and Patrick Lino were some of the earlier journalists to make their mark in the industry.

Niue was also one of the first Pacific nations to establish a national TV station and formalised when BCN was established in 1989 but fast forward thirty years later, we have slipped behind in the news media space.

There is a myriad of reasons but chief among them would be the lack of resources and lack of training opportunities for journalists and media technicians and the advent of the internet and social media has exacerbated those challenges.

One of the biggest challenges is reporting news when there is limited access to information and sources.

Two years ago, BCN decided to apply for funding under UNESCO’s participation programme to hold a series of Media awareness workshops.

The workshops provide an opportunity for those who make decisions in the country from Cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, Civil Society and NGO leaders, Village Councils and heads of government ministries and departments and State-owned enterprises to meet with and hear from those who work in the news media.

The purpose of the workshop is to bring these groups together with the journalists and broadcasters and to renew and foster a healthier relationship based on mutual respect for the public’s right to information and media freedom.

Over three separate workshops, the workshop facilitator Esther Pavihi put together an impressive list of presenters of journalists, communications specialists, editors and leaders of Pacific media institutions including Patrick Lino, former BCN broadcaster/GM and former CEO of NZ’s Pacific Media Network and former journalist Lisa Williams-Lahari now the Public Affairs Advisor to the Pacific Forum leaders.

High profile seasoned journalists like Barbara Dreaver, TVNZ’s Pacific correspondent, Samantha Magick Managing Editor of Islands Business magazine, Vanuatu’s Daily Post Editor and Investigative Editor for the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project Dan McGarry, Faiesea Matafeo Managing Director & Co-owner of Samoa Broadcasting Ltd, Jemima Garret former journalist with ABC Australia and Thomas Talagi, Communications Officer of Niue’s Ridge to Reef project.

There was also the presentation on freedom of information and rights to information by the UNDP’s Rights to Information Advisor Sarah Power.

Some of the participants were lucky to also hear from the experiences of a former journalist, parliamentary press gallery reporter and press secretary in New Zealand’s current High Commissioner to Niue Her Excellency Helen Tunnah.

The first workshop was for heads of government ministries, departments, and state-owned enterprises. Some Directors shared their experiences saying that they were instructed not to speak to the media.

In response to this dilemma, Vanuatu’s Daily Post Editor Dan McGarry said, “I think it’s in the government’s interest to promote dialogue and to encourage people to share what they know”.

He further encouraged the Directors with the advice “Don’t use the ban on talking (to the media) as an excuse not to talk. Sometimes there’s a sense that if we don’t have to talk to you then we don’t have to talk to you, and that’s really unhealthy in any relationship”.

Despite the advice from seasoned journalists, some senior public servants remain unconvinced of the role of the media. Financial Secretary who is also a member of the BCN Board Doreen Siataga said in her remarks “Some of us are not like for media, we could be like anti-media”.

The second workshop (pictured) for the leaders from Civil Societies, NGOs and Village Councils was a different audience, with a more open dialogue on what they would like to hear from the news. Mary Taliaiti the chairperson of the Vaiea Village Council was very appreciative of the workshop and wanted to see more community stories in the news.

The last workshop was on Friday last week for the Cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, public service commissioners, and the Secretary to government.

Only five MPs turned up, common roll member O’love Jacobsen, member for Alofi North Va’aiga Tukuitonga, member for Toi Dion Taufitu, member for Makefu Tofua Puletama and member for Hakupu Ritchie Mautama.

All three Commissioners of the public service were there Ida Talagi-Hekesi, Jerrad Hekau and Commissioner Victoria Kalauni. The Secretary to Government Peleni Talagi was also there and two staff from the Legislative Assembly, Clerk Cherie Morris-Tafatu and Christine Ioane.

The workshop is funded by UNESCO to help foster an understanding of the news media with the leaders of the island and the role of the media as the interface between those who govern and make decisions and the members of the public. 

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