PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH
PETER AITSI, A FORMER PRESIDENT of the Papua New Guinea Media Council has called on “isolated” Pacific news organisations to strike a better relationship with civil society groups to have a stronger stake in the community.
In a speech marking the World Press Freedom Day in Port Moresby, Mr Aitsi said media groups needed stronger community ties to stand up to government attempts to muzzle them.
He also called on media groups to cooperate with their rivals in campaigning for media freedom.
“In most Pacific countries we have one or two major media players; some of them are government-owned or have some form of government ownership,” he said.
“Most, if not all, of these organisations work in isolation, by that I mean they do not actively seek engagement with other media organisations because they view them as competitors.”
They also did not actively interact with the broader community in the form of NGO groups – “some say because they want to retain their independence”, Mr Aitsi said.
“The opportunity for governments to introduce media control is greater in this type of environment where the media is isolated and there is no real demonstrable – let me say that again – no real demonstrable link between them and their communities.”
In Melanesian politics, MPs often used the defence “it is in the best interest of the people”, he said.
“How many times have we heard that? Our objective is to ensure the people see that the media is part of them, that we are representing their interest it is only when we have achieved this level of relationship can we reasonably expect their support.”
It needed to be asked how civil society could be mobilised and actively involved in the process of protecting media freedom.
Peter Aitsi MBE was president of the PNG Media Council from 1999-2007. Peter Aitsi’s full speech is on Pacific Media Centre Online