Report by Pacific Media Centre
Two Pacific Media Centre journalists are in Fiji working on a collaborative project between the PMC and the University of the South Pacific in Fiji.
TJ Aumua and Ami Dhabuwala arrived in Suva last week to participate with students, staff and researchers on a “bearing witness” project that aims to report on the effects of climate change in the island state.
USP’s head of journalism Shailendra Singh says climate change has been chosen as the focus for this project because it is a major public interest issue that needs to be at the forefront on a constant basis.
He says the project is part of a long-standing partnership between Auckland University of Technology, where the PMC is based, and the USP journalism department as an initiative to broaden student learning.
However, students also have the advantage of covering these issues because they are reporting for independent media.“They are not tied down so much by the priorities and considerations that mainstream media are beholden to, such as ratings and profits. In many respects, they are more free to report than mainstream media,” he says.
“They are future journalists.”
Ami Dhabuwala, a postgraduate journalist studying Asia-Pacific journalism at AUT, and Pacific Media Watch contributing editor TJ Aumua were selected to go to Suva on the project.
Dhabuwala, who previously worked as a journalist in India, says she is excited and eager to take up the challenges she is facing while reporting on this issue in Fiji.
She says climate change is no longer just an environmental issue – it has become a global human rights issue.
“As a journalist, I have always tried to be a voice for the unknown people. I would like to discover the untold stories of the Fijian people and their suffering because of climate change. I am interested in the issues of the people and possible solutions.”
Pacific Media Watch’s TJ Aumua, who graduated last year with an honours degree including a research dissertation on Fiji media, says this project is an opportunity to share the Pacific’s perspective on climate change with those who live outside the region.
“Living in New Zealand we are so sheltered and unaware of the direct affects of climate change. But for people living in island nations they see and have to live with the effects of climate change every day.
“The bouts of extreme weather and tropical cyclones that have caused destruction in Fiji recently are an example of this. I’m hoping the reportage from this project will be a wake a call for people who still believe climate change is a myth.”
Aumua is also in Fiji last year on a Pacific Cooperation Foundation exchange.
Professor David Robie, director of the PMC, says he is delighted that AUT has been able to send journalists to Fiji in another collaborative project.
“We had two student journalists in Fiji for the 2014 general election and then another couple a year later last September for the Pacific Islands Development Forum and other activities. They did tremendously well to face many challenges.”
He has praised the AUT Research Office for providing a climate change grant that helped fund the journalists on their mission.
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