Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

By Ami Dhabuwala

Each Pacific country is dealing with its own issues, but one of the major issues is corruption.

A preconference of the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA), AUT Pacific Media Centre (PMC) and Media Educators Pacific (MeP) in partnership with Transparency International (TINZ) gave a platform yesterday to discuss the corruption in the Pacific and the role of the media to deal with it.

Pacific director of TINZ and facilitator for the session, Fuimaono said: “Corruption is very much like cancer. It has to be treated early otherwise it would be massively expensive.”

He said the world has become intensively interested in what is going on in the Pacific.

The European Union, World Bank and Asian Development Bank are taking interest in the Pacific. The numbers of international treaties have been signed but “where all these resources are going?”, he said.

“Corruption is fundamentally crucial to successful development in the Pacific.”

Root cause
Kalafi Moala, publisher and broadcaster of Taimi ‘o Tonga group in Tonga, said: “Corruption in Tonga is worse now than it has ever been.”

After spending 12 months in the prime minister’s office as a media advisor he decided it was totally useless and waste of his time.

“I found out that despite all the reforms we were doing and who were in charge, corruption continued to grow and to be dealt with,” he said.

Moala said the impact on the poor people with such corruption was extremely severe in small island nations like Tonga in the Pacific.

“We have in Tonga today a population that is broken hearted because their hope for something different in the society has been wounded. This government has not been able to deliver [on promises they made].”

He said there were causes for the corruption and there were questions that we needed to ask in the Pacific because every aspect of our society — at least in Tonga — we see the effect of corruption.

“First, we have to first find the cause of corruption and then we have to deal with it.”

The Pacific corruption panel (from left): Tongan newspaper publisher Kalafi Moala, University of the South Pacific’s head of journalism Dr Shailendra Singh, PNG Post-Courier head of journalism Alexander Rheeney, and facilitator Fuimaono Tuiasau of Transparency International NZ. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Investigative journalists
Dr Shailendra Singh, head of journalism at the University of the South Pacific, said: “Politicians are not taking corruption seriously in Fiji.”

However, journalists with the lack of education and skills, were also major issues.

According to his PhD research in 2012, only 32 percent of journalists have more than 3 years of experience that is well below the global average and at the same time only 55 percent of the journalists have less than 6 years of experience.

In addition, Dr Singh said experienced journalists were not out in the front line. They were running newsrooms. Journalists who were reporting on field had less than 3 years of experience.

Oonly 49 percent of Fiji journalists had any formal academic education.

“You need experienced reporters with some investigative skills to analyse and report corruption systematically, which is lacking in Fiji,” Dr Singh said.

He said geopolitics and political correctness could be a further contributor to corruption.

Ask hard questions
Alexander Rheeney, editor-in-chief of the PNG Post-Courier, said Papua New Guinea was going through an economic and global political crisis at the moment.

“Any journalist would love to work in PNG because we have best stories in the world.”

He said journalists need to start asking hard questions now in PNG, as reporting and fighting against corruption was always a work in progress [situation] for PNG.

It is challenging for the PNG journalists to hold the leaders accountable and they are being the “meat in the sandwich”, said Rheeney.

“We have got people passionate about holding government accountable on one side and on the other side leaders want us to cover other issues in Papua New Guinea.”

However, he said as a journalist he and his colleagues were not only the defender of truth but also the defender of freedom of expression.

“The journalists should defend Papua New Guineans’ rights to express themselves,” he said.

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