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Constant bad news

22 January 2018

Dear Editor – ‘In reporting confidence comes with truth not spin.”

Some years ago, I recall reading an article by a young Irish journalist, Seamus Conboy, writing in the ‘’The Journal,’ perhaps an Irish publication, when he said:

“People have become so accustomed to bad news in recent years that good news is often lost in the noise. We have become cynical; we expect the worst of our politicians, expect their decisions to be the wrong ones. And some media outlets will play on this.

“But if we let the good news be drowned out by the bad, we will stunt our recovery. Recovery won’t happen overnight. and it might be delayed if we allow a negative narrative to smother our confidence.

“This difficult period in our history is not behind us yet, but we are getting there. There is hope. We need this hope; we need to be confident, if we want to get back on our feet. We can share this confidence or we can continue to pile on the despair. Whichever we choose, it will have a knock on effect on our economy, and on our entire society.”

I looked up the writers sentiments again after reading recent articles on the prevailing situation in the Solomon Islands.

The articles, on the whole, painted a depressing picture of happenings at ‘home and  prompted this letter in the hope that, despite what might seems a not too favourable situation currently, reporters and journalists, particularly foreign ones, writing about events in the Solomons will try be more objective, more understanding and more encouraging in presenting their stories.

That is not to say the news should be distorted by ‘spin’ only a narrative that can lead to confidence - and confidence comes with truth not spin. ‘

 Here are a couple of examples of stories written by the well known Pacific journalist Catherine Wilson on 21 December 2017 when reporting on the Solomon Islands.

She writes as she sees the situation but I am left with the feeling there might be an element of cynicism and doubt.

“The dusty streets of Honiara are bustling. Once ravaged by militia fighting, 14 years of peacekeeping by the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands now sees men, women and children at markets, schools and shops, confident and free.”

“But the future of the vast archipelago of rainforest-covered islands to Australia’s northeast is still work in progress. Long term peace and stability after the 'Tensions' (1998-2003) depends on addressing the causes and grievances of the conflict, and making headway on equitable development for urban and rural islanders. According to the Pacific Islands Forum, hardship and unemployment remain high in the country and 'strong resource-led growth is failing to trickle down to the disadvantaged.”

“Landowner grievances, compromised governance and acrimonious competition for land and resources were key triggers of the violence that erupted in Guadalcanal Province in the late 1990s. So tackling land disputes, corruption and management of the country's natural resource wealth is at the core of ensuring sustainable peace.”

“Natural resource management will be in the spotlight after the government in Honiara recently identified the exploitation of mineral resources - still relatively under-developed in Solomon Islands - as one avenue to boosting post-conflict economic recovery. At the same time, plans are underway to reopen the Gold Ridge mine by the end of 2018.”

“The mine, a drive of less than an hour from Honiara across the flat, sun-baked Guadalcanal Plains, through farming villages and miles of oil palm plantations, has stood dormant for the past three years. The extraction of gold began here in 1998, but a succession of foreign owners and intermittent periods of closure due to civil unrest and environmental problems has left a troubled legacy.”

“The reopening of the Gold Ridge mine is important for economic growth, said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification. A significant drop in national revenue followed the closure in 2014 and the start of two bauxite mines in West Rennell province the following year.”

“But the risks remain. Graham Baines pointed out in a paper published by the Australian National University that ‘should mining be forced while governance of the mineral sector remains weak and uncertain, corruption is rife and villagers are ill-informed and uncertain, the rural population could become a potent source of dissent and obstruction’. This was especially a danger in Melanesia, Baines said, where violence and mining seem to be partners.”

Your readers might have observed in recent days I switched in my letters to the local media to commenting on regional affairs just to put a brighter perspective on what I perceived to be a lack of confidence building issues concerning ‘home’ affairs.

Frank Short
Bangkok, Thailand




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