Dear Editor – A three-day Human Rights and Media Forum, supported by the Australian Government and the European Union, ended in Nadi, Fiji, last Friday.
The Forum saw the attendance of editors, senior journalists and government communications officers from 13 Pacific Island countries, including from the Solomon Islands.
Reportedly, the Forum reaffirmed the vital role of the media in highlighting human rights issues and the importance of news reporting with a human rights approach.
There was an emphasis placed on reporting on the vulnerable in society and the need to highlight the empowerment of the most affected and marginalized people and, in a sense, giving a voice for the voiceless.
Issues touched upon during the Forum also related to reporting on gender violence, including domestic and family violence and reporting with accuracy, truthfulness and sensitively on conflicts, such as occurred in the Solomon Islands and Bougainville in past years.
I consider the Forum to have been well timed for, as much as I believe, the standard of reporting in the Solomon Islands is good, and has improved much in the past 20 years of my own observations, the question of gender related violence remains a scourge on society in the Solomon Islands, but also throughout the regional Pacific Islands countries.
It is to be hoped that local journalists will be sensitive to the rights of individuals, especially those who might now be encouraged to come forward and report incidences of assault in the home now that the Family Protection Act (FPA has been promulgated and enforceable.
The media has an active and most important role to play in promoting gender equality and women’s rights.
In the wider Pacific region their impact has often been neglected but not necessarily the case in the Solomon Islands and this is praiseworthy.
What I would suggest, however, is that accurate research should be put into all reporting, considering the cultural, social, political and even the technological environment when filing stories.
This is especially relevant when reporting on current and post-conflict realities, where the need for accurate information and for the dissemination of a message of peace is central.
From time to time foreign based journalists report on incidents and happenings in the Solomon Islands with scant regard to the truth and accuracy of their reports and this was especially evident in my own time in office during early 1999 when, as I subsequently published in my book, ‘Policing a Clash of Cultures,’ and I quote:
“I believed at the time, and still believe, that two foreign journalists acted in a manner which was far below the standards of the profession.”
One of those journalists most recently launched a totally false and inaccurate story about me, in my role as the former Commissioner of Police, which I countered in your newspaper in January when I identified the New Zealand based journalist and followed that with an article on media ethics which your newspaper also published.
I am pleased to say on the whole Solomon Islands journalists have an enviable record of professional standards of reporting and I hope they will long continue to uphold such ethics.