Media freedom watchdog, PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum, has welcomed a new Melanesia co-chair for the regional article 19 network.
Leading Solomon Islands writer and publisher Robert Iroga takes up the role of co-chair from Papua New Guinea’s Alexander Rheeney.
“We warmly welcome Robert as a news and ethics leader in the Pacific,” said PFF Chair Monica Miller, from American Samoa.
“His leadership at home and to the worldwide Solomon Islands, Melanesian and Pacific communities brings strong support for all our media freedom and ethics work,” said Miller, referring to PFF campaigns under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, defending global freedoms of speech from 1946.
Rheeney stepped down after relocating from Port Moresby to take up a new post as editor of daily newspaper, Samoa Observer.
His successor, Iroga is based in Honiara and an award winning journalist with a wide range of senior media advisory and teaching roles. He is the founding publisher of the country’s first commerce journal, monthly Solomon Business Magazine .
Said Iroga, “I am honoured to be able to raise the profile of ethics and rights alerts for journalists in my country and region – and look forward to learning more about the rest of my Pacific and global media monitoring networks through this role,” he says.
PFF Co-Chair Bernadette Correon joins Miller and PFF members in welcoming Mr Iroga.
“Robert has gone from strength to strength as an investigative journalist, trainer and high-level advisor,” said Carreon, based in Palau.
“Serving the ACP region from Brussels, Iroga also studied and gained a Masters degree while raising a young family.
“He’s turned down many offers to leave the Solomon Islands, staying to build capacity as well as grow his own news magazine in-country. My new fellow co-chair provides insights and experience from our largest Pacific population, in the Melanesian sub-region, which will serve his regional media family well.”
It’s the first time the Solomon Islands has held the sub-regional role, joining an already rich history of Melanesian media leadership.
Founding chair of the PFF was the late Susuve Laumaea. After he passed away, Laumaea was replaced by The National newspaper editor Yehiura Hriehwazi. When Hriehwazi also passed, the role was held by longtime journalist Titi Gabi, until she stepped back from media work and handed the mantle to Alex Rheeney.
Carreon also joined Miller in expressing gratitude for out-going co-chair Alexander Rheeney.
Says Miller, “We thank Alex for his commitment and time towards calling attention to article 19 issues in the Pacific and we welcome continued rights monitoring from his new newsroom home.”
Miller says any leadership changes always centre on continuation – the constant core of PFF work- to monitor and report on threats and best practice to Article 19 of the UN Human Rights Declaration on freedom of speech, expression and the right to share and exchange views and information.
Carreon says the changes highlight the need for Pacific media to develop leadership within their organisations.
“Some of us take the news across our islands for granted,” she says.
“Many fail to see challenges faced by everyday people working in often difficult conditions to support rights of citizens to share views and access information – without fear or favour.”
PFF was founded in August 2008 at UNDP quarters in Apia, Samoa, with delegates from 13 countries agreeing to launch the new non-government network of mainly Pacific based newsroom journalists and supporters.
PFF remains an all-volunteer non-profit nearly ten years later.