“Giving voice to the voiceless” and “championing the rights of all peoples” were key messages highlighted at the Human Rights and Media Forum that ended in Nadi, Fiji, Friday.
Editors, senior journalists, and government communication officers from 13 Pacific island countries took part in the three-day forum.
Solomon Star editor Ofani Eremae was part of the forum.
Supported by the Australian Government and European Union, the Forum reaffirmed the vital role of media in highlighting human rights issues and the importance of news reporting with a human rights-based approach.
The Forum highlighted the importance of building strong relationships between government communication personnel and journalists in sharing and disseminating information.
An Outcomes Document will be presented in poster format for newsrooms in the region, providing practical tips for “rights-based reporting”.
“Human rights-oriented journalism is more focused on global instead of selective reporting, with an emphasis on the vulnerable and empowerment for the affected and marginalised people – a voice for the voiceless,” Professor David Robie, prominent journalist and Director of Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Pacific Centre, told participants at the opening of the Forum.
Robie highlighted some key human rights issues, which he said, are import in the region.
· Asylum seekers, refugees – “outsourcing” by Australia to Nauru and Manus Island, PNG
· Gender violence – assaults, rapes, and murder
· Coups/conflicts/war, eg. Bougainville, Fiji “coup culture”, and the Solomon Islands
· But the biggest one of all is West Papua
· Freedom of speech, expression
· So-called “Climate refugees” – a very real situation, and international law is lagging behind
Marian Kupu of Broadcom Broadcasting Limited Tonga said:
“I find the three-day forum very encouraging because I have learnt about my country’s human rights commitments and I see my role as a journalist to report on the gaps to encourage decision makers to prioritise and address the issues.”
The Forum was organised by the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) of the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS), the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) Journalism.
The three-day forum has strengthened media capacity in ‘rights-based reporting’ to reflect the aspirations of Pacific island communities for equality, development and social justice, SPC’s Team Leader of RRRT, Nicol Cave, said.
SPC’s human rights adviser Romulo Nayacalevu told journalists they can be human rights defenders in the region.
Journalists were also told they they have a duty to maintain the highest ethical and professional standards.
“You can help to protect children by ethically reporting on violations of their rights and issues related to their safety, privacy, security, education, health, social welfare and all forms of exploitation.”
Participants heard violations of child rights are key questions for investigations and public debate.