by Alan Ah Mu
APIA: THURSDAY 25 JULY 2013: Improvement of the quality of life for all.
That is ultimate goal for Government and the media, Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo said today in opening a seminar organised by Pacific Media Assistance Program or PACMAS an AusAID effort to develop media in the Pacific region in support of better governance.
Late last year, PACMAS identified a number of options to address challenges faced by media in the region.
Titled The Way Forward: Samoa Media in the 21st Century the seminar today brainstormed on how media can amongst other things:
* play their role more effectively in the 21st century?
* be more representative?
* be more proactive in shaping the future media environment and in
the defence of a professional, ethical and unbiased media?
In his opening speech Fonotoe said:
“I am pleased to note from your programme the issues to be deliberated during your forum pertain to the duties and responsibilities of the media.
“It is common knowledge that the media plays a pivotal role in the development of any country, and Samoa is no exception.
“The Government, by forging a strong partnership with our private sector, civil societies, villages and respecting the role of the media-ensures that we do not only have an open Government, but we also have a fully participatory democracy where the public’s view is expressed and welcomed.
“From that perspective the government and the media work side by side to achieve the ultimate goal which is ‘To improve the quality of life for all as articulated in the Strategy for the Development of Samoa.’
“All these would not have been made possible if it weren’t for the important role that the media plays in informing our people.
“It was once said that: ‘an informed public is the greatest weapon of democracy.’
“From this I believe the media’s duty in partnership with government is not only to report the truth but be guided by the fact that its role in society can advance people’s lives or even harm them.
“Of particular interest at the moment is the proposed Media Council for Samoa which I am informed will be touched upon in one of your sessions.
“To my recollection, and as stated earlier by the Prime Minister, The Media Council is not a government initiative but a Media Initiative which was initiated ten years ago or so by the Journalists Association of Samoa but up to now it has not become a reality.
“As with any good initiative our Government has always been ready to assist where possible to make it a reality.
“With the growth in our local media industry as evidenced by the increasing number of outlets ranging from television, radio and newspaper publications in the last ten years, I believe the time is ripe that a Monitoring Body such as the Media Council is established.
“I think we should not see the proposed Council as a regulatory body but will serve as complaints council in media matters, to ensure accuracy, fair and factual reporting is maintained at all times.
“It will be a council where people will be afforded the opportunity to register any complaints about publications and broadcasts, thus eliminating expensive litigation to those who may not afford the court process.
“Journalists and reporters will also be afforded the same opportunity to register their grievances with the Media Council against their editors and publishers
“The Council will be completely run by the media industry after it’s established by law without any involvement from government
“In one of my earlier addresses to the Media I said: `I am aware that the fundamental principle driving your profession is respect for the truth and the public’s right to hear that truth from information and opinions communicated to them.
“Through that, you our media practitioners generate trust, without which, you will not be fulfilling your public responsibilities.
“I went on to say I have noticed from time to time that, somehow, the truth gets lost in translation because the writer who filed the news story, could not help but insert his or her own version of the truth.
“That does not mean reporters or writers should not be asking the hard questions, but they must do so without allowing personal interests or belief to undermine the accuracy, fairness and independence of the media.”