PM’s Speech At The 2017 MASI Press Freedom and Awards Event

0
185
Prime Minister Sogavare delivers his speech to open the 2017 National Health Conference.

Salutation

Australian High Commissioner, His Excellency Roderick Brazier;

UNESCO Solomon Islands Representative, Ms Christina Bakolo;

Deputy Counselor, Republic of China, Mr Oliver Weng’

President, Media Association of Solomon Islands;

Head of our various Media Organisations; and

Friends of MASI.

Introduction

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good evening and thank you for giving me the honour to deliver this keynote address to commemorate “World Press Freedom Day” and the MASI Press Freedom Day and Awards Event.

I understand that the MASI Press Freedom Day and Awards event is an annual event organised by MASI to gather Solomon Islands journalists and media practitioners together to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day occasion and reward journalists who have performed outstandingly well.

For this year’s World Press Freedom Day, the UNESCO-designated theme is “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies”. I believe that given the importance of the role of media, the theme is crucial and fitting.

Gatekeepers

Journalists or the Media as a whole are “gatekeepers” of information. As a ‘gatekeeper’, journalists command a powerful role of filtering information before it is published, broadcasted or posted on the Web. What you choose to allow through your gates, is eventually what gets fed into society. A gatekeeper’s role is a vital element in the modern day media decision-making. In this era of digital media, that role is crucial in ensuring that the information being shared is legitimate and original.

Information is Power

My good Journalists, information is power and in the words of Sir Winston Churchill “great power carries with it great responsibilities”. These responsibilities include verifying facts and vetting sources to name a few.

I will continuously be reminding you that your responsibilities are always to serve the public. You must strive to always protect their interest by promoting a peaceful society. This means that as a “gatekeeper” you must choose between “the right to know test” and “the duty-interest test”. The right to know may not always be in the interest of the public at large.

As a gatekeeper, you must ensure that the public is protected from information designed to divide and fuel disharmony amongst our people.

Responsible Journalism

The theme “Critical Minds for Critical Times” is a reflection of the Media’s role as a “gatekeeper”. It reflects the ability to properly collect, assess and analyse information readily available in order to provide the foundation for a critical thinking society. It promotes constructive public discussions on issues of national importance.

In a nutshell, the theme “Critical Minds for Critical Times is in fact a call for “responsible journalism”.

You all are aware, that I have on numerous occasions constantly advocated for the practice of “responsible journalism” by the Media as a whole.

So much has been said about the doctrine of responsible journalism, but what is “responsible journalism”? What does it really mean?

Responsible Journalism is journalism that is above ordinary journalism. It is not popular journalism but ethical journalism. The practice of responsible journalism requires the observation of five principles.

  1. Truth and Accuracy;
  2. Independence;
  3. Fairness and Impartiality;
  4. Humanity; and
  5. Accountability.

Truth and Accuracy

No person can ever guarantee the “truth” of the matter. But getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. Journalists must always strive for accuracy, by the provision of all the relevant verified facts and must explicitly state that if that particular information cannot be corroborated.

Independence

A responsible journalist must be independent. Journalists should never act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests, whether political, corporate or cultural.

Fairness and Impartiality

There are two sides to the coin. Your stories or articles should be balanced and add context. Impartial reporting builds trust and confidence.

Humanity

Journalists should do no harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.

Accountability

When Journalists commit errors, Journalist too must correct them. Your duty is to the public and you must listen to the concerns of your audience.

On this, I must also remind us all that “the right to freedom of speech” is not an absolute right. It is a right that is qualified by exceptions. Nor are all of the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution.

Government Support

Government support for the industry is also crucial. The Prime Minister’s Media Excellency Award is one of the Government’s initiatives to strengthen the media industry. I am proud to inform you that this award is the first of its kind in Solomon Islands and also in the Pacific Region. This award programme demonstrates the DCCG Government’s commitment to improving the standard of journalism in Solomon Islands.

The current recipients since its introduction in 2016 are Charlie Piringi from Solomon Star and Gina Maka’a of SIBC for 2017. Both recipients are undertaking a Degree in Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communication studies at the Divine Word University in Papua New Guinea.

Future of MASI

I am comforted in the future aspirations of MASI which include the establishment of a Media Ombudsman and / or relevant legislations to provide the needed protections and regulatory conditions for the industry. I am pleased that the Industry is taking proactive steps to adopt mechanisms that will maintain quality and a competitive edge amongst fellow Journalists.

Like other Professionals, we too must abide by standards and these standards are the tools we use to develop the industry into the future.

The recent adoption of the updated MASI Code of Ethics is one of milestone that this industry is set to achieve. The Code of Ethic is crucial to ensure the practice of ethical journalism in Solomon Islands is continuously maintained by all media practitioners.

The Corporate Plan also reflects upon the vision of the Executive of MASI in steering the industry into the future. I encourage everyone to take ownership of the Corporate Plan and ensure that the aspirations of the industry soar to new heights.

The DCCG is committed to maintaining a close relationship with the media community. My Office has an open door policy in that media practitioners can contact my officers for verification of information. The response may not be as fast as one would like, but we will respond accordingly.

Conclusion

In closing, I would like to state that the Solomon Islands is one of the Countries in the world, where Journalist can practice without fear of retribution or being subjected to a robust censorship regime. But that does not mean that you lose sight of the purpose of why you are chosen to be part of that industry. You and I have a duty of care to our people because only together can we advance a peaceful, just and inclusive Solomon Islands.

God Bless us all and May God Bless Solomon Islands from Shore to Shore.