Savea Sano Malifa at the Pacific Media Partnership Conference

Apia, Samoa – Savea Sano Malifa was invited to address the Pacific Media Partnership Conference in Apia on September 20, 2012:

Greetings. I want to say thank you very much, to the organizers of this conference, for inviting me to speak here. I am deeply honoured.

I’ve been asked to talk on poverty alleviation, environmental protection, and granting access to fundamental services, such as healthcare and education, which are issues facing many countries, in the Pacific today.

Also, on threats to stability and security, which greatly hamper our countries’ ability to address such development issues.

I’ve been asked to suggest how the media in the Pacific can play a positive role, in putting the spotlight on these concerns.

And finally, what I think are productive steps the media should take to assist victims in conflict zones, and de-escalate cycles of violence.

Well, these are big issues, they have been with us for many years, and I am therefore not sure, as to how the Pacific media, “fragmented” as it is today, can go about helping to solve them.

The Samoa Observer is now 34 years old, and in all that time, we thought we had played “a positive role, in putting the spotlight on these concerns” with the idea of eliminating them all, and yet today, despite all those harrowing experiences we’ve been through, those “impossible dreams” and “sleepless nights,” those issues and concerns are still here, and they are still staring us in the face, as they’re refusing to go away.

So what do we do? What we have to be clear about though, is that solving these problems is not the media’s job. That is the responsibility of politicians, who are elected, and get paid by public taxes, to run and manage our countries.

Our job is to provide a forum for public debate, which function is to inform, educate, and entertain. And perhaps, what we should also be reminded about all the time, is that the media, in most of our countries, are both public and private.

Whereas the public media is owned, and managed by the government, the private media is owned and operated by members of the public.

Which brings me back, once again to these big issues we are discussing here this morning, which, as I have said, are the responsibility of our politicians – they are elected on their promises to solve them.

Now the problem is that, sometime after they have been in office, they tend to forget those promises they had made, so that even though the private media has been religiously directing the spotlight on those issues over the years, they are still being virtually ignored.

And the sad part of the problem is that, the public media in our part of the world are always too busy protecting and defending their governments, so that they are never  focusing their spotlight on the issues that those governments  supporting are supposed to be solving.

What’s more, some government ministers will personally discourage practicing members of the private media from shining that spotlight, even to the point of physically assaulting them in their offices.

In Vanuatu sometime ago, a government minister, accompanied by thugs, entered the office of a newspaper there, and viciously attacked the paper’s publisher.  The Minister was unhappy about a story about him published in the paper.

And yet the need to shine the spotlight on poverty, with the idea of helping to alleviate it, should be everyone’s top priority.

The point is that poverty is such a shameful stigma on our societies and in our collective conscience, so that everyone – the government, the church, the media, the rich, and even the poor themselves – must contribute habitually to the effort to alleviate it.

Indeed, governments in particular, should not be so preoccupied with the job of remaining in power that they are oblivious of their responsibilities towards alleviating poverty in their countries.

PasiMA’s aim is clear-cut. We are dedicated to the establishment of a media organization that shall remain transparent and accountable to the public, while focusing on the job of alleviating poverty and crime, and on improving the standard of living in the countries of our region, by making sure press freedom and critical opinion are never silenced.

With funding from the British government, PasiMA is close to completing its online training programme, designed for working journalists and media personnel.

The former Deputy High Commissioner in the Solomon Islands, Tom Oppenheim, made a special visit to Apia to offer his government’s support.

Accompanied by the Australian media specialist, Professor Martin Hadlow, they insisted that “the most essential component of the project should be investigative journalism.”

The PasiMA board agrees. We believe that given the disturbing trends of bureaucratic corruption spawning poverty around the region, investigative journalism should be given top priority.

PasiMA’s training programme consists of:

  • Pasifika Reporter will provide training to working journalists with additional skills, and knowledge in investigative journalism.
  • Pacific Media Manager is designed to deliver skills to media owners, managers and staff in human resource development, adverting sales, marketing, accounting, management.
  • e-Pasifika will provide training for media operators in the generation of ideas, development of multi-media platforms on the use of social media, and so forth.

And so, how is PasiMA “putting the spotlight on those issues and concerns” we are worried about?

It is doing so now, by moving forward with its online educational programme, so that regional journalists are well trained on making sure that the spotlight is never dimmed.

PasiMA believes that to be fully effective in its role as a media organization, it has to be completely free to operate; it also believes that all its members should be free to operate, without restrictive policies or “media decrees” holding them back.

As for the Samoa Observer, it too has been doing its bit to assist in the effort to alleviate poverty in Samoa. How?

With its Save the Child’s Fund, it has been providing airfare assistance to parents with children needing specialized treatment overseas. SCF has been doing for many years now.

Still, we agree that the need to alleviate poverty in our small island countries, among other problems and issues raised above, is imperative. They have to be addressed by everyone.

Let us be reminded, though, that these issues will not be solved only if corruption is done away with.

Thank you for your attention.

Soifua.