Every year on the 3rd of May, the world commemorates the importance of freedom of the press and reminds governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration.
The theme for this year is “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s Role in Advancing Peace, Just and Inclusive Societies.”
However Samoa will be hosting a month-long celebration, according to the President of the Journalists Association of Samoa, Rudy Bartley.
“The celebration of World Press Freedom Day will begin on Wednesday 3rd of Mary in the morning,” he said.
“The reason why it’s changing from night to morning is because every year it’s always a drink up and everyone is wasted but nothing useful comes out of it,” he said.
“So it will begin on Wednesday morning but we are yet to finalize the venue.
“Another thing is, we are focusing on “Social Media” from the 3rd till the 26th of May.
“It sort of links into the international event as a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom and it is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.
“But for us, instead of that, we are looking at the most common issue that many people are talking about in our country nowadays and the problems that are rising from it, which is “social media.”
Mr. Bartley explained that a month of activity will include panel discussions and debates between students, mothers, lawyers as well as the Media Council.
“We haven’t finalized our panel discussions or debates but for the students they will be debating whether social media is useful to them as students.
“The mothers will be discussing whether technology is good for their children and some of the good or bad things about social media and if the mothers have the right to check up on their children’s phones and monitor them. Where do the parents draw the line when it comes to their children?
“Those are the issues that our committee is discussing to address in the debates during panel discussions.
“The programme will be out on television as well as commercially and the whole idea is it will focus on Social Media and the impact of it when we are using it for good instead of bad.
“The main activity will still be going on for Indonesia, but for us alone, there will be four weeks to have panel discussions, debates and to talk about Social Media.
“We are looking at inviting the students, the mothers, the lawyers’ aspect and then the media and the Media Council will be involved in this as well.
“The Samoan media are the only ones who will be running it for a month as we are trying to find something useful instead of just talking about the issues of how journalists are prosecuted. We want to focus on an issues that people are talking about, “Social Media.”
Asked about his view on Social Media Mr. Bartley said social media has become a tool for angry people, when it should be a tool to help people.
“If people use social media with a bad intention then that’s a problem,” he said.
“If you use social media to say something bad then make sure that it is also useful at the same time critical, constructive, criticism.
“People can complain but at least offer something that will be useful to the viewers but don’t just use it to complain simply because you don’t like the person, but complain because you have something good too and especially when you tell someone that you don’t like them make sure your name is out there and be straight up.
“When social media was first developed, it was meant for people to socialize and to meet other people from all over the world, to make new friends and also connect with families and loved ones.
“So what we are trying to do is to encourage people to use social media as a tool for good.
“We all know when people use it for evil, many get hurt or killed, and maybe end up losing jobs and a lot of students school fights are because they are not using social media the right way.
“Which is why we decided to have the international W.P.F.D. about peace and all that but for Samoa alone, we will be focusing on one issue.”
Another matter that Mr. Bartley spoke about, is the general lack of understanding of what social media is.
“Unfortunately for some of our people they don’t understand what social media is and to many of them, social media just means face book and mobile phones,” he said.
“They don’t know that there are so many other things such as texting and internet and these are other aspects of social media and we need to understand that it’s not just us who can see things but there’s millions and billions of other people who have accounts. So just imagine one bad comment you paste on facebook and everyone can see it.
“So nowadays it’s always good to have time out from social media, deactivate all social media accounts, turn off our phones and everything but see how we cope without all of these.
“I mean as a person living here in Samoa why do we worry about what is happening to the world while we are having problems of our own and that’s why we get information overload, it’s because we kept thinking about others rather than ourselves.
“So that is why we are trying to develop this social responsibility.
“Another impact of social media nowadays is that young people have no time to talk to each other face to face as most of them are using social media to communicate even amongst their friends.
“They spend more time communicating through messenger than face to face and even though they are sitting on the other side of the table some of them will just talk through that because they no longer have inter-personal, communication skills.
“[And] I think the younger ones are losing that skill.
“For instance if they want something, back in my day, I would go and ask the person face to face but nowadays people use messengers, whatsapp, twitter, viber and all sorts of things to talk to each other rather than face to face.
“I think it’s very hard to find solutions to this problem and it is lacking nowadays and that’s what we are going to focus on.”
“The opening will only be the media and the U.N.E.S.C.O. as they are funding the whole thing and then we will invite the government officials to the closing of this event.”
Mr. Bartley said at the end of the month, there will be a workshop on the last day and a big closing ceremony for the celebration.
“There will be cocktail party to round off the month-long programme,” he said.
U.N.E.S.C.O. leads the worldwide celebration by identifying the global theme and organizing the main event in different parts of world every year.
This year it will be held in Indonesia.