The media in Samoa marked World Press Freedom Day with a celebration at Hotel Millennia yesterday.
The local commemoration focused on the global theme of World Press Freedom Day “Critical Minds for Critical Times: The media’s role is Advancing Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies.”
Vice President of the National Media Association of Samoa (J.A.W.S), Rudy Bartley, said the day is extremely important in promoting the important role the media plays in advancing the principles of democracy.
He referred to Samoa’s 21st ranking on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, saying this is excellent for Samoa.
Mr. Bartley said J.A.W.S is modifying the theme to focus on the impact, abuse and misuse of social media in Samoa.
“We have had the violence and school fights last year,” he said. “The police are investigating the abuse of social media by nameless and faceless bloggers making serious and unsubstantiated accusations against individuals and their families.
“These are critical issues and need the media’s role to advance public discussion in order to promote peaceful, just and inclusive societies (as in this year’s theme) given the abuse when technology and social media offers countless positive uses to advance life and Samoan society in general.
“The abuse of social media to incite violence and cyber bullying needs to be put in proper focus through public discussion so that we can focus on the positives rather than the negative use of technology.”
Mr. Bartley went on to say that media freedom is a basic human right.
“The extent to which individuals and nameless and faceless bloggers have abused this basic and noble human right must also be taken in the context of the law of which our democratic society exists through the arms of Parliament, the Executive, the Judiciary and the media as the Fourth Estate,” he said.
“As part of today’s activities, J.A.W.S is launching its TV ads to create public awareness and promote public discussion on “Media Freedom and Social Media.”
“J.A.W.S is also organizing a series of TV Panel discussions with various sectors such as the youth and college students, mothers, professionals and policy/decision makers.
“The panel discussions will be aired on local TV stations that are media partners and will have interactive feedback from the public to promote further debate and discussion.”
Director of U.N.E.S.C.O’s Pacific Office, Ms. Nisha, said the media business is being shaken to the core with the rise of digital networks and social media.
“Citizen Journalists are redrawing the boundaries of journalism and media accountability and credibility are falling under question,” she said.
“Online, the lines are blurring between advertising and editorial material, and we see private actors rising as key, intermediaries, accompanied by new forms of “private censorship.”
“[And] these challenges merge with deeper transformations affecting societies.
“All of this comes at a time when free, independent and pluralistic media has never been so important to empower individual women and men, strengthen good governance and the rule of law and take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development specifically, Sustainable Goal 16, to build , just, peaceful and inclusive societies.”
She reiterated that the media not only be a source of reliable information but it should provide a platform for multitude of voices.
“We need original, critical, and well-researched journalism, guided by high professional, ethical standards and a quality media education,” she said.
“Combine with audiences that have the right media and information literacy skills.”