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Volume 19, Issue 1

Media and democracy in the Pacific
Captive to a political elite
May, 2013

Flashback to les évènements in New Caledonia in 1984 when Kanak militants staged an insurrection against French rule. Image: David Robie/Blood on their Banner (see p. 99 in the hard copy of the May 2013 edition of PJR).

PJR 19(1) May 2013

May, 2013

ISSN: 1023-9499

In this issue…

THIS edition of Pacific Journalism Review is themed on the Media and Democracy in the South Pacific symposium held in Suva in September 2012. Hosted by the University of the South Pacific, the conference has provided most of the core papers for this issue, marking close to two decades of an independent research role in the region by this journal. The 2012 symposium followed two previous conferences held at AUT University in Auckland and USP in Suva in December 2010, covering topics ranging from investigative journalism and technology, peace journalism, democracy, social cohesion and various related themes.

The discourse, and the papers that the conferences spawned, gave a boost to media research and practice in the Pacific, particularly Fiji, under military rule and strict media censorship since 2006. Fiji is a tough, but not wholly insurmountable, problem. Even if the Fiji media are shackled, the conferences of 2010 and 2012 provided opportunity and space to engage in some open dialogue, including criticism of the regime authorities. The proceedings were not confined to the Suva conference venue, or within Fiji’s borders—this is the digital age after all.

Questioning and criticising governments is a core role of the media. However, the media do not always show the same robustness when it comes to being reflective about their own conduct. A common theme across some of the papers in this edition is that introspection is necessary for the Pacific media’s long-term health and survival, especially in an autocratic environment. This was the unfortunate lesson for Sydney-based News Limited, owner of The Fiji Times, which was forced to sell the title to a local buyer, the Motibhai Group in September 2010.

The symposium showed the need for, and benefits of, pooling knowledge and scarce resources for the benefit of a widely-scattered, remote and impoverished part of the world. It was the culmination of the work of two universities, AUT (Pacific Media Centre) and USP—two different faculties, Arts and Law (FAL) and Business and Economics (FBE)—the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Suva and the Fiji media industry. It brought together working journalists, journalism students, NGOs and academics. Keynote speakers included pioneering independent Tongan publisher and broadcaster Kalafi Moala, PMC director Professor David Robie of New Zealand and the University of Queensland’s Dr Levi Obijiofor, a Nigerian media authority on coups and military regimes. Papers were published in a special edition of The Journal of Pacific Studies. The conference prompted a lively debate about Western media models and freedom of expression in the Pacific. The 2012 symposium was an important follow-up event needed to keep the momentum alive. It enabled a robust and much-needed discussion about media and democracy in Fiji with a form of democracy due to return next year.

Excerpt from the editorial: Shailendra Singh and David Robie

Frontline editor: Wendy Bacon

Fulltext of all PJR articles available on the INFORMIT subscription database


1. Editorial: Captive to a political elite
David Robie, Shailendra Singh


2. Press freedom and communication rights: What kind of journalism does democracy need?
Media and democracy in the Pacific
Robert A. Hackett
3. When the barking stopped: Censorship, self-censorship and spin in Fiji
Media and democracy in the Pacific
Robert A. Hooper
4. Policy, papers and pages: Improving media engagement in the Pacific
Media and democracy in the Pacific
Toby Ley
5. Questioning public interest journalism in New Caledonia
Media and democracy in the Pacific
Marie M'Bala-Ndi
6. ‘Four Worlds’ news values revisited: A deliberative journalism paradigm for Pacific media
Media and democracy in the Pacific
David Robie
7. Responsible conflict reporting: Rethinking the role of journalism in Fiji and other troubled Pacific societies
Media and democracy in the Pacific
Shailendra Singh
8. Peace and war journalism in the New Zealand media: Reporting on ‘the arc of instability’ in the Pacific
Media and democracy in the Pacific
Courtney Wilson, Heather Devere
9. Where are the women candidates during elections? A Fiji media case study
Media and democracy in the Pacific
Shazia Usman
10. Constitution-making in a stifled democracy: A case study of self-censorship perpetuating propaganda in Fiji
Media and democracy in the Pacific
Mosmi Bhim
11. Foreign and travel journalism on West Papua: The case of the Swedish press
Media and democracy in the Pacific
Thomas Petersson


13. The emerging practices of Chinese web journalism during the Beijing Olympics: A textual comparison with Western news sites
Donald Matheson, Jing Xin
14. Online coverage of the 2008 Olympic Games on the ABC, BBC, CBC and TVNZ
Dianne Jones
15. Online style – poking a hornet’s nest
A preliminary investigation into online styles in Australian and New Zealand newspapers
Allan Lee, Greg Treadwell