OPINION: SUVA (Grubsheet / Pacific Media Watch): Journalists and media educators descended on the University of the South Pacific in Suva this week for a conference on Media and Democracy in the South Pacific.
Not surprisingly, the topic and the timing of this talkfest have caused a high degree of consternation behind the scenes. It was the brainchild of Dr Marc Edge, the head of the USP’s School of Journalism, who has publicly advocated total freedom for the local media at a time of intense discussion over the appropriate model for developing countries such as Fiji.
His views notably diverge from those of his predecessor at the journalism school, Shailendra Singh – who has advocated more social responsibility – and from the head of arguably the region’s foremost media training establishment, Professor David Robie of the Pacific Media Centre at the Auckland University of Technology.
They are proponents of an ideological journalistic strand variously described as "peace" or “critical development”models, in the latter the media is seen as a key component in nation-building in developing countries.
This entails working in partnership with governments to promote social development and eschewing the confrontational “watchdog” model of much of the Western media.
While critics like Dr Edge appear to regard this as a sellout, there’s a compelling argument that a more contextual, cooperative and and moderate approach by journalists in developing countries is the best way forward.