AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Centre/Pacific Media Watch): Pacific Media Watch Project - The Genesis was as much a discovery of media freedom in the Pacific as it was a labour of love for Blessen Tom and I.
Pacific Media Watch is an Asia-Pacific media digital repository gathered and published by postgraduate students and staff at Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre and contributing journalists.
The monitoring and research project began at AUT in 2007, although it had its roots 11 years earlier at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and the University of the South Pacific (USP).
I learned what this this esteemed institution was all about. It was started by Professor David Robie, then doing his masters degree at UTS while he was head of journalism at the University of Papua New Guinea and Peter Cronau, then editor of Reportage and who became an investigative journalist on the ABC Four Corners programme.
Many thanks to them for getting this media freedom project off the ground.
It all started in 1996 when the so-called Tongan Three – Kalafi Moala, Filo’kalafi Akaoula and the now Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva - were jailed for "contempt of Parliament" and Professor Robie and Peter Cronau launched an international campaign to help free them.
The PMW objectives then and now are:
• Press for the urgent removal of barriers to press freedom and freedom of expression.
• Protect and support journalists unjustly jailed, assaulted or harassed while performing their professional duty.
• Encourage debate on media ethics, and press for improved professional standards.
• Monitor regional media ownership and other issues affecting freedom of information.
• Provide a digital information database.
• Support the overwhelming desire of Pacific peoples for a free and independent media.
PMW has since gone on to be a highly respectable and reputable media watchdog and if anything, it covers news around the whole Pacific, far and wide with the true ideals of journalism – without fear or favour.
I first learnt about David Robie when he strode into the wooden floor newsroom of The Fiji Times in 1984, at which time I turned to my sports editor and said “who’s that?”. He replied …” that’s the Johnny Appleseed of the Pacific, the old man of the Pacific”.
His stature and reputation in journalism in the Pacific has grown into the stuff of legends.
So, when I came to this university it was a pleasure to meet him and work with him. And then to get to make this mini-documentary was literally the icing on the cake.
Initially this documentary was only meant to be five minutes long but through doing six interviews – including one in Norway and another in Australia we found we had to make it longer so now it is 15 minutes.
You would think two months for shooting the interviews, doing cutaways, as well as getting file footage wouldn’t be a problem. No sweat for a print journalist like I am.
Wrong – I was in here virtually everyday and poor Blessen had to come in after finishing work to the point of being sick of me every weekend.
I speak for both of us when I say we hope it was all well worth it and it illuminates you about what Pacific Media Watch is and does.
Having worked for the Pacific Media Centre and on this documentary, I feel I must say this.
It is encumbent on AUT to keep this Pacific Media Watch flame burning as a watchdog of the Pacific.
The beauty of it is the use and choice of student contributing editors – all of them will echo my sentiments that this little gem which is invaluable as guardians of Pacific journalism must be kept going for years to come.
I can’t stress that enough.
Blessen and I would like to thank in particular Professor David Robie, Del Abcede, Jim Marbrook, Nellie Sorongen, Dimitry Konovalov and many others.
We hope you enjoy the documentary.
This commentary was Sri Krishnamurthi's spoken introduction to the screening of the documentary at Auckland University of Technology on 26 July 2019.