REMARKS: SG Puna at Fiji National World Press Freedom Day Event

Remarks and Speeches
08 May 2024

Fiji National World Press Freedom Day Event

Albert Park, 8th May 2024

•    Attorney General and Minister for Justice for Fiji, the Hon. Siromi Turaga
•    Fiji Media Association Executive Council, and members
•    Fiji Media Council representatives,
•    Co-sponsors of this event, the Asia Foundation and Pacific Islands News Association, PINA
•    All friends of the media here today

Bula Vinaka, kia orana and thank you for the opportunity to join this important gathering.

2.    Thank you for the reminder that press freedom is not something to be remembered once a year, but every day. 
Indeed, it is one of the most necessary freedoms in the daily lives of billions across the planet.

3.    This year’s theme spotlighting journalism in the face of the global environmental crisis, is something so many of you are already familiar with. You’ve reported the Pacific and global position on the 1.5, net zero carbon future, and the stories our people are leading on the climate frontline.

4.    Climate, disasters, and environmental reporting is very much part of your everyday news round. This is your expert area. Your role, especially in helping our communities to prepare ahead of, during, and after disasters, is so important.

5.     It is powerful.

6.    On Friday, I told a gathering of journalism students at USP, who will hopefully be joining you in future press freedom events, that a strong, resilient, and thriving Pacific future for our people, needs to have a strong, resilient, and thriving press.

7.    I was only echoing what our founding leaders had declared in their early years of the Forum – almost two decades before the first United Nations world press Freedom Day – that effective communications and media work, sharing the decisions and discussions of the Leaders meetings, was essential and must be supported.

8.    That mandate, set by the first post-colonial wave of Pacific leaders growing with their newly emerging nations, seeking strength from each other to drive economic growth, oceans stewardship, and human potential, has not shifted.

9.    Our leaders wanted their hopes and decisions for the future of this region, to be shared back to our Pacific people, and to the world.

10.    They knew that a strong Pacific future is an informed Pacific future. This has not changed.

11.    And as the Forum family was growing, your own Pacific Islands News and Broadcaster family was expanding too, also sharing a mandate for regional unity of the Pacific media family.

12. In February this year, the Forum and PINA renewed our MOU partnership to cement our news and media partnership, serving today’s 18 member Pacific Islands Forum family.

13. The MOU was signed on February 5th, – an important anniversary, taking us back to the Leaders mandate to keep people informed.

14. February 5th is the anniversary of the Teieniwa Vision of Pacific Unity Against Corruption, endorsed by Pacific Leaders who recognise that our prosperity, peace, and future depend on systems and leaders supporting accountability, integrity, and transparency.

15. We hope to continue those Teieniwa Talanoa sessions with you next February 5th, but for now, may I thank you for my final celebration of press freedom as I complete my tenure as Forum Secretary General, and reiterate my appreciation for the efforts of the national and regional media families you represent.

16. Friends, I have witnessed firsthand, as a former Leader, Forum Chair, and as your Secretary General for the Forum, that your efforts and time spent joining us at the Forum conferences, Leaders’ meetings, and regular press briefings, bring nothing but credit to the Pacific Way.

17. Many amongst you have left me so impressed – sometimes frustrated, but always respecting the need for journalists to have access to public figures, claiming our Pacific place on the world stage.

18. My final humble request to you is this: More than ever, your work and leadership must be able to withstand the same level of scrutiny and standards, which you apply to all others.

19. Applying your industry standards of ethics and scrutiny, will ensure you do your jobs well, and that you honour and serve public trust in your efforts.

20. Vinaka vakalevu, I wish you all the very best in today’s discussions.