Giving voice to the voiceless and championing the rights of all people by telling the truth was the message given to the Human Rights and the Media forum in Fiji organised by the region’s Pacific Community.
AUT’s Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie was the keynote speaker at the three-day conference with about 40 journalists and communications people from 13 countries participating at the forum in Nadi.
He talked about how journalists in Fiji and the Pacific should approach the ongoing human rights violations happening in West Papua during a sweeping overview of problems facing the region.
“From a journalist’s point of view, West Papua is a human rights issue,” he said.
Journalists had a responsibility to cover widely, and as often as they could, West Papua’s call for self-determination — a 50-year plus struggle for liberation from Indonesian occupation.
“They are Pacific. This should never be lost sight of. That is one reason the media in the Pacific should latch on to the significance of this struggle and how important it is to the Pacific,” he said.
“For me, the biggest and most staggering human rights issue in the Pacific is West Papua. This has to be a global story.”
He said the absence or lack of coverage of this “untold story” had much to do with journalists and editors being unaware and indifferent to a struggle that had persisted for so long.
Dr Robie also spoke about asylum seekers and Australia’s “outsourcing” of the problem to the Pacific; “coup cultures” and conflict; gender violence and horrendous attacks on women and young girls, especially in Papua New Guinea; press freedom and free expression; and “climate change refugees” and the need for human rights law to address this growing issue.
Disability was another important theme at the forum.
Supported by the Australian Government and European Union, the forum reaffirmed the vital role of the media in highlighting human rights issues and the importance of news reporting with a human rights-based approach.