Media professionals continue to discuss the role and challenges of media across the Pacific region, at the World Journalism Education Congress in New Zealand.

The media industry has grown rapidly across the Pacific, encountering some obstacles along the way. The Pacific region is currently facing many challenges such as climate change, overfishing and corruption. According to the experts at the conference, media does not seem to portray them in a way that really keeps the citizens informed.

These, and other issues, are currently being discussed at the 4th World Journalism Education Congress in Auckland, New Zealand.

Dr Hermin Indah Wahyuni, of the Universitas Gadjah Mada, said that current media portrays climate change through the “impact-victim frame”, that simplifies the relationship between disasters and climate change. His speech echoes the opinions of the other panellists who argued that current media is failing to report climate change. He suggested that media should “keep up with science”, and other panellists proposed to add climate change to training programmes for journalists.

Many of the other speakers stressed the lack of training and professionals who are qualified enough to take up the role of teaching. Computer illiteracy, and the industry’s inability to offer competitive salaries and benefits for journalists are also a stumbling block for many young professionals. In addition, there is also the need to change ethical media codes, especially in response to the growing digitisation of journalism.

“Social media has funnily become a movement in Papua New Guinea,” said Alexander Rheeney, the chief of Papua New Guinea’s Post Courier. “You know, we need to have a code of ethics that can actually reflect those changes.

For this reason, in collaboration with some of the panellists, media professionals organised a Media Educators Pacific (MEP). The group, set up in June, aims to improve media training and education across all the Pacific. The group was also set in response to a neglectful Western media industry that gives little space to the Pacific region and its plurality of voices.

“We work and live in an environment where we learn and observe so much from higher education institutions in Australia and New Zealand,” said Misa Lepou, Media and Journalism lecturer at the National University of Samoa. Lepou also stressed the importance of creating a space in which local professionals could learn, produce quality content and be heard.

However, this effort shouldn’t just be one-sided. Kalafi Moala, the publisher and chief executive of the newspaper group Taimi ‘o Tonga, said that global journalists and media professionals need to include the Pacific in their agenda, too.

“I wish to emphatically call on you journalism educators and journalists from the around the world,” Moala said, “to please give us, your fellow journalists and journalism educators in our Pacific region, your kind attention.”

Journalists are keen to work hard to improve the quality of media across the Pacific area but there seems to be the need for a joint effort from media professionals around the world. This would help Pacific media grow even more, but it would also help global media to properly address the Pacific’s diversity, richness of cultures, and plurality of voices rather than resorting to an often simplistic single narrative.

By Marta Catalano