Today the world remembers the importance of a free and independent media as the cornerstone of thriving and healthy democracies. For our developing and developed nations of the Blue Pacific continent, the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day is also an opportunity to acknowledge the role of journalists whose first rule is to uphold the news creed – to tell the truth without fear or favour, to serve the public interest, to hold power to account.

For our Forum leaders, the primacy and importance of independent reporting and communication of Forum decisions goes back to our beginnings. One of the key decisions in those early years more than five decades ago was the mandate to communicate, recognising the benefits of sharing information about the Leaders meetings and decisions.

I am pleased to note our strong relationship with Pacific media continues to this day. Across our key regional Leader meetings, we actively partner with and brief news journalists to ensure quality reporting of the issues shaping our world. We recognise that editorial independence and quality journalism rely on strong access to facts, information, and certainty.

The watchdog and public interest role of the press as the fourth estate complementing the other three- the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary, has never been more important to public accountability, transparency, and good governance. Together, they ensure engaged, active, and informed Pacific citizens. This level of empowerment sets the basis for a Pacific future that is safe, secure, and peaceful.

From the Biketawa Declaration on Good Governance to the Boe Declaration on Regional Security and the Teainiwa Vision on Anti-Corruption, our Leaders are demonstrating their understanding that independent and free media are part of the work we do.

The digital age, amidst times of COVID and climate crisis, has also brought a new layer of transformative disruption and opportunity. A free, thriving, and diverse Pacific press is a key partner to our Blue Pacific strategy to 2050.

Today we can all celebrate the independence and impact of quality news journalism led by news and media practitioners across the Pacific and globally. Despite often harsh work conditions, they continue a calling for a news agenda of truth, transparency, and accountability.

The global rights-based theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day is a timely recognition that in serving the public interest, the journalist is often the implementing arm of the people’s right to know. Independent truth telling and investigation is not an easy or popular calling. World Press Freedom Day allows us to reiterate the safety and the rights of journalists, particularly women in journalism. Without this ability to do their work without fear or favour, we cannot count on the facts that matter, that stand out in a world of fake news, misinformation, and noise.

Today, I join those who pay tribute to all journalists who frame the stories of our times in the timeless values of truth, balance, and our collective right to know.

Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.