The human rights context of journalism is essential for realising all other rights, and is a timely theme for the WPFD annual celebrations, says Pacific Article19 watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum, PFF.

Speaking on this year’s World Press Freedom Day theme Robert Iroga, Pacific Freedom Forum chair said ongoing challenges for Pacific journalists will only help strengthen resolve in freedom of expression as a vital driver of human rights in the future.

“Our people must utilize this right and be permitted the freedom to express their opinions on issues of national interest including on the decisions of those who are in power.

“I believe through their views we can help to influence our leaders across the region to make sound decisions that in turn have positive effects on the lives of our people,” he said.

Micronesia co-chair Leilani Reklai of Palau said that freedom of expression is under fire especially in the Pacific but it continues to be a right to every citizen of the region and the society.

“Freedom of expression is under fire, blamed as the cause of divisiveness, of stoking conflicts, of creating new problems when it brings attention to and shines a light on discrimination, marginalization and exploitation. Stifling and censoring freedom of expression is happening in our Pacific countries under the guise of culture and traditions, religious beliefs and controlling political narratives.”

She said Independent media must keep alert and focus on being the voice of freedom.

From Polynesia, Co-Chair Katalina Tohi of Tonga says despite the advances of digital platforms for providing reach and audience for Pacific content, broadcasters will continue to be the most important voice of national audiences across island communities.

Tohi, a founding director of independent Radio broadcasting in Tonga, says it is important that people of the Pacific continue to see their issues and challenges acknowledged and addressed by their national leaders. In an age of too much information from too many sources, disrupting how people are informed, media standards, ethics, and resources will continue to be a important challenge for the sector, she said.

In celebration of the World Press Freedom Day 2023, PFF also notes the key victory of the last year being in the nation of Fiji, where the recent repeal of the Media Industry Development Act in Fiji is a major victory for media freedom in the Pacific.

“The operation of the media industry in Fiji under this draconian rule has stifled generations of journalists, and the transition to a free and truly independent media industry will not be made overnight – we celebrate the journey to a fearless, questioning industry of news leaders,” said PFF Chair Iroga.

“Today is a new dawn. A new dawn for Fiji and the Pacific in terms of media freedom,” he said.

“The right to seek, share and express opinions and information without fear is a human right and the backbone of any democracy. Today we celebrate this right, for all news platforms, but also for the people behind the news, who stand for truth and balance as the standard for reporting in the public interest.”

Founded as an online network in 2008, the Pacific Freedom Forum is an online network of practising journalists and media practitioners monitoring threats to Article 19 in the region. The network rotates the role of Chair amongst three subregional leads supported by a Coordinator – Bernadette Carreon , and our Patron, a founding Chair of the Forum and former President of PINA, Monica Miller of Samoa.

PFF is a member of the International Freedom of Expression network, IFEX, and is a volunteer network.