Fiji and Solomon Islands dominated the inaugural Pasifika Environews awards, which is a collaboration between the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), Internews Earth Journalism Network (EJN), Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC), and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
The awards honour exemplary reporting on environment, ocean, and climate change in the Pacific. The winners were announced by the President of the Republic of the Fiji Islands, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere in Suva Wednesday 08 June 2023 to celebrate World Ocean Day.
Winner of the OPOC Best Ocean Story, Fijian journalist Vijay Narayan submitted an editorial campaign on the proposed FJD$600million(US$300 million) tourism investment project on Suva’s Queen Elizabeth Drive by Tian Lun Investment Limited that prompted the Fijian Government to take action against the company.
“It is our duty as journalists to highlight issues of concern and to effect change that will benefit the people of our country and our environment,” Narayan said. “It was not an easy task to keep pushing for answers and to seek the truth on this critical issue. In the end, the Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources has revoked the development lease, highlighting serious concerns and breaches. We still have a lot of work to do to ensure that there is a clear balance in protecting our environment and development.”
Solomon Islands based investigative journalist Charley Piringi won the SPREP Best Environment story for his investigative piece on mining in Guadalcanal.
“As an environmental and investigative journalist, this is one of the stories I am so keen on working on. It took me six months to work on the story alone,” he says. “Gathering information for the story was challenging especially when there were officials who were not so willing to share information, and there was also the challenge of traveling down to remote Guadalcanal where the mining operation was happening. I traveled two times to the remote village for interviews, and at some point, I was not allowed to enter the mine site to do my work. Simply, it is not easy working on environmental stories that involve mining and logging in the country.”
Islands Business International journalist, Sera Sefeti was a runner up in the SPREP Best Environment story for her piece on the plight of Moce Island villagers, in the Lau Group in Fiji following the volcanic eruption in Tonga last year.
“Writing environmental stories concerning climate change, ocean or atmosphere is a passion of mine because these are issues that affect all humans,” Sefeti said. “The pain, the suffering, the resilience, and the depth of our people deserve to be told. I was inspired to write this story because this is one of the most remote islands in Fiji and their stories are hardly highlighted because of their remoteness.
“When I got there, I was pleasantly surprised to hear their stories and the different emotions people felt even they all experienced the same event. I was empowered by their stories, challenged by their resilience, inspired by their sustainable practices, and humbled by their acts of community and rich cultural practices.
“Who else will tell the stories of people than one of our own?”
Makereta Komai, Pacific Islands News Association(PINA) Manager and PACNEWS Editor, commended the winners and journalists who submitted entries.
“We were impressed with the quality of the entries received from journalists across the region. We thank our partners – Internews Earth Journalism Network, Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme for supporting this inaugural Pasifika Environews Awards,” Komai said.
The winners of the three main categories will each receive USD$1,000 prize money while the runners-up will each receive USD$500.
The winners of the Pasifika Environews Awards are:
•SPREP Best Environment Story – Charles Piringi, Solomon Islands
•Runner Up- Sera Sefeti, Fiji Islands
•OPOC Best Ocean Story- Vijay Narayan, Fiji Islands
•Runner Up- Ben Bilua, Solomon Islands
•Pasifika Environews Best Climate Change Story- Moffat Mamu Ghala, Solomon Islands
•Runner Up- Irwin Angiki, Solomon Islands.