In the days immediately following the announcement of the launch of the Pacific Media Association (PasiMA), the question has often been raised as to why Samoa was chosen as the place to register this new organization.
Last week on August 10, several media owners and journalists from the Pacific region met in Apia to form the new association. A new constitution was formulated and registration of an Incorporated Society was sought with the Government of Samoa.
In addition to a new code of ethics for the organization and its members, a set of by-laws is being currently written to guide the conduct of the affairs of the organization.
Headed by probably the Pacific region’s most successful and experienced media owner and journalist, Samoa’s Sano Savea Malifa, the men and women that make up the organization promise to be the embodiment of PasiMA’s mission to promote and defend values of media freedom, ethics and good governance, and provide training for all media in the Pacific region.
Malifa plays a major role in the selection of Samoa as the founding ground for PasiMA.
But it is more than that. Samoa hosts some of the most effective media operations in the region – be it print, broadcasting, or on-line. And these operations are not flash-in-the-pan overnight sensations.
They have paid the price in years of covering the hard-yard. In the case of Malifa and his print media enterprise, he has suffered in previous years many obstacles, including countless lawsuits, physical attacks, the burning down of his press plant, and other disheartening inconveniences.
Samoa, however, has gone through its own quiet reform in so many facets of its political, economic, and social life. The result has been an environment conducive to the development of media freedom and journalistic professionalism.
The National University of Samoa is running a journalism school, and who knows what other educational development in media is ahead at this growing institution?
The Government of Samoa has not only given the island nation comparable political and social stability, but has been largely responsible for creating a free media environment.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has himself been a staunch supporter of media freedom. Despite having been at times scrutinized by the local media, he has been a mature and responsible leader in his response.
On the evening that marked the launch of PasiMA, Tuilaepa, despite a busy schedule, and another function he had to attend, “dropped in” and congratulated the founders of PacMA, encouraged the members in its stand for media freedom, and gave a speech that welcomed the organization.
He was especially thrilled that the new organization was founded and will be operating out of Samoa.
It was hard to think of too many other island nations in the Pacific that can match the wel- come, the hospitality, and the media freedom environment that Samoa offers.
What makes PasiMA a unique media association is that it is to be primarily driven by media owners, the journalists and media practitioners who work in the industry. Too often organizations end up being run by bureaucrats whose ties to the actual professional services provided for people are no longer there.
It is time a media association is run primarily by people who are engaged in media as part of their everyday occupation.
Another major facet of the PasiMA ethos that is fundamental to its formation and on-going practice is that of independence from the aid infrastructure in the region that often results in “funding traps” in which service organizations become entangled and unable to fulfill their mission.
Obviously, there is no organization that can survive without funding. But PasiMA has chosen to be self-funded, and allow Pacific generosity to be a sustainable provider. There will be specific projects, however, from time to time, for which the organization will seek funding assistance.
The consensus at the founding meeting was: “We will not let funding dictate our vision and mission agendas.”
So be it. PasiMA wants to be independent of what has become a very dangerous trend in NGO and regional organizational operations, which is a total dependence on donor funding agencies.
PasiMA has its work cut out, not only in re-establishing the traditional media association roles and responsibilities in the region, but also how to wisely facilitate the new realities of emerging new media, gender driven media initiatives, and the future of our industry rooted in the growing youth media practitioners that need all the encouragement and help they can get.
By Kalafi Moala