You featured an interesting and timely article in your on-line publication of 11 May 2010 when you published details of a Pacific regional workshop on peace building which had been held, recently, in Nadi, Fiji.
Mr Shailendra Singh, the Divisional Head of Journalism at the University of the South Pacific said, when addressing the workshop, "Because reporting conflicts was an integral and important part of journalism, journalists needed training in this area in order to do their jobs professionally and ethically." He added, "Conflict takes a terrible toll, both in terms of human suffering and misery and on national development. So news reporting should at the least be well thought out and measured rather than sensationalised."
Another comment he made was, "The masses get their information from the news media and it is crucial for journalists to disseminate information in an accurate, responsible and sensitive manner when it comes to conflicts."
Mr Shailendra's reference to accuracy would include truthfulness and, as much as the local journalists, including the SIBC, reported the early stages of the conflict which occurred in the Solomon Islands generally accurately, there were foreign based journalists such as Michael Field of AFP and Mary, Louis O'Callaghan of the Australian who filed reports bordering on defamation and with implied racist slurs when it came to commenting on my role as then Commissioner of Police.
I hope to have an opportunity of quoting their unethical reports when I address the Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner for, while I believe in a free press and the right to an individual's opinion and expression, I also consider the freedom to say what one likes cannot be absolute and a person's right not to be wrongly or unfairly maligned must be protected. Indeed most countries now have laws designed to protect the individual against the publication of material that reflects unfairly or falsely on a person's character and reputation. The collective word for such laws is defamation.
I commend the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Centre for hosting the workshop and Mr Shailendra for reminding journalists of the values and ethics of responsible news reporting.
Frank Short, CBE
Media Ethics : Conflict Reporting
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of Frank Short and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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