Politicians sometimes see the media as encroaching into their space, especially when issues become controversial, or sensitive.
Because of this media and politics, or politicians more generally, have had a love/hate relationship – and this is not unique to the Solomon Islands.
This sentiment was made by the Member of Parliament for East Are’are.
Speaking to Pacific Media on the theme ‘The Media and Political Leadership in a Digital Age’, Honourable Peter Kenilorea Junior said that information is power.
“From the politicians’ perspective, media has a lot of information and is relentlessly seeking even more information and this translates, in the minds of the politicians that the media has a lot of power and is always seeking even more power,” he said.
The MP further said that in this digital age, this power contest is threatening to go into overdrive and in some cases, lead to mistrust.
Mr Kenilorea went on to say that the digital age has brought in the era of instant information and this means instant power - power to sway views and opinions.
“Media has and is adapting to this digital world of information sharing and politics and politicians are perhaps caught on the back foot with the fast pace of how information is now disseminated,” Kenilorea said.
He iterated that leaders need to adapt as well on how their information can be distributed to the masses using the digital mediums at their disposal.
Mr Kenilorea mentioned that instead of shying away and even threatening to limit the rights of expression in the social media space, leaders should engage with both the media and the people directly utilizing the powerful platforms that social media presents and it’s an opportunity to speak directly to the people.
“Of course the right to freedom of expression is not absolute and the media also has ethics and professional standards and responsible reporting to uphold,” the MP stressed.
He stated that the digital age presents a fresh opportunity for media and political leaders in the pacific to take stock and engage more effectively in getting the relevant information out in a responsible manner, while allowing the media to continue to hold political leaders accountable to the people who put them in positions of power in the first place.
“Power is not contested but instead balanced in the realization that the media and political leadership need each other in the still young democratic societies that we have in the pacific,” the East Are’are MP said.
The advent of social media has introduced keyboard warriors into the fray and their own opinions and biases fired at political leaderships instantly using pseudonyms is a cause for concern.
Mr Kenilorea said that it is important to note that our pacific cultural contexts dictates that in our meetings each contributor is not faceless. We know who is contributing.
“I propose the development of guidelines that allow for engagements between the media and political leaders that strengthens the need for accurate and truthful information to be distributed to the public,” Mr Kenilorea said.
The relationship doesn’t have to be acrimonious all the time. The media and political leaders need each other to get information out to the populace.
“In the world of disinformation and fake news, there is a need to disseminate information that is as close to the truth as possible. This allows for trust and at the same time holds political leaders to account for their actions and decisions,” Mr Kenilorea said.