Pacific media under threat amid US-China contest, experts warn

While Fiji has repealed its draconian media law, its imprint can still be felt in the region due to the United States-China competition for power and influence in the Pacific, media experts have warned.

Under Fiji’s Media Industry Development Act (MIDA), journalists could be fined or faced a jail sentence if they published content contrary to the public or national interest.

The post-coup decree was thrown out last month in Parliament, marking the return of press freedom in Fiji after 13 years.

But the University of the South Pacific’s head of journalism, Dr Shailendra Singh, says the media is “still experiencing some major turbulence, and facing uncertain times”.

We must spend aid money on basic infrastructure while acknowledging  China can out spend us, so how can NZ maintain its influence in the Pacific while desperately countering the outrageous level of corruption China and America promotes and so many Pacific Governments revel in?

Auckland is the largest Pacific Island City and we do little to celebrate or leverage off that. We need to look at offering fundamental migration opportunities for Tuvalu, Tokelau and Kiribati who face the worst impacts of climate change but we also need to think outside the square in terms of not only countering Chinese influence but beating it.

I think two ways NZ could uniquely promote its interests into the Pacific against China could be via Rugby Diplomacy and Journalism.

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The All Blacks doing a tour of the South Pacific would actually be of huge cultural and sporting importance and something the Government should sponsor with taxpayer dollars to help subsidise the costs to the All Blacks as a sign of respect to the sporting and cultural contribution Pacific Island nations have provided NZ.

Why shouldn’t we use Rugby as a diplomatic tool to build standing throughout the Pacific? It’s something China couldn’t match and something NZ could excel at. China might build the stadiums, but they will be watching NZ Rugby in them!

Likewise Journalism. AUT run the excellent Pacific Media Centre to promote quality Journalism throughout the Pacific. What if NZ saw the promotion of quality Journalism as a craft throughout the Pacific as a strong way to counter corruption and Chinese influence? Scholarships, Pacific News Media websites, support of local ethical journalism these could be the pillars of promoting corruption free politics and holding those Governments to account.

Dr Robie, formerly founding director of AUT’s Pacific Media Centre and a professor of Pacific journalism has launched an independent news and current affairs website to complement his long-established Asia Pacific Report. His work should be promoted throughout the Pacific!

Rugby diplomacy and promotion of Journalistic standards throughout the Pacific could counter China and promote NZs strategic interests.

We can’t outspend China, but we can play a far smarter game.

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