Report by Pacific Media Centre
Comment – By Kai Ping Lew
Started work yesterday at Wansolwara, the award-winning University of the South Pacific student newspaper, and met with the team of co-ordinators of the regional journalism programme in Fiji.
Tried to get our wi-fi sorted out, but no luck. I found the journalism students really helpful in getting me settled in, and really friendly.
Some of them were really passionate about the ideals of journalism, doing it as a public service, and the need to do it well. I could relate to that.
I spoke to Shailendra Singh, who is the co-ordinator of the Journalism Programme at USP. I wanted to understand why he chose to work here at the university in Fiji.
He told me that he prefers the way of life, the people, the mannerisms. It’s familiar and it’s something that he’s grown up around.
He moved his family overseas to Australia, but for himself, he chose to continue to work in Fiji, where he says many interesting things are happening.
It’s a struggle many Fijians face, as the educated portion of the population moves away in search of a faster-growing economy. It’s an issue that splits many families, as the ones who are able to find employment go abroad to greener pastures.
It’s something I can also understand, as part of a family who is in the middle of migrating to Australia to escape the very same dynamics happening in Fiji – racial inequality, government corruption, and economic stagnation.
Yet the fact that he could have moved abroad but chooses to stay in Fiji, to educate the young journalists who will play a part in shaping the path of the country while it makes its slow, meandering way… I find that selfless, and worthy of respect.
For me, it sits perpendicular my intention not to be a journalist in Malaysia, where media freedom is suppressed and journalists risk much for a poorly-paid job.
On the other hand, Shailendra may not be a journalist, but he has chosen to stay with this developing country, nurture it even as it works its way through its growing pains.
Running away, avoiding something is easy, but it takes real perseverance and tenacity continue to pursue the ideal of accountability journalism, despite the barriers placed in the way by the governments.
And it is arguably in the areas where press freedom is suppressed the most where the stories need to be told, because if the government had nothing to hide, they would have no reason to fear transparency.
For me, it’s hard to balance this continuum of wanting to be an accountability journalist, yet also wanting to be able to do so in an environment where my personal safety is not at risk from the very institutions meant to be protecting it.
Niklas Pedersen and Kai Ping Lew are postgraduate student journalists from AUT University on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course. They are in Fiji on a two-week internship with Repúblika Magazine and Wansolwara and will also file a series of reports for Pacific Scoop about their experience.