WJEC16: Samoan media face challenges on free speech journey

Misa Vicky Lepou (centre) with Media Educators Pacific (MeP) colleagues ... hoping that the challenges faced by Samoan media will provide valuable lessons for the industry to make changes. Image: NUS

The challenges faced by working journalists in Samoa to ensure freedom of speech will be discussed in a presentation from a leading academic from the South Pacific nation.

Head of the media and communication department at the National University of Samoa, Misa Victoria Lepou, will attend the World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) this week.

WJEC wide logo 150wideShe will present her paper “Samoan journalists’ journey of free speech vs media laws and hopes the research she brings to the congress will benefit other academics attending the event.

Misa hopes that the challenges faced by Samoan media will provide valuable lessons for the industry to make relevant changes.

The paper explores the historic struggle of one major publisher in Samoa to report on “official corruption and abuses of power”, and the recent re-establishment of the Journalists Association of (Western) Samoa (JAWS) and a Media Council.

Misa says she wanted to “share Samoa’s interpretation of how journalism is being challenged by its way of life”, and has been researching the topic for the past eight months.

“There was a lack of locally produced literature, so I felt there should be more research done to teach our own students,” she adds.

Since starting her research, Misa says there have been changes in codes of ethics in the country.

“The Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS) funded an initiative donating over $100,000 worth of equipment, as well as funding from UNESCO to fund our campus radio station to enhance training at the university to balance the quality of journalism in newsroom practices,” explains Lepou.

“As well as this, the newly set up Media Council which is still in progress awaiting the national association to set it up.”

The former print and broadcast journalist, who has been a lecturer for nine years, is looking forward to meeting fellow researchers at the WJEC.

“The opportunity to network, learn and share experiences with journalism educators is not always a privilege that comes around very often for the Pacific region,” says Misa.

“I felt this would be the appropriate time to make our voices heard and address our own challenges from this part of the region, other than New Zealand and Australia.”

As president of the new Media Educators Pacific (MeP), Misa is working in collaboration with AUT’s Pacific Media Centre and the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) to produce a special Pacific preconference on July 13 and an edition of Pacific Journalism Review dedicated to journalism education in the Asia-Pacific region.

Misa has been assisted to the WJEC conference by the UNESCO National Commission for New Zealand.

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