PNG’s Masiu warns USP journalism students to defend free press

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USP student journalists Yukta Chand (left) and Viliame Tawanakoro jointly won the FBC-sponsored Most Outstanding Journalism Student of the Year award
USP student journalists Yukta Chand (left) and Viliame Tawanakoro jointly won the FBC-sponsored Most Outstanding Journalism Student of the Year award. Image: FBC News

By Monika Singh in Suva

Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of any vibrant democracy and society’s collective responsibility to safeguard and protect it, says Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Information and Communication Technology Timothy Masiu.

Masiu was chief guest at the 2023 University of the South Pacific Journalism Student Awards function held in Suva on Friday evening.

“The USP Journalism Awards not only recognises excellence in reporting, but also the commitment to ethical journalism, unbiased storytelling, and the pursuit of truth,” said Masiu.

“In an era where information flows abundantly, the responsibility of journalists to uphold these principles has never been more critical.”

USP cheque presentation
PINA president Kora Nou (left), PNG’s Minister for Information and Communication Technology Timothy Masiu and USP head of the journalism programme Dr Shailendra Singh during the cheque presentation. Image: Wansolwara News/USP

While recognising the hard work and dedication put in by the student journalists in their stories, Masiu took the time to acknowledge the challenges that journalists face in the pursuit of truth.

“Today, we recognise the hard work, dedication, and exemplary storytelling that have emerged from the vibrant and diverse community of journalists who have made their mark within USP.”

This year 16 students from the USP journalism programme were recognised for their outstanding achievements in journalism.

Sponsorship media
The awards this year were sponsored by the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), The Fiji Times, Islands Business, FijiLive and Sports World.

“The journalists we celebrate today have embraced this responsibility with vigour, showcasing the power of words and the impact they can have on shaping our world,” said Masiu.

Being a former journalist himself, Masiu said the role of journalism as the Fourth Estate could not be understated — “the role of journalism is pivotal in our society, serving as the watchdog, the voice of the voiceless, and the bridge that connects communities”.

Masiu thanked the journalism school faculty heads and mentors who have guided these aspiring journalists for their dedication in nurturing the next generation of storytellers.

“Your influence goes beyond the classroom; it shapes the future of journalism in the Pacific and beyond,” he said.

The event included presentation of a $10,000 cheque by the PNG government to the USP journalism programme as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the USP School of Journalism and the PNG National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) on June 19, 2023.

The minister described the collaboration as a testament to recognition that the exchange of knowledge, resources, and expertise was essential in nurturing the next generation of journalists who would shape the narrative of the Pacific region.

USP journalism awards founder professor David Robie
USP journalism awards founder Professor David Robie, guest speaker at the 2016 prizegiving, presents the awards. Pictured is the Storyboard Award. Image: Wansolwara

Shared training vision
Signifying more than just a formal agreement, he said the MoU represented a shared vision for the future of journalism training and mentoring in the Pacific.

“Through this collaboration, students will have the opportunity to engage with seasoned professionals, gaining insights into the ever-evolving landscape of journalism,” he said.

“I request that the USP School of Journalism or wider USP will have appropriate programmes to upskill or re-train our deserving NBC staff who are non-journalists.”

Journalism head Associate Professor Dr Shailendra Singh acknowledged the support from the PNG government for the USP Journalism Program.

Speaking about the USP Journalism Awards, Dr Singh said these were the longest running and most consistent journalism awards in the Pacific in any category.

He paid tribute to the founder of the awards in 1999, former USP journalism head Professor David Robie, adding that he wished that journalism awards would be revived in Fiji and the region.

“Journalists carry out a crucial function — sometimes it’s a thankless task. Our best journalists should be recognised and helped in their work,” said Dr Singh.

Winners of the 2023 USP Journalism Awards
Winners of the 2023 USP Journalism Awards with PNG’s Minister for Information and Communication Technology Timothy Masiu (seated centre), flanked by PINA president Kora Nou on his left and journalism programme head Associate Professor Shailendra Singh in Suva on Friday. Image: Wansolwara News

Winners of the 2023 USP Journalism Awards:

  • Most Promising First-Year student: Riya Bhagwan
  • Best News Reporting: Aralai Vosayaco and Nikhil Kumar
  • Best Radio Student: Josepheen Tarianga
  • Best Television Students: Nishat Kanti and Maretta Putri
  • Best Sports Reporting: Sera Navuga
  • Best Feature Reporting: Prerna Priyanka and Viliame Tawanakoro
  • Best Regional Reporting: Lorima Dalituicama
  • Best Online Reporting: Brittany Nawaqatabu
  • Most Outstanding Journalism Student of the Year: Yukta Chand and Viliame Tawanakoro

Awards sponsored by the Journalism Students Association:

  • Wansolwara Outstanding Reporting Award: Ema Ganivatu
  • Best Inclusive Award, Best Editorial Team, and Best Professional Award: Nikhil Kumar
  • Team player Award: Ivy Mallam
  • Students Choice Award: Andrew Naidu
  • Outstanding Social Service to USP Community: Rhea Kumar

Monika Singh is a reporter for Wansolwara, the online and print publication of the USP Journalism Programme. Republished in partnership with Wansolwara.

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