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UN body highlights needs for media freedom in Pacific region

(Xinhua)

13:27, April 30, 2012

SUVA, April 30 (Xinhua) -- The Suva-based UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for the Pacific on Monday highlighted needs for media freedom in the islanders region.

In a release on the topic of the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, OHCHR regional representative Matilda Bogner said that Pacific media, for the most part, is free to actively debate and discuss issues and express opinions. However, the region is by no means immune to restrictions on press freedom.

The situation for some journalists in the Pacific is tenuous and in some countries a decline has been observed in recent years, while political upheaval in Fiji and Papua New Guinea, along with more subtle political agendas in a range of countries, have shown that press freedom is indeed a delicate flower in the Pacific, says Bogner.

She stressed that it needs to be nurtured in order to grow.

According to the UN official, "some stark attacks on press freedom have arisen out of the current political impasse facing Papua New Guinea."

Press freedom in Fiji is also a serious concern, despite the January removal of Public Emergency Regulations (PER), which restricted the right to public assembly and freedom of expression and gave the authorities broad powers of arrest and detention.

Earlier, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has welcomed the lifting of the PER in Fiji as a step in the right direction and encouraged the Fiji Government to build on the momentum with concrete steps to ensure full respect for the rule of law and human rights.

Despite this, however, it appears that a culture of self- censorship continues to exist for journalists in Fiji, says Bogner, adding "a preliminary media content analysis conducted recently by my office, comparing Fiji's two main daily newspapers, the Fiji Times and the Fiji Sun, before and after the lifting of the PER, suggests that there has been no distinguishable change in the level of criticism of the Fiji Government observed in either newspaper."

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