Graphic Fiji crash images highlight need for social media education

The Raiova family lay flowers at the accident site at Nabou, Nadroga, last week which has now claimed the lives of seven Fijians. They hoped to fulfil the wishes of their daughter, Paulini Raiova, 16, who had hoped all along to visit the site and pay respect after having witnessed on social media the wreckage caused by this tragic accident. Image: Reinal Chand/Fiji Times

By Leilani Sitagata in Auckland

A viral spread of photos and videos from last week’s fatal crash at Nabou has highlighted a need for education surrounding the use of social media in Fiji.

University of the South Pacific’s senior lecturer and coordinator of journalism Dr Shailendra Singh told Asia Pacific Report this was “not a first” for something to be spread across social media.

“It highlights a bigger problem and the lack of action to address it,” he said.

READ MORE: Family shocked at gruesome images

“There is need for a national education campaign on how to use social media in a responsible manner.”

The death toll from the tragic minivan crash now stands at seven and at least 25 people received medical treatment. Many social media postings carried gruesome close-ups of the dead victims.


Dr Singh said mainstream news outlets in Fiji did not use graphic images of the deceased because of ethical reasons.

“None of the mainstream news media carried such images because it’s against professional ethics.”

However, the public did not have the same obligations as the media when it came to what they posted on social media, said Dr Singh.

‘Not bound by rules’
“The public users of social media re not bound by any such rules or ethics.”

USP journalism student Anaseini Civavonovono said that in this digital era with the rapid evolution of technology there was an increased concern for their use.

“Smartphones allow people to stay connected always but the challenge is how (ethically) they use it.”

A big problem that comes with the connectedness of technology is the need to be first, said Civavonovono.

“The trend now is not only about geobragging, but how fast a user can update their post and being the first person to provide the update.”

Save the Children Fiji CEO Iris Low-Mackenzie said people should have more tact before sharing on social media.

“This is a sign that it’s time to evaluate our social media habits because some of the deceased are children, children who belong to families, who have friends and a whole network around them, and to be circulating these horrific videos is very inhumane and insensitive.”

Posts upsetting
Family member of one of the young men who survived the car crash Kasanita Bilitaki told Asia Pacific Report it was upsetting to see the many posts about the tragic event.

“I felt so disgusted by those who were posting graphic images and videos on social media, even before the families knew about the crash had the audacity to do that.”

“It was as if our morals as itaukei went quickly out the door for a few likes on social media.”
Bilitaki said she was thankful that her cousin Jacob Vunicagi was recovering in hospital, but said her family was saddened by the spread of explicit posts on Facebook.

“They were disappointed that people went through all that effort to post up graphic images about the other victims that died instantly.”

Harvard University student and intern for UNICEF Pacific Sruthi Palaniappan witnessed the accident and said although she was in shock, that did not stop her from trying to help.

‘Tried my best’
“I tried my best to help by assisting a woman out of a car, calling the ambulance, and providing water and a towel that I had.

“I remember feeling so helpless in the moment as no one around me was a trained medical professional and I wanted to do more to help but did not know how.”

Since the tragic event, Palaniappan said she was compelled to start a GoFundMe page to raise funds to support those affected.

“The lives of these families will never be the same.

“My heart goes out to the affected families, and I wish them all the strength.”

Leilani Sitagata is a reporter for the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch project.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Fake news’ and millennials’ lack of media judgment a challenge, says leading Indian academic

By David Robie in Manipal, India

“Fake news” combined with a lack of critical media judgment by many in the millennial generation is a major challenge to democracies across the world, says a leading Indian communication academic.

Speaking at the 26th annual conference of the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) conference with the theme “Disturbing Asian millennials: Some creative responses”, Professor Bharthur Sanjay, pro vice-chancellor of the University of Hyderabad, said the vulnerability of some states in the face of the social media crisis had led to a default response of shutting down the internet in “volatile contexts”.

In the case of India and some states, efforts to formally regulate fake news with legislated responses were withdrawn.

Papua New Guinea is an example of an Asia-Pacific country where a government minister has threatened to shut down Facebook for a month to research so-called “fake accounts”.

Professor Sanjay did not mention Papua New Guinea but he said the implications were wide-ranging for Asia-Pacific countries. Papua New Guinea is due to host APEC in November.

The WhatsApp social media platform – widely used throughout Asia – was cited as a leading outlet for disseminating fake news.

“Fake news” is a misleading term because of its wide-ranging intepretations, says Professor Sanjay of the University of Hyderabad, at AMIC2018. Image: David Robie/PMC


“Fake news is a bit of a misleading term, as fake news can mean many things – a mistake, intentional misleading, twisting a news story, or fabricating a complete lie,” Dr Sanjay said.

Fake accounts damage
In the opening address at the host Manipal University (MAHE) in Karnataka, South India, Dr Sanjay said that while news media organisations and credible journalists had been found to publish misleading stories and mistakes, the most damage was done by people with fake social media profiles, polarising websites, and social media sites seeking to intentionally spread fake news to win elections or promote hatred.

Formal education contexts featured debates about the public sector, commercialisation and privatisation while a “default faith” was placed on new media that could virtually bring “handheld” education to the millennials.

This was a field that the public and private education sector intended to reach out to through online education and learning tools and options, said Dr Sanjay.

He said the euphoric underpinnings of the digital era in the Asia-Pacific and its subregions of ASEAN countries, South Asia and the Southeast Asia had parallels in the colonial and postcolonial periods with a technocentric dimension.

Dr Sanjay said online Indian language context was expected to reach about 60 percent.

Digital destinations across genres would capitalise on the profile that was non-English.

Information was considered an enabling and empowering input.

The speed with which it travels through multiple platforms has raised concerns about legacy media content through adaptation or user-generated content, Dr Sanjay said.

Higher trust
Apart from ethics, the legacy media enjoyed higher trust based on its screening and verification processes.

User-generated content reflected a paradigm shift that in theory allowed higher participation.

The millennials profile was not uniform across countries and the kind of content had come into sharper focus.

A critique of the content was an issue for both academic discourse and legal and regulatory frameworks, Dr Sanjay said.

Extension models of higher education seemed to suggest that they could be tapped to bring skilled youth into the workplace.

Speakers in the opening AMIC2018 plenary on “Millennials – concept of democracy: Freedom of expression for all v. Freedom of expression for themselves”. Image: Pacific Media Centre

AMIC chairman Professor Crispin Maslog of the Philippines said the millennials were the largest such generation in history – “and we ‘centennials need to understand them’.”

“There are some 1.8 billion out of the 7 billion global population – and they love smart phones. Of that 1.8 billion, 600 million are Asian.”

Redefining millennial life
Millennials, sometimes known as the “echo boomers”, are generally regarded as the 16 to 34-year-olds – the “digital natives’ who are not just consumers of media, but produce their own media content.

Globalisation, migration and technology are some of the major factors redefining the millennials’ way of life.

Pacific Media Centre’s Professor David Robie speaking in a plenary session at the AMIC2018 conference. Image: AMIC2018

Most of the 200 academics from 15 countries at the conference presented papers on millennials education research and innovative case stories.

Themes explored included “Branding millennials – defining identity”, “A passion for technology – living in a social media world”, “News and current affairs as consumption (or creation) practices”, “evolving gender representation in the new mediascape”, and “Research and data management – today’s cutting edge competencies”.

One of the conference highlights was a “Free/Dem” panel dialogue and presentation about communication for and by young people in practice.

Giving Indian girls from poor communities a technology chance in life … Summi of FAT speaking at AMIC2018. Image: David Robie/PMC

Deepika and Summi, programme associates of India’s Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT), gave inspiring addresses in Hindi about how their movement had worked across the continent to give girls in poverty-hit communities the opportunity to work with computers and learn technical skills.

“When I saw people using computers, I wanted to be able to do the same,” said Summi, a 13-year-old from a very poor urban neigbourhood where girls never got an opportunity.

“Now I am able to help other girls to do the same.”

One of the performers in the Yakshagana Kendra cultural show at AMIC2018. Image: David Robie

Creative communication and culture were also major parts of the programme, including an episode of Jataaya Moksha performed by MAHE’s creative arts school Yakshagana Kendra.

Launching a report on “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development“, New Delhi-based national UNESCO programme officer Anirban Sarma, said that while new media had expanded freedoms and communication beyond the media, there had also been “increasing incursions into proivacy and an expansion of mass and arbitrary surveillance”.

“The rise of new forms of political populism as well as what have been seen as authoritarian policies are important developments,” says the report based on a survey of 131 countries.

“Citing a range of reasons, including national security, governments are increasingly monitoring and also requiring the take down of information online, in many cases not only relating to hate speech and content seen to encourage violent extremism, but also what has been seen as legitimate political positioning.”

Asia communication awards

AMIC2018 Asian Communication Award co-winner Charlie Agatep … critical of the “digital acrobats” who swept President Rodrigo Duterte to power. Image: David Robie/PMC

Filipino Charlie Agatep – a public relations guru in Asia – made a passionate video plea for more courageous, rigorous and accurate journalism as an antidote for “fake news”.

He was also critical of the “digital acrobats” who swept Rodrigo Duterte into the presidency in 2016 and who still manipulates and distorts public opinion in the Philippines.

Agatep founded the PR agency Agatep Associates in 1988 and transformed it into Grupo Agatep Inc., the largest marketing and digital (social media) communication agency in the Philippines.

He was one of two AMIC Asia Communication Award in Transformative Leadership recipients for 2018.

The other was Manila-based Father Franz-Josef Eilers, an inspirational Catholic church and social justice communicator of the Society of Divine Word (SVD).

The conference was hosted by MAHE’s School of Communication whose director Professor Padma Rani, thanked ZEE television, UNESCO and the many sponsors and her “fabulous” faculty team for the successful outcome.

Next year’s conference will be hosted by Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.

  • The Pacific Media Centre’s Professor David Robie addressed the opening plenary panel on “Millennials’ concept of democracy: freedom of expression for all v. freedom of expression for themselves” and delivered a paper on the expanding notions of “Pacific way” journalism.

A brief clip from a community journalism promotion video produced for the Manipal University School of Communication and screened at the university’s “experimental theatre”.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

USP celebrates 50 years and leads research action on climate change

Bearing Witness crew Blessen Tom and Hele Ikimotu’s video story of USP’s ongoing 50th anniversary celebrations and climate change. Video: AUT Pacific Media Centre

By Hele Ikimotu with visuals by Blessen Tom in Suva

This year, the University of the South Pacific is celebrating 50 years since its opening in Fiji in  1968.

The university’s first campus was established in Suva, with a student count of 200 – it now accommodates over 30,000 students across the different campuses within the Pacific region.

USP has campuses in 12 different Pacific nations – Fiji, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Chandra said USP has made a positive contribution to the Pacific region, including contributions in human resources, policy change and research.

He described the university as being “owned by the Pacific and serves the Pacific”. Professor Chandra emphasised the need for these Pacific countries to work together in advocating for Pacific issues.


“As small countries, we need to work together. One is simply too small to be playing in the big world out there. We need to put all of our voices together. We need to co-operate, work together and integrate,” he said.

Professor Chandra also spoke highly of USP’s efforts in tackling the issue of climate change.

Leading stand
Over the years, the university has become one of the leading tertiary institutions to make a stand against the issue.

Vice-Chancellor Rajesh Chandra speaks to USP journalism students in a training media conference about the 50th anniversary of the regional Pacific university. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

“The university has played this role of researching, advocating, supporting policies and disseminating knowledge around climate change,” said Professor Chandra.

The USP journalism school for example is consistently producing stories on climate change issues in their student newspaper Wansolwara. They have also partnered with AUT’s Pacific Media Centre to host two students every year for the Bearing Witness climate change journalism project.

This has seen significant stories about the effect climate change has had on communities in Fiji such as the award-winning multimedia story produced by Kendall Hutt and Julie Cleaver last year about Tukuraki village.

“I am also proud of the USP students. They have gone to the various COPs and have supported their own countries and have become senior advisers to their governments.

“I am quite proud and happy because the climate is central to the survival and prosperity of our country.”

The university’s 1999 strategic plan also saw the establishment of the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD).

Raising awareness
The centre was opened to implement more research of the region’s environment and has continued to raise awareness about climate change and sustainable development in the Pacific.

PaCE-SD offers a postgraduate programme in climate change, with currently 200 students across the Pacific enrolled in the programme.

The centre also implements community projects around climate resilience in the Pacific and has been involved in major projects such as the Community Coastal Adaptation Project (C-CAP) and the Future Climate Leaders Programme (FCLP1).

Since the centre has been established, it has been recognised as a strong part of the university’s fight against climate change and environment research in the Pacific.

PaCE-SD director Professor Elisabeth Holland said it was important to be on the ground making a difference in the Pacific region and local communities.

Bearing Witness reporter Hele Ikimotu, speaks with Elisabeth Holland about the climate change work of PaCE-SD. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

Deputy director of the centre Dr Morgan Wairiu echoed Professor Holland and said the focus of PaCE-SD was helping communities adapt to the changes in the environment because of climate change.

He said it was also important to provide students with the right skills to help them in their areas of research so they could come up with effective solutions to help communities affected by climate change.

PaCE-SD deputy director Dr Morgan Wairiu … providing the right mix of skills for students. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

Community projects
Professor Holland said: “We run community development projects. We have a locally managed climate change adaptation network that extends to more than 100 communities in 15 countries across the Pacific.”

She said that by listening to how communities were affected by climate change, it had taught their team to listen better and develop a more participatory approach in decision making.

“We have the opportunity to learn from one another and if we’re learning from one another, we’re in a partnership to serve whatever problem is in front of us.”

Professor Holland encourages anyone who is interested in learning about climate change to keep an open mind and said: “Don’t assume you know what the answer is.

“The strongest solutions are those developed together. The fundamental values of participatory listening and respect help solve most of the challenges that come up.”

Hele Ikimotu and Blessen Tom are in Fiji as part of the Pacific Media Centre’s Bearing Witness 2018 climate change project. They are collaborating with the University of the South Pacific.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

UST journalism teams up with Asia Pacific Report coverage on Philippines

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: UST journalism teams up with Asia Pacific Report coverage on Philippines

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UST Journalism programme coordinator Assistant Professor Jeremaiah Opiniano speaking on innovative education changes for journalists in the Philippines. Image: Genelaine Urbano/TW

The oldest journalism school in the Philippines, at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, has joined the Pacific Media Centre’s Asia Pacific Report current affairs project launched last year.

Students and staff filed their first two stories this week for the innovative website published in partnership with Evening Report.

Roy Abrhamn Narra and Carlo Casingcasing reported an exclusive story showing how Canada’s latest global terrorism blacklists were tagging the Philippines as having the third highest number of “individual terrorists” behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq while journalism coordinator Assistant Professor Jeremaiah M. Opiniano covered Philippines Environment Secretary Regina Lopez’s crackdown on mining companies in a bid to encourage a “green economy”.

Twenty three mining companies have been been served with closure notices and  five others face suspensions. One company involved has assets in New Zealand.

Opiniano was pleased with the collaboration and said UST was working towards a more comprehensive partnership with the PMC and School of Communication Studies.

Professor David Robie, director of the PMC and editor of Asia Pacific Report, welcomed the development, saying: “We are delighted to have UST on board and their input will help boost coverage of the Philippines, especially with more depth.”

He said that since the live feed of the Philippines presidential election last year, the website had experienced a strong Filipino interest and this was reflected by the growing audience among the Philippines diaspora in New Zealand.

Asia Pacific Report also collaborates with other journalism schools around the region, including at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji and Wansolwara newspaper.