Delivered through British Council New Zealand, Valuing Voices is an EU funded innovative arts-in-development and freedom of expression project to support human rights advocacy in relation to Fiji’s international commitments to media independence.
The project recently got off to a flying start, beginning with a workshop on ‘Investigative and Inclusive Reporting in Fragile Democracies’ for around 38 commercial journalists and freelancers.
This three-day training module, held in the East and West of Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, signals the launch of a three-month investigative and inclusive story-gathering exercise, in line with a peace journalism approach.
Led by celebrated Pakistani-New Zealand journalist and academic Dr Rukhsana Aslamkhan, with support and participation from the mainstream media in Fiji alongside the Media Industry Development Authority, the journalists grappled with real-time issues and explored the challenges around freedom of speech and responsible journalism.
The timing of the workshops coincided with a head-to-head meeting between civil society groups in Fiji and the government over the closure of a proposed dialogue on the sugar industry, a highly contentious issue in Fiji due to disputes over land.
Under Chatham House Rules, the journalists were able to analyse the events leading up to the stand-off during the workshop, in which they compared a normal conflict-based approach with a peace journalism approach. The latter approach takes into account the political economy, wider context, and multiple perspectives and discourse in order to mitigate against any potential conflict arising between stakeholders.
After completing the module, Ellen Stolz, from the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation explained how the workshop had positively impacted on her role as a journalist:
“It has motivated me to be more than just another reporter and go after the hard-hitting stories and ask tough questions” she said. “It has given me a new perspective on how the media can heal.”
During the workshop, participants also had a chance to cover several other topics including how to cover stories involving children, reporting on gender violence, and exposing the facts about non-communicable diseases.
Following on from the peace journalism training, master classes on using social media for advocacy will be held to reflect the diversity of voices and opinions across the country.
You can find out more about the Valuing Voices project via their Facebook page.