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Fiji Time: 11:17 AM on Saturday 19 April

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Calls for more media freedom in the Pacific

AUSTRALIA NETWORK
Saturday, February 15, 2014

Update: 6:30PM A FORMER president of the Pacific Islands News Association has appealed to members to uphold the original reason for the formation of the organisation - to defend media freedom.

Monica Miller from American Samoa says too many media organisations have abandoned PINA and it's almost like a divorce.

She says PINA no longer enjoys the confidence of many of its former members and questions whether the current leadership is serious about safeguarding media freedom.

"Are we doing our duty and will the PINA we pass on to the next generation be one that we can be proud of?" she said.

"PINA's mandate is enshrined in its constitution and, unless it is changed, protection of free speech and freedom of expression is in there."

Ms Miller led PINA for seven years in the days when it was seen as the major champion of media freedom in the Pacific.

She says PINA needs to refocus on its main objectives if it's to regain wider support.

"In divorce there is always the chance for the couple to settle their differences," she said.

"While we don't want to dwell on the past, we need to look at the causes of the breakup and fix them and make the marriage work again."

Ms Miller was speaking as part of a panel discussion at the Third Pacific Media Summit in Noumea.

The main subject of the panel talks was the importance of tuna to Pacific Island countries.

She says there are many competing issues surrounding tuna fishing in the region."So the fishing story is about jobs," she said.

"It's about food, it's about revenue our governments earn from the licences issued to foreign fishing boats to fish in our EEZ's (exclusive economic zones).

"It's about the effects of all the fishing and how the fish that are caught in our waters is processed and packed in far away countries like Taiwan and China and then comes back to us in a tin."

Overfishing concerns

Fellow panellist Robert Matau from the Suva-based Islands Business magazine has followed the tuna story closely.

His son is an engineer on a Fiji-based tuna fishing boat, which is facing an uncertain future.

Mr Matau says overfishing is a real concern.

"We have the healthiest tuna stock in the world," he said.

"There are other parts that have collapsed - there is no tuna in their oceans any more and they're trying to rehabilitate.

"If we allow this indiscriminate fishing going on we'll also collapse, we'll lose our tuna and other fish depend on the tuna family - it's a food chain.

"You know, if you let that one go it's a domino effect."