PIF Secretary General Henry Puna
‘Reporting on Integrity & Anti-Corruption in the Pacific’
PINA 2nd CEO Summit, September 15 and 16, 2021
Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Hon. Manasseh Sogavare,
Ms Makereta Komai, General Manager, PINA and Editor, PacNews,
Ms Katalina Tohi, PINA Vice President, and your fellow executives,
Mr Samisoni Pareti, Coordinator of the Pacific Anti-Corruption Journalist Network
Chief executives of Pacific media organisations, and your colleagues,
Friends, Kia Orana, Hapinun olgeta wantoks, ni sa Bula vinaka, thank you for the invitation to address this 2nd CEO PINA summit.
From the Forum Secretariat in Suva, to your special hybrid session in Tavanipupu, Solomon Islands, to your regional PINA secretariat and trainers in Suva, Fiji and across all corners of the Pacific, I trust this finds you all safe, and vaccinated—if not now, then soon. May I also express condolences to those who have lost colleagues, family, and friends to the pandemic and its devastating impact on us all.
As the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, I am aware this is the first opportunity for your Pacific CEO summit, the grouping of Pacific Media Leaders, to hear from the secretariat for our Pacific Forum Leaders. Let me affirm the important partnership role your news organisations play, especially as one regional media body through PINA.
And noticing this is our 50th anniversary year for the Pacific Islands Forum, may I also congratulate the Pacific Islands News Association and partners for this activity. The secretariat stands ready to continue our work together as we both serve the interests of our Pacific people, especially through these disruptive and defining times.
I will honour this occasion, and the fact you are news leaders, by getting to the first rule of your industry, to Keep It Short and Sweet—and sharing just three key points for your consideration.
First, reporting Integrity and Anti-Corruption is a long, long game. In February 2020, as the former Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, I was pleased to be in Kiribati with Forum Leaders and Ministers to endorse a new regional commitment against corruption, called the Teieniwa Vision. There are threads of the Teieniwa vision through other regional commitments – think of the Biketawa Declaration, also from Kiribati, and the principles it contains for Good governance. The Boe Declaration on regional security, from Nauru in 2018 reinforces the need to ensure good governance and rule of law under an expanded concept of security. At their Forum Retreat in February this year, Leaders decided it was time to pull those threads together and give them regional power. They endorsed the adoption of the Teieniwa Vision as the Forum’s regional commitment to progress Pacific unity against corruption.
As executive leaders of our regional Pacific media, you are well aware that the moment where the signatures are done, and Leaders walk away is the point at which the real work begins. And anti-corruption work can be painstakingly slow, requiring collaboration from parts of our societies that may not necessarily want to work together. Those of you who started your news business from inside a newsroom are already nodding or smiling. Being an anti-corruption partner is a long game—and just like the image of Teieniwa, a journey in resilience. Between the milestone moments, the changes may seem incremental, the barriers insurmountable, and the delays inevitable. But remember that peace, justice, access to information, they thrive in strong institutions. This includes all parts of society, including the fourth estate. It is important to lean into the strength you gain from regional solidarity, and to be frank and realistic about what you can do alone, what you can do together, and what resources you need. What role does your news organisation play in realising a Pacific future free from corruptive influences and practice? What part does this meeting play in that future? The challenge sits with you.
Second, reporting Integrity and Anti-Corruption begins within. Your news organisations, or those you pay to run them, may be well known for their public service value and independent coverage. Some of the organisations here are more than a hundred years old. Others less than a decade. But as you continue to champion integrity and anti-corruption, be prepared to turn the questions inwards. I know many of your journalists agree to individual integrity and ethics standards in your newsrooms. But what of your business ethics and responsibilities to your workers? To your communities, and to your regional body? Holding up the spotlight for Integrity and anti-corruption provides an opportunity to apply those values for transparency, strong governance, and clear rules for reporting, on ourselves and on each other.
Again, the challenge sits with you.
Finally, don’t just go for keeping our Pacific people informed. Please, keep them engaged. Keep them talking – long after you leave them, about the decisions and issues already shaping their lives, and our common one Blue Pacific future. We have not seen a regional instrument that captures right to information and good governance commitments in such a clear and accessible way. Thank you for working to keep the faith of the Teieniwa Vision. It needs to be better known. Take it to the countries that signed it and grow the conversations from there. Think about what the leaders wanted when they adopted this as their vision to unite against corruption. Set the standards for your own vision –as Leaders in Pacific media—of the Teieniwa legacy you will leave for tomorrows media leaders.
And as I leave with that final challenge, friends, may I wish you all a blessed and productive 2nd CEO Summit and workshop.
Vinaka vakalevu, tagio tumas—I thank you. –ENDS
Checked against delivery, 14th September 2021