Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS–Regional article 19 media watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum, PFF, has lauded recent efforts by Pacific leaders to engage more fully with journalists.

This month in Papua New Guinea, Prime Minister James Marape engaged in frank sharing, dialogue and information exchange with newsroom journalists and practitioners.

At the recently ended UN Climate Summit in New York City, Kiribati President Taneti Mamao invited and hosted journalists covering the UN General Assembly and Climate Summit proceedings to an open-forum on the record session.

“There’s a long way to go yet, but it’s a milestone moment when a Pacific leader takes the initiative we’ve seen in recent weeks,” says PFF Chair Bernadette Carreon, from Palau. “It’s especially positive to see proactive engagement by the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister to hear from working journalists of the challenges they are facing and the challenges of everyday life their stories reflect.”

PFF Melanesia Co-Chair Ofani Eremae says the tone and willingness of the Papua New Guinea leader “to listen to journalists rather than do all the talking, is a refreshing sign of a leader who isn’t threatened by being held to account. Marape has shown all his Forum leaders how a session with journalists is an easy opportunity to truly understand how people on the streets perceive their elected officials”.

News that Kiribati President Taneti Mamao opened up time in his busy schedule to invite journalists to a news conference at the Kiribati mission in New York recently has also been welcomed by PFF. From American Samoa, Polynesia co-chair Monica Miller says the conference, the first by Mamao in his role as President, “will hopefully lead to more frank conversations between journalists and those who need to accept media access to elected leaders as a fact of democracy.”