The Pacific Freedom Forum group says Australian government budget cuts to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation sends a chilling message to the region.
The cuts to the ABC were announced last week in the government’s latest budget, including the termination of a contract to run the Asia Pacific television service Australia Network.
“This sends a chilling message to the people of the region – their access to independent news and information does not matter to Australia anymore,” said PFF Chair Titi Gabi.
The Pacific media freedom advocacy group says the axing of Australia Network is evidence that Australia’s ruling party placed little value in a free media
“Their campaign promise not to cut funding for the ABC, now broken, represents a failure of imagination in what is supposed to be an information age,” said Titi Gabi.
Concerns have also been raised about possible cuts to ABC Radio Australia’s services in the Pacific.
PFF co-chair Monica Miller says that despite increased access to the internet, radio remains the most widely used media source, especially for remote Pacific Islands.
With news from public broadcasters across the Pacific Islands, mostly controlled or censored by their governments, Ms Miller said that the ABC was a rare source of news that could be relied upon.
“Australia’s government is basically saying we don’t need independent facts to make wise choices about our future choices.”
“This leaves our islands increasingly isolated and vulnerable to potential mismanagement and corruption that stems from a lack of scrutiny.”
She said there was also a danger that island governments would take the cuts in Australia to reduce what little support there was for their own public broadcasters.