Friday, December 4, 2009

Stopping AIDS means stopping myths: Pacific ‘media myth busters’ initiative begins with HIV/AIDS

For immediate release: 1 December 2009, Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS: Three Pacific journalists have been part of a new ‘media myth busters’ initiative launched this week by the Pacific WAVE Media Network. FM news network director Titi Gabi of Papua New Guinea and television documentary producer Shona Pitt of the Cook Islands feature in the media myth buster’s inaugural brochure which folds out into a full colour poster.
After its online debut, the poster will make its way as a full-colour print version into Pacific newsrooms.
Lisa Williams-Lahari, a founding member of WAVE who also leads the networks advocacy on gender and HIV/AIDS, says the peer-advocacy initiative aims to make the most of real experiences from Pacific contexts. She says journalists responding to a WAVE online survey earlier this year, had identified newsroom resources as something they would like to see more of.
“World AIDS Day is more than bumping up programs, advertising and content for 24 hours or a few days in December. It can also provide a space for journalists to talk about what they are getting right in coverage – and share ideas on how we fix what needs fixing,” says Williams-Lahari.
“Media myth busters essentially allow us a non-confronting way to start challenging the way we see and report our worlds. Tapping into personal experience, especially based on professional experience, is just an idea we wanted to develop in a cost-effective way. We had interest from our male colleagues in being part of this project but with daily news deadlines it’s hard to keep advocacy a priority. We’re pleased to begin the initiative with HIV/AIDS and aim to keep up the momentum on other issues where myth busting is also important,” she says.
“Speculation and myths often emerge when people don’t have access to the facts,” says Papua New Guinea journalist Titi Gabi.
Gabi addresses the myth of miracle healings via new remedies or evangelical healing, challenging news colleagues to get medical balance to stories on miracle cures for HIV/AIDS to help save lives.
She shares her insights and advice alongside TV Documentary producer Shona Pitt who deals with the perception of abstinence being the key factor why cases are not being reported in smaller Pacific nations such as the Cook Islands, where she says, “The conditions for HIV/AIDS to spread, really fast, are already in place.”
Assumptions around gender being all about women also need to be dealt with, and form the third myth ‘busted’ by Williams-Lahari.
“It will be good to see media myth buster resources in a lot of other areas and events, and we are developing our VAW, climate change, and media freedom myth busters for 2010,” she says.
Support came from four key partners in getting a campaign on HIV/AIDS off the ground. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcast Development (AIBD), and UNESCO helped get WAVEmedia members to some brainstorming meetings in July, during the AIBD‘s first Pacific conference in Nadi. Thanks to the Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation, (PIAF) the group attended a post-conference workshop on HIV/AIDS and developed the resource from there with a small grant from PIAF.
View the posters above, and to update your mailing details or send a request to increase the allotted numbers of 2 per newsroom, send comment and feedback to before December 10th.

Pacific Women in the Media Action Plan and link to Section J (Women and the media) of the Beijing Declaration

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