The Role of the Mass Media

The creation of better understanding about population and development amongst media personnel and their involvement in the planning and mainstreaming of population advoc acy policies and strategies within their respective national and regional media outlets is very important to raise the level of public awareness. For this purpose UNFPA in collaboration with the SPC organized a "Regional Media Seminar on Population a nd Development" on 9-10 December 1997. The specific objective of the Seminar was to create a greater understanding amongst key media personnel on issues relating to reproductive health, family planning and sexual health as well as on population dynam ics and its effect on the development process.

Participants of the Media 
Seminar photo

Regional Media Seminar participants

Reproductive Health

A considerable number of Pacific Islanders are still unaware of what RH/FP-SH is all about. In fact, many of these individuals (including politicians, community-leaders, health workers, traditional and religious leaders, journalists and many others) ar e still mistakenly thinking that the principle and concepts of the rather narrow spectrum of maternal child health/family planning programme are the same as those of RH/FP-SH programme. MCH (including Safe motherhood) is a component of RH/FP-SH. Male par ticipation and involvement in the promotion and implementation of RH/FP-SH programme is still low. The principles of promoting gender balance in terms of equal responsibility and opportunity is still biased towards men. Even the decision whether to pract ise or not to practise family planning by Pacific couples is made by the husbands. This gender bias is deeply rooted in most Pacific island cultures, hence it can only be resolved amicably by innovative approaches from ‘within’ (the community) rather than from ‘without’. However, the community must be given the appropriate information and education in order to enhance their ability to make well informed decisions. The RH/FP-SH programme for adolescents both in and out of school is still well under the exp ected level of development. Again, the low level of RH/FP-SH awareness among the community and cultural hurdles are among the hindering factors affecting the implementation of RH/FP-SH programmes for adolescents in the Pacific island countries.

Information Repackaging

The seminar brought together journalists in the print and radio media from 9 countries of the South Pacific to explore both the role and potential of mass media as a vehicle for population advocacy, information, education and communication. Drawing on the collective experience of Pacific Islands media personnel, the Seminar explored the role of the media in developing and packaging population materials for identified target groups and to recommend ways in which the proposed UNFPA regional sub-programme in Advocacy and IEC could enhance this potential. The meeting also provided development partners with an opportunity to forge networks with media personnel and develop effective strategies to better address population and development goals and accelerate the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.

A participatory methodology was adopted to promote active involvement, in addition to presentations and panel discussions. A major outcome of the Seminar was agreement among the participants to establish a Regional Media Advocacy Group on Reproductive Health. Mr. Kandasamy Paramanathan, former CST Adviser on Labour and Population, presently IEC Project Coordinator for SPC Population Project facilitated the Seminar. Resource persons included Mr. Gerald Haberkorn of the SPC; Mr. Najib Assifi, Adviser o n Population Advocacy, CST Kathmandu; Mr. Steven Vete, UNAIDS Inter-Country Programme Adviser and the CST Adviser on RH/FP-SH.