Head of Media Association Solomon Islands talks social media and reporting on COVID-19

Veteran Solomon Islands journalist, Georgina Kekea, says it has been a challenge when reporting on COVID-19. She says people are slowly adjusting to the new normal, despite the country being in a State of Emergency since March, and the ongoing travel restrictions. She says the country is now into its third phase of Public Health Emergency. There were 17 cases of COVID-19 in the Solomon Islands. Of the 17, five remain positive.

Georgina, who is President of MASI, Media Association of Solomon Islands, says there is so much focus on making sure COVID-19 does not get into the community. From a media perspective it has not always been easy to get the information out to the wider community, she adds “Getting information, it’s quite difficult for us at MASI, we are trying to be the middleman, especially when it comes to sensitive information like COVID.”

Georgina is mindful of reporting the right facts, especially with all kinds of information being disseminated on social media platforms. She says information has to be correct and it is important they get the information in a timely manner .

“It’s been quite hard trying to get the right people to speak, especially everyone’s so busy with their work, but then we’ve managed, at least we’ve been able to have press conferences with the government and get responses through radio talk back shows, so that’s how we keep ourselves updated with information.”Georgina Kekea

She acknowledges Social media plays an important role, but they adhere to checks and balances. “With Social media, there is all sorts of information that needs to be verified, we don’t just take stories at face value, we have to investigate and make sure it’s all correct.”

She adds it is not only COVID-19 they need to report on. Funds have been allocated to the stimulus package and a lot of money has been spent. She says these are issues media is also interested in, making sure the government is accountable and being transparent in how they do things.

Georgina says they are also keeping a close eye on the governments proposal of restricting access to Facebook. In November cabinet proposed the ban, due to the circulation of abusive language against Ministers, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and controversial issues being raised on the social media platform. 

It is understood the government will undertake a consultation process with the community before they enact the temporary suspension. Georgina says while MASI has had some informal discussions with members of the Ministry of Communications and Aviation, she hopes MASI will be part of the consultation process. 

“We’re not sure when, but they said they will give us a timeline if they put it into effect they will let us know a month before, two months before, but at the moment we are still enjoying our social media life on Facebook.”Georgina Kekea

Pasifika Wire, has made contact with the Solomon Islands government for comment.

Despite COVID-19 and the potential ban of Facebook, Georgina says she alongside her colleagues are looking forward to hosting the Pacific Island News Association summit in 2021. Media practitioners from across the Pacific region gather for their annual summit. The PINA summit is set to take place in February, however Georgina says it all depends on travel restrictions. She says it would be nice to reconnect face to face with colleagues rather than via a virtual meeting.

Georgina is encouraged to see the resilience of  people, adjusting to life during the pandemic. “When such things happen, people are strong, people are still going about doing their activities, but we are living in COVID times, people are still able to enjoy life and just take each day as it comes.” 

  • For authoritative information about COVID-19 in New Zealand, please visit: covid19.govt.nz
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