| Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch | Extract
AUCKLAND - The shock announcement yesterday that the Australian Associated Press newsagency will cease operations after 85 years is a blow to journalism in Australia and the Pacific.
AAP, which is owned by Nine, News Corp Australia, The West Australian and Australian Community Media, provided services to media companies such as newswires, subediting and photography will close with the loss of 500 jobs – 180 of them journalists.
“This is a tragic end to one of the world’s best news agencies, one that has contributed so much to the first draft of history in Australia for 85 years,” says Professor David Robie, director of the Pacific Media Centre.
“It’s a great tragedy and a huge loss for all those talented journalists – reporters, editors and photographers – who have been on the AAP frontline.
“AAP has also played a crucial role in the Pacific, reporting political crises, disasters and social change through two key news bureaux in Port Moresby and Suva for many years.
“Just as the closure of NZPA in 2011- after 132 years – left a gaping hole in New Zealand international coverage, this will be another disaster for Australian public interest journalism.”
Senior lecturer and co-ordinator of journalism at the University of the South Pacific, Dr Shailendra Singh lamented the loss of AAP at a time when Pacific governments are clamping down on the media.
“The demise of AAP is tragic and damaging. The Pacific has lost another source of independent reporting. The timing couldn’t be worse,” said Dr Singh.
“There is a clear trend across the Pacific of erosion of the Fourth Estate as governments in the region clamp down.
“Part of the reason is the unprecedented scrutiny governments are facing from so-called citizen journalists. The governments are lashing out in various ways, such as stronger legislation, and the mainstream news media is caught in the crossfire,” he said.
“Of course, the AAP presence and coverage has waned, but the AAP at least used to step up during crucial times, such as cyclones and political uprisings, as in the Fiji coups and the Solomon Islands conflict.
“Pacific journalism capacity is lacking due to various structural weaknesses in the system and AAP used to fill the gap at crucial times.”
AAP will close it doors on June 26, while the subediting arm Pagemasters will close in August.