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Kettering Resident Journalist Reflects on Press & Democracy

kfThe Kettering Foundation recently shared an interview with Duran Angiki, an indigenous journalist from the Solomon Islands who just finished his six-month residency with KF who faced persecution from his government for his role in exposing corruption as a citizen journalist. In his interview, he shares details of his own harrowing story, discusses the role of journalists and the press in advancing democracy, and reflects on how that role is changing.

We’ve shared a few choice excerpts from the interview below, but you can read the interview transcript in its entirety by visiting the Kettering Foundation’s blog at www.kettering.org/kfnews/kettering-conversations-duran-angiki.

Jack Becker: You describe the mission of Duranangiki.net as “to check the leaders of Solomon Islands and our province, Rennell and Bellona, and expose corrupt leaders regardless of who they are. Our purpose is to encourage transparency and accountability in the public sector without reservations, and expose corruption where it exists.” Can you talk a little about doing this? What kinds of barriers do you face in this pursuit?

Duran Angiki: The mission statement of Duranangiki.net is a labor of love that is based on conviction and sacrifice, but also an ongoing commitment to the ideal of promoting good governance. It is difficult as someone who had the opportunity of being educated and living in Western countries to see our people and communities being exploited by our leaders. Daring to speak in a nation where your allegiance is first to protect the image of your island, ethnic, and cultural group, before the nation, is not only suicidal, but also plain madness. It is one of the most unpopular jobs that yielded no personal gains for me, let alone my immediate family members, who indirectly, suffered the consequences of my work. Many times in my career, I’ve often questioned myself about the logic of this mission, but I often comforted myself with the knowledge that if I’m not to do it, who else.

If we want a better country and future for us, someone has to step up to the plate. Unfortunately, my traditional obligation has put me in this position. I become a journalist in the hope of making a difference. It is a commitment that I made to my people to represent them. …At times, this role seems to be travesty in a country where political and government institutions are highly corrupt. This situation has created a working environment where journalists and citizens often succumb to threats, harassment, bullying, and intimidation by politicians. I could have chosen an easy path, but I choose to take this daring path, instead of silently moaning the injustices. Despite the personal cost to my life, I have never given up hope about my mission and committed to the course. I’m hoping that this mission will inspire other young people to realize the importance of openly contributing to the broader conversation about building a secure, stable, and better future for our people and communities. We need to break away from the culture of silence and engage in open dialogue. I guess history will be our best judge.

And later in the interview…

JB: You mention that your work is based on a commitment to people in your community; one of Kettering’s core concerns is a lack of alignment between how citizens make decisions in community and the way institutions—including media institutions—go about their work. What should the relationship between journalists and a community be? How does journalism fit into a citizen-centered democracy?

DA: Realistically, the idea of alignment sounds good, but in practice, it is a huge challenge. In my experience in developing and developed communities, the majority of the people couldn’t care less about what the media and institutions are talking about or will talk about. The sad reality of this situation is this: citizens are often left to their own demise when decisions are taken and later impacted negatively on them. Global media tycoons more often than not control the news media in Western countries, which becomes a hindrance to the role of journalists. The case of US journalism is unique because news media outlets and their journalists are either conservative or liberal. There is no middle ground in American journalism. This situation has created distrust by citizens and communities of the media, especially the role of journalism as a watchdog. The watchdog role has replaced agenda setting. Despite public cynicism of the media in this country, America is the only country in the Western world that enshrined in its Constitution, under the First Amendment, freedom of the press. In Australia and other democratic countries, freedom of the press or media freedom is an implied right under Common Law. Sadly, in the case of the United States, the constitutional recognition of media freedom has not provided any greater access by citizens to the news media. The new culture of agenda setting has simply taken away authentic journalism, which grounded on the presumption that journalists and the news media will provide objective, fair, and balanced coverage of issues that are affecting communities. One of the reasons that journalism is still thriving in the states is it is protected by the Constitution. It is on this basis that citizen groups and communities are always fighting to be heard. The biggest threat to journalism in America is how the profession and educational institutions are entangled in the issue of allegiance to right-wing and left-wing politics. In my observation, this is the major blight to authentic journalism in America.

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Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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