Time to rethink 'watchdog' journalism in the Pacific

  • Kalinga Seneviratne Independent Researcher
Keywords: China, climate change, democracy, development journalism, development rights, Fiji, journalism models, journalism theory, Pacific journalism, sustainable development goals, United Nations, watchdog journalism


For more than five decades, ‘Watchdog Journalism’ has been taught as the yardstick for a free media. With the so-called ‘mainstream’ media becoming increasingly commercialised—both in a global scale and domestically—and with the media being primarily owned by business conglomerates, the ‘watchdog’ model has created a journalism culture that is too adversarial and creates conflicts rather than helping to solve today’s problems/conflicts. A new paradigm of watchdog journalism is needed where the media is able to hold powerful players to account for facilitating the development/livelihood needs of communities, especially those in the margins of society. This new paradigm of journalism needs to focus on ‘development rights’ rather than ‘human rights’ taking into account many aspects of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs should be looked at in terms of a new definition of human rights where the journalist could play a similar role to that prescribed in ‘watchdog’ journalism theory, but looking for solutions rather conflicts, and include a larger field of stakeholders which need to be made accountable such as governments, big business and particularly conglomerates—even NGOs and faith-based organisations. This watchdog role needs to be applied to trade agreements and other treaties, including those addressing climate change.  To develop a new journalism culture to address these issues, media training programmes in the Pacific need to rethink their strategies and examine how to promote independent social media models that are economically and sustainably viable.


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Author Biography

Kalinga Seneviratne, Independent Researcher

Kalinga Seneviratne is a journalist, radio broadcaster, television documentary maker and media analyst based in Sydney, NSW, Australia. He is former head of research at Asian Media Information and Communication Centre in Singapore.


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How to Cite
Seneviratne, K. (2024). Time to rethink ’watchdog’ journalism in the Pacific. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 30(1and2), 205-216. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v30i1and2.1343