Rashneel Kumar: As solid as the islands we stand for

Wednesday September 02, 2020 Written by Published in Editorials
New editor Rashneel Kumar, with journalists Melina Etches, Losirene Lacanivalu, Katrina Tanirau and Emmanuel Samoglou. 20082705 New editor Rashneel Kumar, with journalists Melina Etches, Losirene Lacanivalu, Katrina Tanirau and Emmanuel Samoglou. 20082705

About a year ago, I had the privilege of visiting Newseum – an interactive news and media museum that promotes free expression – near Capitol in Washington DC.

Sadly, it closed its doors permanently in December due to financial constraints.

As I toured the seven-level, 250,000-square-foot museum that chronicled the history of journalism, I came across this statement: “The free press is a cornerstone of democracy”.

“People have a need to know. Journalists have a right to tell. Finding the facts can be difficult. Reporting the story can be dangerous.

“Freedom includes the right to be outrageous. Responsibility includes the duty to be fair.

“News is history in the making. Journalists provide the first draft of history. A free press, at its best, reveals the truth.”

As I assume the role of editor of this newspaper, I’m reminded again of our basic duty of presenting the news in an honest and balanced manner.

Cook Islands News has a longstanding legacy of producing robust, high-quality journalism at community and national level.

The newspaper is guided by principles that promote fair, accurate and balanced reporting. Our job is to ensure we remain true to the principles we stand for.

It may include being persistent in certain areas because that’s the nature of the job, especially when interviewing those who hold public offices including politicians.

There are things they may not want to address but as journalists we are sometimes required to push beyond a certain point in order to get a credible answer.

Among the many congratulatory notes I have received in the last couple of days, there have also been some suggestions of reinstating the policy of allowing non de plume names for letters to the editor.

For now, I will stand by the policy of not allowing non de plume names for letters to the editor.

I understand the argument of being a small community where expressing contrary views, especially against those holding powerful positions, may get you in bad books.

But as a newspaper, our job is to safeguard and promote freedom of expression and the responsibility that comes with it.

We also feel it’s our responsibility to become the platform that will empower people to speak up and still be accepted and embraced for their views and beliefs.

There may be renewed criticism against this and other decisions we will take in regards to our reporting. But as a responsible newspaper, we will take the criticism on the chin and where appropriate, make amends and apologise.

Finally, I am excited to lead a talented group of journalists and looking forward to working with them in maintaining the high standard of journalism that my predecessors have produced over the years – and remain as solid as the islands we stand for.

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