Vanuatu loses a media pioneer and professional

The late Jonas Cullwick

Jonas Cullwick was clearly the most eligible candidate for the Radio Vila news vacancy for a journalist in 1983 when the station was still formally part of the Condominium.

He joined a small team of writers of English and Bislama working for the one or the other Residency. His British Secondary School record clearly identified him as one able to join Godwin Ligo, Joe Bomal Carlo, Agnes Kaltonga and Ambong Thompson in production of reports and presentation of custom material for the infant radio station, born in 1966, who were working with francophone colleagues led by Jean-Baptiste Ramwell who would take their stories to the old Aeradio Building, where Radio Vanuatu now stands, for the lunchtime or evening bulletin.

For a start, Jonas was heavily involved with stories from the islands which were amongst the most wanted information briefings in the islands where an elaborate media network had never been established.

Distant and scarcely known Maewo was given a new profile by the brand new journalist, and his skill in identifying issues which added to Maewo’s personality were appreciated throughout the region and began to be noticed by the regional news agency coming into being — Pacnews. This body was Jonas’s next employer and greatly appreciated having one of its own (Jonas) chosen to be an editor following Editor Shiu Singh’s termination.

It was allegedly a time of media involvement in politics, it has been said. This was not always understood. The regional (South Pacific) body Pacnews, much used by Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand, received criticism for its coverage of especially Tongan and Fijian affairs. Remember it was the time of the Fijian coup attempts of Sitiveni Rabuka.

And then the German funding body for Pacnews, PIBA (the Broadcasting Association of the Pacific Islands), became a victim and had to relocate from Fiji to a new home, Port Vila, Vanuatu, and needed a new editor. After several emergency tries, Jonas Cullwick was seen waiting in the wings. And from there his reputation has grown.

Jonas was one who knew about what is commonly called Public Service Broadcasting: telling the people of a country what’s going on therein or being that country’s voice to the world, if not the official spokesman. Jonas was not that in Vanuatu. But he continually tried to make the news believable by reporting accurately and responsibly. This single-mindedness ultimately brought him to Daily Post and its sister Vanuatu publications.

And therein, Jonas Cullwick was subject to none of the pressures which could suggest political involvement or partiality. Daily Post had no critical or political role in last year’s election, and its basic news values were maintained throughout the period leading to voting day.

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