Papua New Guinea's Communication Minister Timothy Masiu has told aspiring Pacific islands journalists that the role of the media is "pivotal".
The PNG government faced criticism earlier this year after it announced it was going to amend its media laws.
Media experts in the region said at the time that the proposed changes would have a "chilling effect".
Last week, the chairman of the PNG Parliamentary Committee on Communications Marsh Narewac also announced an inquiry in to the conduct of the PNG media industry.
However, speaking to University of the South Pacific (USP) journalism students at their annual awards night in Suva on 4 November, Masiu said: "The role of journalism as the 4th Estate cannot be understated."
"In a region as rich and diverse as our Pacific, where cultures, languages, and perspectives converge, the role of journalism becomes even more crucial," he said.
"The stories told by our journalists contribute to the tapestry of our shared experiences, providing insight, fostering understanding, and building bridges across the vast expanse of our Pacific nations."
In June this year, PNG's National Broadcasting Corporation and the USP's School of Journalism signed a memorandum of understanding.
As part of the MOU, Masiu attended the USP Journalism Awards events, recognising the future of journalism in the region.
"The journalists we celebrate today have embraced this responsibility with vigour, showcasing the power of words and the impact they can have on shaping our world.
"In a region as rich and diverse as our Pacific, where cultures, languages, and perspectives converge, the role of journalism becomes even more crucial."
Masiu said on Friday the challenges that journalists face in the pursuit of truth should be acknowledged.
"The freedom of the press is a cornerstone of any vibrant democracy, and it is our collective responsibility to safeguard and protect it," he said.
"We must support the journalists who work tirelessly to uncover the stories that need to be told, even when faced with adversity."
The PNG government also handed over a $10,000 cheque to the journalism programme as part of the MOU.
The NBC could play an even more greater role in training and mentoring journalism students in the Pacific, Masiu said.
USP journalism's head Associate Professor Shailendra Singh has labelled the agreement "historic" and "milestone between news media in the two largest countries in Melanesia and the Pacific".
Dr Singh said the USP Journalism awards was the longest running and most consistent journalism awards in the Pacific in any category.
He paid tribute to the founder of the awards - Professor David Robie, adding that it would be good for journalism if national media awards were revived in Fiji and other regional countries.
"Journalists carry out a crucial function - sometimes it's a thankless task. Our best journalists should be recognised and helped in their work," Dr Singh said.
Meanwhile, Yukta Chand and Viliame Tawanakoro received the 'Most Outstanding Journalism Student of the Year' award.