Sunday, December 23, 2007

Hepi Krismas!!

Season's greetings to all Cafe Pacific readers!

Press freedom Asia-Pacific style - Timor troubles

Joseph Laban, of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, paints a bleak picture about media freedom in Timor-Leste. Although it might be better than in neighbouring Indonesia or the Philippines, it is still fairly tough as his SEAPA fellowship there has demonstrated. And not much seems to have changed since the NZ media mission there in June. As Joseph writes:
The Timor Post has staff members who have been in constant fear for their lives since last year, when two of them were attacked and left for dead right outside their rundown office. Then again, other journalists in this young nation have had similar experiences. Last August, another major newspaper had its office windows smashed while one of its employees was struck repeatedly with rocks and sticks and his motorcycle trashed after he acknowledged that he worked for the paper. Ideally, this should not be happening in the world’s youngest democracy, which at one point had also been called by then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan as "a child of the international community".
But as the media in other Southeast Asian nations have found out, keeping the press free is a constant battle that is fought daily – even in a supposed democracy. Just last week, for instance, about 50 journalists covering a coup attempt were handcuffed with plastic luggage fasteners and hauled off for questioning by Philippine authorities. As of June 2007, the Philippines has also seen some 90 media practitioners killed in the line of duty since democracy was restored in 1986, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP). Fifty-three of the killings, adds the NUJP, took place under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Meanwhile, in Indonesia, 58 cases of violence against journalists were recorded between August 2006 to August 2007 by the Alliance of Independent Journalists. According to the body, "government apparatus" has become the new enemy of press freedom, since it is believed to have perpetrated 10 of the recorded assaults.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Gizzy quake - a fresh reporter's news diary

It's always refreshing to hear from our AUT Uni journalism school scribes out there in the field. Take Jessica Wauchop for example, down there at the Gisborne Herald. Just received a breathless email from her after she was caught up in the story of her reporter's life so far - the Gizzy quake! A few lines from her message - she was caught in the middle of Xmas drinks:
Nothing like a huge earthquake to sober you up! It was 8.55 pm. It started really slowly, just rocking a bit and we expected it to finish soon like normal. All of sudden there was a huge jolt, then about 20 seconds worth of more severe jolts. The huge press machine was clanking and bottles were hitting the floor. For some reason we all ran outside to the carpark. Only one photographer jumped under the table, and I'm pretty sure I screamed.
The lights went out at some stage during all of this and it took a few seconds of shivering in the carpark to start thinking again. About half a minute later we all realised what had happened and thought "Shit! Stories! Go!"
Gisborne Herald is right in the centre of town and across the road from the Warehouse. We ran there straight away. It was crazy, people were coming out of the store - some with cuts others just in shock. Warehouse items had fallen from all the shelves and we spoke to people who had had to jump under a over turned couch to avoid getting hit by things.
Then we heard someone say buildings were down in town. (It's about now that I start feeling like a real reporter).
Another reporter and two photographers and I hailed down a truck, jumped on the back of it and asked it to take us into town where the buildings were down. The first building we saw badly damaged was Hallenstein's; its roof had collapsed and staff and customers were coming out of the rubble. I stayed here with our chief photographer, we spoke to the staff and customers who all had to hide under the tables. We climbed through the rubble a bit to help the staff members and get photos and a look at what happened.
Next we headed down town and went to several other buildings that had their ceilings come down with the earthquake. It was surreal... Image: Scoop

Merry Christmas Jess - and to all our Cafe Pacific readers!

Friday, December 14, 2007

RSF protests over lack of action over 'JPK'

Reporters Sans Frontieres has called on the French government to renew efforts to find out what happened to Jean-Pascal Couraud ("JPK"), editor of the French Polynesia daily Les Nouvelles de Tahiti, who vanished 10 years ago on 15 December 1997. He was allegedly assassinated. RSF said:
Recent developments suggest the enquiry into his presumed death can now move forward. It is urgent, morally and legally, that all elements in the case are revealed. The French authorities must not provide an argument for those who think French Polynesia is a place where shady deals are done or the law can be flouted.
Along with JPK’s family and his support committee, we hope that investigations will be above board and that his journalistic work will
be considered a possible motive for his disappearance.
Couraud was looking into reported transfers of money to former French President Jacques Chirac to a Japanese bank account through one in
French Polynesia. The sensitive nature of this and JPK’s disappearance
make it even more imperative to discover the truth.
The civil parties in the case finally managed in September to
get a copy of the case-file which strengthened their belief that JPK
was murdered. The Papeete investigating magistrate agreed on 20
November to add to the case-file items seized at the home of Gen
Philippe Rondot in connection with the Clearstream corruption case and
Chirac’s Japanese bank account, and also to take Judge Philippe
Stelmach off the case.
The lawyer for the civil parties, Max Gatti, says the discovery on Gen Rondot’s computer hard-drive of two documents about a bank account of former French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse proves that the material JPK said he had was a threat.
JPK’s former lawyer, Jean-Dominique Des Arcis, said in May that the journalist had details of transfers of funds between a large French Polynesia firm and a Chirac bank account. The lawyer will get a court hearing on 17 December and the civil parties have been authorised to check whether a link can be made between this material and the lawsuit they filed in 2004 for "murder and accessory to murder".
The French TV station France Inter will show a report on 16 December (in its programme "Interception," from 09:00-10:00) by journalist Benoît Collombat about Couraud’s disappearance called Sharks in Murky Waters.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Christina Kewa tackles tough PNG issues in new book

I caught up with Christina Kewa, one of my former journo students from University of PNG days, and her husband Andy and four children over the weekend. Both Andy and Christina have been on tough assignments in recent times - she producing a new book on the rough deal faced by women in PNG; he in the construction business in Afghanistan. Now they're enjoying life a little easier at sun-baked Ruakaka, near Whangarei. Christina's book, Being a Woman in Papua New Guinea: From Grass Skirts and Ashes to Education and Global Changes, was launched at Mt Hagen not so long ago. Reporting from the Highlands town for the Post-Courier, she came face-to-face with some horrendous moments. So as a journalist she wanted to put into print some of her observations in a bid to make things better. Her book confronts and challenges issues that are currently affecting women in PNG but - as she says - "the laws and society are doing nothing about it". She adds:
I challenge our denial to education, our freedom of speech, and the fears we have of being rejected raped, abused, killed and much more as women in Papua New Guinea. The book confronts the issues, and searches for solution avenues through government and the laws of PNG. The book does not aim to degrade the men in PNG, but aims to educate, inform, and position them all as loving, respectable and honourable.
Good luck with your book, Christina.
Incidentally, on a quick online search, I noticed this quirky story in the Whangarei Leader (and a photo by Christina) about the day a fishing crew caught a wild pig at sea!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coroner finds Balibo Five deliberately killed

The New South Wales state coroner's verdict over the deaths of the Balibo Five journalists is that Brian Peters was deliberately killed to prevent him from revealing Indonesian Special Forces had taken part in the attack on Balibo at the start of the invasion of East Timor in 1975. Deputy State Coroner Dorelle Pinch ruled:
Brian Raymond Peters, in the company of fellow journalists Gary James Cunningham, Malcolm Harvie Rennie, Gregory John Shackleton and Anthony John Stewart, collectively known as "the Balibo Five", died at Balibo in Timor-Leste on 16 October 1975 from wounds sustained when he was shot and/or stabbed deliberately, and not in the heat of battle, by members of the Indonesian Special Forces, including Christoforus da Silva and Captain Yunus Yosfiah on the orders of Captain Yosfiah, to prevent him for revelaing that Indonesian Special Forces had participated in the attack on Balibo. There is strong circumstantial evidence that those orders emanated from the Head of the Indonesian Special Forces, Major-General Benny Murdani to Colonel Kalbuadi, Special Forces Group Commander in Timor, and then to Captian Yosfiah.
Coroner Pinch also recommended that a 'national industry-wide Safety Code of Practice for journalists' should be developed in partnership with Australia's media organisations.
Pictured: The five who were murdered - Greg Shackleton (clockwise from top left), Tony Stewart, Greg Cunningham, Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

'Anti-terror' law expose and HIV/AIDS docos among media peace awards

Joe Barratt, an AUT University graduate diploma in journalism student, topped the rangatahi/student award for print media in the annual NZ Media Peace Awards for a Scoop article revealing changes flagged by the draft anti-terrorism law amendment. The June report exposed aspects of the draft legislation before they had been widely reported in the mainstream media. The judges described the story as a “very timely and well-written” article which “delves into the relatively unknown bill” currently before Parliament. “It makes compelling reading, given that there has been very little public debate on the bill in question and the events of recent weeks,” they said. It's certainly timely that Joe should win this - on the very day that the Solicitor-General, Dr David Collins, canned the police hopes of bringing terrorism charges against the so-called Urewera 17. Among the many other prizes dished out for wide-ranging issues journalism at the NZ Peace Foundation function was a new Oxfam-sponsored Pacific Peace and Development Award - this went to independent television journalist Ingrid Leary for two "inspiring" docos about a suffering Samoan and a ni-Vanuatu woman who have become community advocates. Radio NZ's Don Wiseman was highly commended for an Insight programme on the Papua New Guinea elections. Among the three commended entries was the Pacific Radio News (Niu FM and 531pi) team of news editor Lito Vilisoni, Christine Gounder and Mema Maeli - for their coverage of the Fiji and Tonga political upheavals and reconciliation and also for Pacific Radio News coverage generally. Well done!
Pictures: Liz March. Top: Joe Barratt; centre: Ingrid Leary with Oxfam's Barry Coates; above: Pacific Radio News team Christine Gounder, Lito Vilisoni and Mema Maeli.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tuhoe and Maori grievances - another perspective

In an article in The Guardian by Jon Henley, "The Maori resistance", University of Auckland sociologist and Tuhoe tribe member Dr Tracey McIntosh is quoted at length about injustices suffered by the Maori. In the article, which sets out to provide a bit of context to "colourful Tuhoe activist Tame Iti" (pictured) and "the arrest of an alleged terrorist cell", she says:
"The land issue is the legal, cultural and spiritual focus of almost all Maori grievances today. Many tribes, including mine, never even signed the treaty, so we just view our land as having been stolen. And above and beyond the Maori's spiritual relationship with their lands, you can make a very strong evidence-based argument for saying that the alienation of our land removed our whole economic base and distorted the whole range of social relationships. That's why this history is so important: for Maori, the injustices of the past have real implications for our present lives. We're still seeing their consequences.
"There has been some attempt to address the land issue, but not with any tremendous success: the Waitangi Tribunal, established in 1975 to hear complaints of alleged treaty violations, has in the 32 years of its existence registered 1,400 cases, heard around 150, issued 50 reports - and settled barely 20 claims, for a total value of just over NZ$700m."

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Human rights groups scoff at Fiji military-backed regime's plot claim

Civil society campaigners in Fiji have scoffed at the allegations of a funded assassination plot against the regime's interim prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama. Both the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre coordinator Shamima Ali (pictured) and Pacific Centre for Public Integrity director Angie Heffernan rejected allegations on Radio New Zealand National's Morning Report today. Fiji police commissioner Elesa Teleni later announced three people has been charged with treason and conspiravy to commit murder. Many of the 16 detained people reportedly had links with George Speight who led the May 2000 coup.
Both civil society groups have been strong critics of the post-coup regime. Ali told the Fiji Times that the FWCC acted constitutionally and denied being part of any assassination plot against members of the interim regime as well as senior members of the military. She said her movement was a human rights-based organisation and had no problems being questioned by police because all its activities were lawful. She added that all books were properly audited and there was no way any funding of an alleged assassination plot against Bainimarama and other members of his regime could happen.
"Every financial transaction is recorded in our books and we welcome any check by anyone interested," she told the Fiji Times. Heffernan told Radio NZ the regime should come clean with any evidence it had. Until it did so, this was just an "alleged plot". She also called for evidence of any plot in an interview with the Fiji Times, saying she believed it was also an attempt to divert attention from the military's failed attempts to have soldiers and police murder suspects in the Sakiusa Rabaka case leave the country under a United Nations mission to Iraq.
Ali said nobody deserved to be beaten up when being questioning over a criminal allegation.
Millionaire New Zealand citizen Ballu Khan was admitted at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital - and is under heavy guard - after injuries suffered while in military and police custody on Saturday night. He was denied access to a lawyer over the weekend. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has condemned the abuse of human rights.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Paris sets Tahitian electoral crunch time for January

Tahitian President Oscar Temaru (pictured) isn't too happy about the timing, but France has confirmed that a snap general election will be held over two rounds in late January to sort out the territory's continuing governance issues. French Secretary of State for Overseas Christian Estrosi has indicated that the election would be held on January 27 with a run-off two weeks later on February 10. Patrick Antoine Decloitre reports in his Oceania Flash service, quoting Estrosi:
"In no case will I change course. Yes, at the end of January, after all the stages of consultation and democracy have been completed, the (French) Polynesians will be able to one again decide for themselves about their future and their own destiny", Estrosi said during speech during a function at the French High Commissioner's residence with over three thousand guests in attendance. Earlier this week, Estrosi addressed French Polynesia's legislative assembly in similar terms to justify his plans for electoral reforms and snap elections for the French Pacific territory. Meanwhile, French MPs in the National Assembly are to initiate the debate on Estrosi's Bills on November 22, French media reported on Thursday. The Bill is scheduled to be tabled for the first time before the French Senate (Upper House) on November 12 and before the French National Assembly (Lower House) by the end of November 2007.
Since newly-elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed him in June 2007, Estrosi has embraced a hands-on approach to address a perceived spate of ongoing political instability in French Polynesia, for the past three years, which has already seen six Presidents come and go during that period, all of them ousted through motions of no confidence.

Monday, October 29, 2007

'Pulling the plug' in Burma - new insights into the blackout

Reporters Without Borders has hailed a report by Stephanie Wang of the OpenNet Initiative on the way the Burmese junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), cut the country’s internet connection on 29 September. Founded by the universities of Harvard, Toronto, Oxford and Cambridge, the OpenNet Initiative studies internet filtering issues and the social impact of new technologies. Published on 22 October, Wang’s report, entitled "Pulling the Plug," describes the process of Burma’s isolation. For two weeks, a news blackout was imposed and most Burmese got their news from satellite TV and radio. Excerpt from the RSF report: "Control of the internet was facilitated by the fact that Burma’s only two ISPs, BaganNet and Myanmar Posts and Telecom (MPT), are state offshoots. The OpenNet Initiative report goes into detail about how the shutdown was implemented, with times, ISPs involved and methods used.
"'The junta attempted to sever the flow of information so that the picture of reality for people on both sides of the Burmese border would remain distorted," the report says. "As a result, the targets for censorship expanded exponentially from websites that are critical of the junta to any individual with a camera or cell phone and direct or indirect access to the internet.'
"The report says internet use increased within the country during the crisis because it was always possible to use censorship-evasion techniques. The intranet carried on functioning correctly and MPT provided a connection to the sites of military offices (, and and to those sites that offered no political news. Some sites such as and did however post news about the demonstrations during the blackout that were not censored.
"'Many believe that the breakthrough uses of the internet over this period have enabled some irreversible gains," the report says. 'Multiple generations of Burmese living locally and abroad have found linkages to each other as blogging became increasingly recognised as a valuable source of information (...) even the vast majority of Burmese without access to or knowledge of the internet may have benefited from the enduring achievement of a small band of citizen bloggers and journalists.'"
Burma was ranked 164th out of 169 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2007 world press freedom index. Since the demonstrations got under way in September, eight journalists have been detained and a photographer has disappeared.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Jschool honours two journalists for integrity

John Henningham's Jschool in Brisbane has just awarded honorary degrees to two Australian journalists who were fined and almost jailed for refusing to name confidential
sources (see story below). John, one of the pioneers of Australian journalism research by practitioners, says he would be interested in hearing about other journalists' experiences with legal and political attacks on source confidentiality.
Excerpt from the Sydney Morning Herald (Oct 25, 2007) story about their awards: "[Melbourne] Herald Sun reporters Gerard McManus and Michael Harvey were convicted and fined in June for refusing to divulge the identity of a source who leaked information in 2004 about the workings of federal government veterans affairs policy. The pair argued they were upholding their professional code of ethics, but the judge ruled they were not immune to criminal charges. Brisbane's Jschool awarded Mr McManus and Mr Harvey honorary doctorates for their 'courageous stand in upholding the code of ethics by maintaining confidentiality of sources'."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Demonising dissent - New Zealand-style

From Global Peace and Justice Auckland's newsletter:
"It’s a grim time for democracy and civil rights in New Zealand with 17 'terrorism suspects' arrested in para-military raids across the country this month. For many people the situation is confusing at best but for those who know the people arrested it is astonishing. How could the police believe a group of Maori sovereignty activists, peace campaigners and environmentalists could pose a credible terrorist threat to New Zealand?
The police have raised the spectre of terrorism despite, after 15 months of intensive surveillance, no decision yet being made as to whether terrorism charges will be laid. In the meantime the damage is being done. The public are being softened up to accept that we have terrorism in New Zealand. Under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 a terrorist is defined as someone who, for political reasons, causes '…serious disruption to an infrastructure facility, if likely to endanger human life…' This broad definition would include many of the protests against the 1981 Springbok tour. It threatens to demonise legitimate political dissent. Even people committed to non-violence with no intention to harm anyone or damage property can qualify as terrorists.
"Meanwhile the latest Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill is being pushed through Parliament. Under this law New Zealand would automatically adopt the UN (effectively the US) list of terrorists and terrorist organisations. A law like this in the 1980s would have made it illegal to provide support for the African National Congress in the fight against apartheid or for campaigns to have Nelson Mandela released from jail. Today groups such as Hamas, despite being democratically elected to government in occupied Palestine, would be a designated terrorist group (as it is in Australia).
"A Kiwi added to the list by another country (as a result of police action last week for example) would have great difficulty being removed from the list. Sweden and the Canada have faced huge difficulties with their citizens being designated in this way through the UN process. The new legislation also sidelines our courts in favour of the Prime Minister designating and then reviewing terrorist classifications. Why should the PM be judge and jury? Under this proposal someone like Ahmed Zaoui wouldn’t have had a chance. Prime Ministers are susceptible to international pressure. It is only a phone call away. At least with the courts there is the semblance of independent scrutiny.
"The government says the police, SIS and lawmakers are all working hand in hand to keep New Zealand safe. The truth is that our lawmakers are blindly putting in place savage attacks on civil rights while the police and SIS are eager to test their new powers and are excited at the prospect of joining the war on terror.
"As it is New Zealand’s anti-terror legislation is set up to demonise dissent and legitimate political protest while removing civil rights safeguards. Dissent provides the oxygen on which a democracy depends. We throttle it at our peril."

  • No terror charges
  • Immediate bail for all arrestees (innocent until proven guilty
  • Withdraw the Terrorism Suppression Act and its amendments

    Check out the website

Moana Jackson - extract from his "primer on terrorism allegations":
"Maori see symmetries between the Terrorism Suppression Act and the 1863 Suppression of Rebellion Act. The targeting of mainly Maori as 'terrorists' in fact mirrors the earlier legislative labelling of those Iwi [that] resisted the land confiscations as 'rebels'. Tuhoe see particular parallels with the fatal police raid on Maungapohatu in 1916. The unthinking or deliberately provocative setting up of the latest police roadblock on the confiscation line simply add to the grievance and the sense of colonising deja vu."

Primer on terrorism allegations

Saturday 27 October is an international day of action to defend civil liberties and oppose the use of terror laws. Stand up for all our rights. What is happening where.
Auckland: Demonstration Saturday Oct 27th at 12 noon meeting in Aotea Square.
Auckland marches against 'terror suppression' raid - Joe Barratt at Scoop

Previous posting - Hundreds protest over NZ state repression

Monday, October 22, 2007

Amirah's tour focus on Philippines human rights

Amirah Ali Lidasan's tour of New Zealand gets under way today with a bid to make Kiwis better informed about the political struggles of the Muslim minority in the Philippines. Amirah is national vice-chairperson of the Suara Bangsamoro Party List Organisation, which seeks representation in Congress for the Philippines’ several million Muslims - the Moros. She is a young progressive Muslim Filipina with a history of senior leadership in the student movement in Manila and is a leader in groups such as the Moro Christian People’s Alliance. She has an international profile. In March 2007 she was part of a Philippine human rights delegation which toured North America and Europe, drawing international attention to the human rights crisis at home. Campaigner Murray Horton from the Philippine Solidarity Network of Aotearoa says: "Amirah Ali Lidasan’s tour presents a unique opportunity to hear firsthand about a war in our own backyard that is almost totally unknown to New Zealanders. She is the first Filipino Muslim speaker that we have hosted, and a Muslim woman at that."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hundreds protest over NZ state repression

More than 200 people have protested in downtown Auckland on Saturday over this week's controversial dawn raids in New Zealand and the arrest of some 17 activists. The protesters condemned the police actions and ridiculed the country's proposed new terror laws. Scoop's Joe Barratt reported: "Showing a unified front, the protest was attended by a wide range of activist groups, and also included family and friends of the accused. But for many there is also the larger fear of what the arrests represent, and of what could happen if the legislation amending the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2002 currently before Parliament is passed."
Leading Tuhoe activist and campaigner Tame Iti (right) was among the 17 arrested, as police swept Maori sovereignty, peace and environmental activist groups. Tuhoe people accused the police of terrorising an entire community with heavily armed raids and by boarding school buses. The Tuhoe tribe never signed the Treaty of Waitangi and has a long history of resistance for their tangata whenua rights against colonial and state rule. The police raids follow international pressures for New Zealand to adhere to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. New Zealand was one of four countries that voted against the UN Declaration, along with the US, Canada and Australia. Mainstream media have been accused of being one-sided.
Former Listener editor Finlay Macdonald, writing in his weekly Sunday Star-Times column "Law of the jungle" , said: "Once again, the interests of national security trump those of open justice. Public scepticism quite reasonably grows. Last week's raids and arrests were conducted under both normal criminal law as well as the Terrorism Suppression Act, although no actual charges have been laid under the latter. The question has to be what distinguishes these alleged offences from any ordinary criminal or conspiracy case? As ever with issues such as these, we are implicitly asked to take the authorities on trust. Unfortunately, recent experience only encourages cynicism."

Friday, October 19, 2007

NZ's Pacific minister praises AUT over Pasifika boost

Opening AUT University's new Pacific Media Centre officially last week, NZ Associate Minister for Pacific Island Affairs Luamanuvao Winnie Laban was full of praise for the university's diversity media initiatives. She says AUT has "stepped up to the plate" to take the lead in the sector. She acknowledged the efforts being made in media research and curriculum development and challenged other j-schools, media and universities to follow a similar path. AUT has:

Says Laban: "This centre demonstrates commitment to our cultural diversity, but also to critical thinking and the pursuit of excellence." Pictured: Luamanuvao and PMC director David Robie at the unveiling of the PMC plaque. Photo: Alan Koon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fiji regime rapped over blogger flak

While regime chief Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and the vexed Fiji question irritates a couple of pale southern neighbours at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tonga this week, Pacific Journalism Review has published an insightful inquiry into the post-coup blogging issue. And the regime has landed itself on hot coals. Sophie Foster, a onetime editor of the now defunct Pacific Islands Monthly and a former senior editorial hand at The Fiji Times, reckons the military is partly responsible for the number of political blogs that have expanded the media landscape in Fiji since the fourth coup last December. She says blogs have flourished because of the military squeeze on dissenting opinion. Sophie is now a postgraduate student in Pacific media studies at the University of the South Pacific in Suva and she is clearly making good use of her research time.
In her PJR paper, Sophie says that while some blog content was racist, defamatory, provocative and irresponsible, the argument for a free, responsible press has also been also strengthened as an option worth maintaining in any society. This edition of PJR has been produced jointly by the USP journalism programme and AUT University's Pacific Media Centre. PJR cover cartoon by top Kiwi cartoonist Malcolm Evans.
Incidentally, in the latest Reporters Sans Frontieres world press freedom index, bloggers are reported to be threatened as much as in international media.

Monday, October 8, 2007

New NZ survey exposes disgruntled journos

A survey of more than 500 New Zealand journalists has revealed marked unhappiness about levels of pay, resourcing and training, reports the Pacific Media Centre. The “Big Journalism 2007” survey found that, while many individual journalists are very satisfied with aspects of their jobs, overall most want improvements in (respectively) pay, support, mentoring and staffing levels.They want more opportunity for discussion and input into ethical and professional issues such as sensationalism, more guidance on how to cope with commercial and advertising pressures, and more time and resources to pursue investigations. The survey, titled "Under-paid, under-trained, under-resourced, unsure about the future - but still idealistic", published in the latest Pacific Journalism Review, is the first to ask NZ journalists what they think about a variety of topics such as quality of news coverage and their ethics and standards.
The survey revealed a generally ethical stance among journalists, with most agreeing that NZ journalists do not omit or distort relevant facts, and that stories are based on journalistic rather than political or commercial values. Asked to rate the quality of NZ news coverage, journalists rated sports coverage the highest, while foreign coverage got the lowest rating, at slightly below average.
The survey was conducted jointly by Massey University lecturers James Hollings, Alan Samson and Dr Elspeth Tilley, and Waikato University associate professor Geoff Lealand. It builds on Dr Lealand's previous surveys of NZ journalists.
The old and the new journos, according to cartoonist Malcolm Evans.

Friday, October 5, 2007

TV3's Pacific broadcasting 'loophole' dubious

New Zealand's rugby World Cup broadcaster TV3 this week launched a bold 'Pacific loophole' plan to evade strict Sunday morning advertising laws. But doubts remain about the legality. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage says TV3 could still be breaching the Broadcasting Act. TV3 had previously confirmed it would play commercials at this time - starting with tomorrow's quarterfinal between the All Blacks and the host nation France in Cardiff - but had not revealed how it would achieve this within the restrictions in the law. [All Blacks beaten by Michalak's magic]. TV3, in an arrangement with Fiji TV, will be transmitting its entire signal for the event to 18 countries and territories in the Pacific.
The additional countries or territories that the signal reaches are: Tahiti, Cook Islands, Tonga, American Samoa, Samoa, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Niue, Kiribati, Nauru, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea,Guam, The Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas.
There are three requirements in the Broadcasting Act which allow for Sunday morning advertising. The signal for the programme must:
1. Originate outside New Zealand;
2. Be transmitted simultaneously to both New Zealand audiences and audiences outside New Zealand;
3. Be targeted primarily at audiences outside New Zealand.

Who is convinced by TV3's claim about the primary audience outside NZ? It is a wildly optimistic estimate of a potential audience based on population only. And it is a dubious argument to be claiming a combined Pacific population of more than nine million - more than double New Zealand's population, when the critical figure is potential audience. Most of the 18 countries and territories listed have a limited interest in rugby union.
While it is true Papua New Guinea (6.2 million cited by TV3) has a far larger population than New Zealand, the TV audience is very small and the country is primarily a rugby league nation. Eighty percent of the people are rural villagers with limited access to TV and electricity. Various estimates put the potential TV audience for the national broadcaster EM TV (owned by Fiji TV's subsidiary Media Niugini) at between 500,000 and 600,000. The rugby broadcasts would be catering for a relatively small expatriate market and local audience.
There will be strong and enthusiastic audiences in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, of course, and Tahiti and New Caledonia (and perhaps Vanuatu) would have a keen interest in the France-All Greys quarterfinal at least. But it is hard to see much of a potential audience in some countries and territories such as Guam, the Marshall Islands and Northern Marianas.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Powes Parkop slams the Papua media 'taboo'

Good to see PNG's new National Capital District governor Powes Parkop having a crack at the local media for its appalling job in recent times at covering the plight of their 'bros across the border in Indonesian-controlled Papua. The issue of 10,000 or so displaced West Papuans and their requests remains a festering sore. And the PNG media haven't done enough to address the problem and ensure it is on the agenda for weak-kneed politicians. Ironical, because there are many influential Papuan journalists in the PNG media industry and in the past they have prodded local newspapers, radio and TV into keeping an eye on the Papuan problem. Powes always supported the Papuans in their struggle for self-determination right from his Melanesian Solidarity activist and human rights legal work days. Now we wish him luck in the to job at NCD. He took advantage of the launching of PNG's 'Let's do it' media expo 2007 to slam the media for accepting Papua as a "taboo" topic. He wasn't too full of platitudes about the coverage of the decade-long war on Bougainville, which ended in 1997, either. Parkop said he couldn't recall when journalists had tried to report the Papuan story on the other side of the border without Indonesian thought police. He said: The media seems to have swallowed the political line that West Papua is part of Indonesia and whatever is happening there is a matter for Indonesia ... It seems that as far as the media is concerned, West Papua is A TABOO . It's a domestic affair similar to how we treat domestic violence.
Cartoon: Sharpe's view of John Howard's closed door attitude to West Papua - it could easily apply to the PNG media attitude to Papua.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Global citizens and the al Jazeera experience

Nightly catching up on the al Jazeera English perspective on world events is so refreshing, especially after the mundane stuff being served up on Television NZ and TV3. So it was a cool experience for those of us who had the chance to share with four feisty Asia-Pacific woman journos this week, especially al-Jazeera's pair, Kuala Lumpur-based presenter Veronica Pedrosa and Trish Carter (actually now exAJ). Trish talked about the immense challenges about starting the Asia-Pacific bureau of the Qatar-based satellite channel from scratch. Veronica, daughter of a famous exiled mum who fell out with Imelda Marcos over a no-holds-barred book about the totalitarian era first lady, gave a superbly entertaining and insightful look behind the scenes at al Jazeera. There is a determined commitment by its dedicated staff to report the many under-reported stories ignored by other media. Veronica describes herself as a "global citizen - Filipina by heart, Euro by habit"! The quartet were rounded off by Sagarika Ghose from India and Charlotte Glennie, dumped by TVNZ and NZ's only Asian resident television correspondent, and now based in Beijing for the ABC in Oz. Thanks to Charles Mabbett and the Asia:NZ Foundation, many journos and a sprinkling of j-students from AUT University got the chance to be inspired by their experiences and insights. But what happened to the 40-odd journos who signed up for the seminar but were no-shows? No wonder NZ media is so depressingly parochial and smug. Pictured: Veronica Pedrosa and Russell Brown. Photo: Jomine Neethling (AUT Journalism - Pacific Media Centre)

Fear and exposure in Fiji

Bula! Our entertainment corner with a political edge. If you haven't done so already, check out Vitimediawatchdog's Fiji "home truths" indictment of the Speight/Qarase pseudo democratic regime years ... vinaka guys! I spotted a certain notorious "kiss" team image from USP back in May 2000. As Vitimedia explains about the YouTube clips: "Exposing the individuals and the ideas behind the ethnic-nationalism that has destroyed my country."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Solomons riot 'orchestrated plan' for regime change

"Certain politicians" planning regime change in the Solomon Islands were among those responsible for the April 2006 rioting which destroyed much of Honiara's Chinatown area and forced hundreds of Chinese to flee, according to the commission of inquiry.
The commission, chaired by former Papua New Guinea National Court judge Brian Brunton, released an interim report but did not name the individuals or political groups involved.
Radio NZ International reported the commission as saying a number of leading politicians, political groups and organisations were involved in executing a preconceived plan for a regime change following Snyder Rini’s election as prime minister.
The commission has also found that the Solomons government could be liable for damages of US$20 million for the loss of businesses destroyed during the riots. The report's executive summary says:
There is evidence that the 18th April 2006 civil unrest in Honiara was not spontaneous as was originally claimed but rather the event has the hallmark of having been orchestrated and planned in a broader sense of that word. There is now some evidence connecting the identity of a number of leading politicians, political groups and organisations who had in one way or another contributed to the execution of the planning for a regime change, should the previous government or elements of it return to power. The commission’s investigation is not at this stage sufficiently convinced it is in a position in which it is proper to name those individuals, political groups and organisations that were responsible for the planning.
In an earlier interim report in July, the inquiry found there had been failures by Australian police commanders of RAMSI leading up to the riots which also left dozens of Australians police injured.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hidden voices - a Filipina Muslim on the US 'war on terror'

Amirah Ali Lidasan is national vice-chairperson of the Suara Bangsamoro Party List Organisation, which aims to get representation in Congress for the Philippines' several million Muslims (known as Moros and heavily concentrated in the southernmost islands). I've had an email from PSN's Murray Horton about her visit to NZ next month to talk about "The US 'war on terror' and its impact on her people". As Murray explains:
Amirah is a young progressive Muslim woman, with a history of senior leadership in the student movement in Manila, and is a leader in groups such as the Moro Christian People's Alliance. She has an international profile. In March 2007 she was part of a Philippine human rights delegation which toured North America and Europe, drawing international attention to the human rights crisis at home.
The Philippine military has been waging a full blown conventional war in the southern Philippines since the 1970s (simultaneous to the better known and equally long war against the Communist guerrillas throughout the whole country). Right now that war is seeing some of its heaviest fighting in decades, with direct involvement from the US Special Forces who have been
stationed in the southern Philippines since 2002. It has had hugely negative consequences for the whole Muslim population in the South (including Amirah and her family) and it has now become part and parcel of Bush's global "War on Terror" against "Islamic terrorists". Indeed, he has proclaimed the Philippines to be "The Second Front" in that war.
Dates: October 23-November 1, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sison walks free after court order

Filipino political dissident Jose Ma. Sison is out of jail and the Malacañang is far from happy. Dutch authorities set Sison free after a court ordered his release because the case accusing him of involvement in political murders of former colleagues in the Philippines had apparently collapsed. He is another political leader turned into a scapegoat by the US-led "war on terror". But, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People's Army (NPA), isn't off the hook yet.
The District Court of The Hague reportedly hasn't precluded him from being prosecuted on murder charges. Spokesperson Wim de Bruin of the national prosecutor's office told the Inquirer: "The charges are not being dropped. The investigation will continue." The Malacañang is still hoping that the case against the communist leader will proceed.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

NZ snubs final UN indigenous rights declaration

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been adopted at the UN General Assembly by a vote of 143 in favour, 4 against, and 11 abstentions. According to Peace Movement Aotearoa, the Aotearoa/NZ government has "maintained its contradictory and reprehensible position on the Declaration, speaking against it just prior to the vote". NZ was one of the four states which voted against the adoption of the Declaration - Australia, Canada and the US were the others. PMA says: "We will be publishing an update next week on the developments around the Declaration over the past month, including the government's ongoing attempts to derail it and their proposal to substantially alter the text so that it would have given indigenous peoples lesser rights than those of others."
UN News
United Nations adopts Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples
13 September 2007 – The General Assembly today adopted a landmark declaration outlining the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlawing discrimination against them – a move that followed more than two decades of debate.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been approved after 143 Member States voted in favour, 11 abstained and four – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – voted against the text.

A non-binding text, the Declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.
The Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.
It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.

ROSEMARY BANKS (New Zealand), speaking in explanation of vote, noted that New Zealand was one of the few countries that from the start had supported the elaboration of a declaration that promoted and protected the rights of indigenous peoples. In New Zealand, indigenous rights were of profound importance, and were integral to its identity as a nation State and as a people. New Zealand was unique: a treaty concluded at Waitangi between the Crown and New Zealand’s indigenous peoples in 1840 was a founding document of the country. Today, New Zealand had one of the largest and most dynamic indigenous minorities in the world, and the Treaty of Waitangi had acquired great significance in the country’s constitutional
arrangements, law and Government activity.
The place of Maori in society, their grievances and disparities affecting them were central and enduring features of domestic debate and Government action, she said. New Zealand also had an unparalleled system for redress, accepted by both indigenous and non-indigenous citizens alike. Nearly 40 per cent of the New Zealand fishing quota was owned by Maori, as a
result. Claims to over half of New Zealand’s land area had been settled. For that reason, New Zealand fully supported the principles and aspirations of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The country had been implementing most of the standards in the Declaration for many years. She shared the view that the Declaration was long overdue, and the concern that indigenous peoples in many parts of the world continued to be deprived of basic human rights.
New Zealand was proud of its role in improving the text over the past three years, turning the draft into one that States would be able to uphold and promote, she said. It was, therefore, a matter of deep regret that it was unable to support the text before the Assembly today. Unfortunately, New Zealand had difficulties with a number of provisions of the text. In particular, four provisions in the Declaration were fundamentally incompatible with New Zealand’s constitutional and legal arrangements, the Treaty of Waitangi, and the principle of governing for the good of all its citizens, namely article 26 on lands and resources, article 28 onredress, articles 19 and 32 on a right of veto over the State.
The provision on lands and resources could not be implemented in New Zealand, she said. Article 26 stated that indigenous peoples had a right to own, use, develop or control lands and territories that they had traditionally owned, occupied or used. For New Zealand, the entire country was potentially caught within the scope of the article, which appeared to requirerecognition of rights to lands now lawfully owned by other citizens, both indigenous andnon-indigenous, and did not take into account the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

Motigate backfires on Somare

One of Papua New Guinea's National Court judges has described the Julian Moti cover-up saga as a local version of the United States’ Watergate scandal. Attempts to gag the media have backfired. And now PNG's main daily newspaper, Murdoch-owned Post-Courier, has today splashed a front page lead calling for the Chief's resignation. Speaking before quashing Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and three others’ application to nullify the entire proceedings of the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) Moti Inquiry, Justice Bernard Sakora said on Wednesday their attempts to suppress the inquiry’s proceedings and final report conjured up images of the Watergate scandal. He said the application was only aimed at protecting egos and not in the public interest:

The taking of the defence portfolio by the Prime Minister and the suppression of the report, all conjure up images reminiscent of the Watergate Affair in the United States – those of us who were alive in the 1970's (are familiar with this). The Watergate Affair that led to the resignation of a president of the United States few steps ahead of impeachment. One can’t help but be reminded (that) the whole (Moti) saga is so reminiscent, for those of us who were around in the 1970s.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And now - a public apology to Ahmed Zaoui?

Finally, some sense in Godzone amidst the "war on terror" madness. After persecuting Ahmed Zaoui and making a mockery of New Zealand's supposed commitment to human rights, the so-called "risk security certificate" against him has been officially withdrawn. Amnesty International (and others) has welcomed the decision announced by the Director of Security to withdraw the certificate against the Algerian refugee, who has long been a cause celebre for many of us. He has even been an occasional, and charming, guest lecturer for student journos at AUT's j school. And what a breath of fresh air in these paranoid times. This decision makes it clear that a substantial threat to New Zealand's security must exist before the human right to asylum from persecution is ignored.
The decision comes almost five years after Ahmed Zaoui arrived in New Zealand and four years after the Refugee Status Appeals Authority concluded that he should be granted asylum following his experiences in Algeria and in exile. Says Amnesty International's executive director in NZ:
The Ahmed Zaoui case has highlighted the fragility of our commitment as a country to basic human rights. Too many New Zealanders, including members of Parliament who should be more aware than most of the importance of human rights, were content to ignore the August 2003 decision of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority and condemn Mr Zaoui without access to the facts.
Too many were prepared to make cheap jibes about how a survivor of torture who had been in enforced exile for a decade and kept for 10 months in solitary confinement in a New Zealand prison was "abusing New Zealand hospitality", "costing the taxpayers too much", and was "free to jump on a plane at any time". Mr Zaoui's counsel has had to fight summary justice all the way.
An apology is now due to Ahmed Zaoui for New Zealand's poor handling of his case. And his family should be able to join him at the earliest opportunity, as called for by UNHCR. As Selwyn Manning said on KiwiFM, the five-year struggle for justice for Ahmed Zaoui as a refugee revealed the ugly side of NZ.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sidestepping the cycle of vengeance in Fiji?

University of the South Pacific's Steve Ratuva, one of the most perceptive and robust analysts of post-coup Fiji - streets ahead than most of the journos in the region, has a prescription for a way forward out of the mess. The following is an extract from his state of play article in the Fiji Times:
Firstly, we have to shift our minds away from the narrow, exclusivist, partisan and self-serving political agenda and begin to see the interest of the nation as paramount. That is the bottom line.
We all have our party, religious, organisational, vanua and personal loyalties and interests, however, at this point in time, these should be subservient to the common national good. Despite official optimism, our economy is not doing well, investor confidence is down, socio-political relations are at their lowest and national moral is in tatters.
Yet despite all these we are still trying to win political and moral points over our adversaries as if that will solve our collective problems when the opposite is in fact happening.
Secondly, on a more practical note, we need to identify the good suggestions from both sides and synthesise them into a common proposal for national reconciliation. Both the proposed People's Charter and Ratu Inoke's proposal contain points worth considering and discussing.
Thirdly, we urgently need to put in place a reconciliation process as well as a framework for political stability for the future before the election. To do that after the election, although constitutionally legitimate, would be politically too late. Since the hurt and pain are very deeply embedded, the election could become an arena for expressions of anger, vindictivenessand vengeance and these have the potential to rear their ugly heads again after the election.
Historically, political instabilities in Fiji have only happened after elections. The pre-election differences, antagonism and volatility will haunt us once again after the next election if we are not careful. That's why it is important to put in place a reconciliation and post-election governance framework we all agree on well before the election.
- Fiji Times photo with Ratuva article

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tongan pro-democracy MPs still face sedition charges

First the good news: Charges against Tonga's five People's Representatives accused over last November's rioting in Nukualofa, Tonga, have been cut back. The bad news? The outspoken MPs are still the Tongan establishment's main scapegoats for the rioting. They're now still facing one charge of sedition each. Chief Justice Anthony Ford has announced the drop of some charges in the Supreme Court.
According to Matangi Tonga, pro-democracy advocates 'Akilisi Pohiva, 'Isileli Pulu, Clive Edwards, 'Uliti Uata and Lepolo Taunisila, first appeared in the Nuku'alofa Supreme Court on July 18 and were charged with one count of sedition and six counts of abetment to cause disruption resulting in the destruction of six different premises, including the Molisi Tonga Supermarket, Pacific Royale Hotel, Tungi Arcade, Shoreline Building, Fung Shing Supermarket and the Leiola Duty Free Shop in the November 16 riot.
Chief Justice Ford told the court that it had received notice two days ago that Crown Law intended to withdraw the previous indictments and file new indictments of sedition only against each accused. All five accused were all present in court, pleading not guilty. Pictured: Scoop photo of 'Akilisi Pohiva

Friday, September 7, 2007

Roll on the banana republic!

So with another dose of martial law in Fiji, is the commodore finally losing the plot? Unsurprisingly, the Auckland-based Coalition for Democracy in Fiji (CDF) has condemned the reintroduction of the emergency regulations. Auckland-based spokesman Nik Naidu says:
Bainimarama and his band of merry men have now confirmed beyond any doubt of Fiji's status as a banana republic.
Until now, the people of Fiji lived in hope that the Fiji Military and it supporters and apologists were genuinely interested in helping move the country forward.
This latest action by the military and its installed puppet government leaves no doubt that they are only interested in keeping themselves in power.

People should be allowed to voice their opinions freely and not be held hostage by the gun.
The only positive way forward for Fiji is for all leaders (political, communal, military, business and religious) to work together and find common ground. By rejecting or ignoring certain factions or sectors will only delay a feasible solution to Fiji's problems.
It is the time for negotiations to start, goodwill to prevail, and a return to democracy.

The Coalition dor Democracy has called on the Fiji military to respect the rule of law and to follow constitutional processes to help resolve issues and disagreements.
The CDF is a group made up of former Fiji residents, and concerned New Zealanders. It has been active since 1987 in support of the fight for the rights of Fiji people and Fiji democracy.
Contact Nik Naidu.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Justice for the abduction and torture of Anirudh Singh

Back in 1990, I wrote a series of news features about the case of Fiji academic Dr Anirudh Singh - his brutal abduction and torture by special forces soldiers in the post-Rabuka coups climate of oppression. One of my stories in the old Auckland Star stirred the wrath of then "Disinformation" Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. So I am pleased to see Anirudh finally get justice 17 years on. The High Court has awarded university lecturer Anirudh some $400,000 and five per cent interest for compensation for the abduction and torture. According to the Fiji Times, this would reach a total of $793,022.63 if interest is calculated for every 14 years as the judgment suggests.
High Court Judge Justice Roger Coventry also ruled that the Attorney General as sixth defendant be liable to payout $250,000 plus five per cent interest.
The army officers whom Justice Coventry had previously found to be represented by the Attorney General have been ordered to pay Anirudh a further $150,000 plus five per cent interest.
University of the South Pacific academic Anirudh, an outspoken campaigner for human rights, was abducted from his home in Rewa Street, Suva, by five soldiers from the Special Operations Security Unit and taken to the forests of Colo-i-Suva where he was hooded, beaten up and tortured.
The five soldiers involved, including former Special Air Services officer Captain Sotia Ponijese, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 12 months in jail. In 1993 Dr Singh took the case to the High Court claiming general, special and exemplary damages for his pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
Ironically, the judgment came on the same day that the current regime in Fiji reimposed its state of emergency and a further clamp on free speech!
Inset: Auckland Star clipping of one of my stories about the abduction and torture of Anirudh Singh, 17 December 1990.

High Court awards $400,000 plus to Dr Singh
Keep quiet, Qarase told

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Global search for the BOBS - best blogs!

I've had some positive feedback from Vincent Brossel of RSF in Paris about Cafe Pacific. Good one. Thanks. And a word about RSF's partnership with Germany's public broadcaster Deutsche Welle in the annual search for the best blogs. Some of those bloggers that stirred up recent strife with Fiji's military regime should have a shot. “BOBs - Best of the Blogs” is running for the fourth year running.
What are The BOBs?
For the next four weeks, internet users are invited to go to to nominate the best blogs in 15 categories. The competition is open to blogs, podcasts and videoblogs in the following 10 languages - Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, Farsi, French, German, Portugese, Russian and Spanish.
The BOBs are the world’s biggest international blog awards and offer a broad overview of the blogosphere, the rapidly evolving world of weblogs, videoblogs and podcasts. The winners are chosen by the public and a jury. Last year, more than 5,500 blogs were nominated and more than 100,000 Internet users took part in the online voting.

All bloggers and blog fans can go to the BOBs website until 30 September to nominate their favourite blogs. An international jury of journalists, media specialists and bloggers will then choose a shortlist of finalists. The winners will be determined by a combination of online voting from 23 October to 15 November and jury decision.

Good luck bloggers!

More detail on The Bobs website or at Deutsche Welle.

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