Friday, February 28, 2014

A 'Pacific brand' of journalism? A forthcoming media book tells how

ADVOCATES, campaigners,  journalists and researchers gathered at New Zealand's AUT University today to honour past campaigns for the Nuclear-Free and Independent Pacific Movement (NFIP) and to strategise for the future.

Panel presentations ranged from the US Castle Bravo nuclear test on Bikini Atoll in 1954 - today, March 1, was the 60th anniversary - to the Rongelap Atoll evacuation by Greenpeace in May 1985, the protests against French nuclear testing, the ICAN campaign to abolish all nuclear weapons, the "forgotten struggle" in West Papua, and to the future self-determination vote in Kanaky.

Delegates were also told about a new book being published next month about NFIP issues and journalism - Don't Spoil My Beautiful Face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific by Pacific Media Centre director and Café Pacific publisher David Robie.

What commentators say:

David Robie has been committed to developing quality journalism in the Pacific, and especially in developing a “Pacific brand” of journalism.
Kalafi Moala, Pasifika Media Association (PASIMA)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fighting for East Timor's right to free expression and information for everybody, not just journalists

La'o Hamutuk ... submissions for free speech and the right to information
for everybody in Timor-Leste. Photo: David Robie
EARLIER this month Café Pacific published two commentaries on the draconian proposed media law for Timor-Leste and why journalists are up in arms about it. They were republished on Pacific Scoop.

But it isn't only journalists who are concerned, non-government organisations that often carry out independent investigations on issues that local media don't have the resources to tackle are also upset.

It is the narrow definition of "journalists" and freedom of information for the public at stake. One of the provisions essentially gags freelance and independent journalists, and also foreign correspondents are blocked as the draft currently stands.

The International Federation of Journalists has issued a statement criticising the draft law and Reporters Sans Frontières is believed to be sending a letter to the Timorese legislators reviewing the draft law.

On February 19, Committee A of Timor-Leste's Parliament invited La'o Hamutuk and the HAK Association to present and discuss our views.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

‘Scapegoat Season’ at USP fails to hide achievements


SO it’s Scapegoat Season again at the University of the South Pacific journalism programme. Barely more than a year has elapsed since the last incumbent was dumped as head.

Dr Ian Weber ... out the USP
"revolving door". 
Photo: Jay Folio blog
And now Australia-based Dr Ian Weber, a colleague of his predecessor, has shot out the “revolving door”, as Fijileaks put it. He apparently resigned the same week as the journalism classes were supposed to start for the year.

His litany of complaints about the USP establishment is much the same as many coordinators have expressed in the past, in private if not always publicly – “favouritism, lack of consultation and unethical pressure” plus general lack of support.

So what’s new? Well, this time Dr Weber has launched into an extraordinary and unfounded personal attack on his distant colleague, a local Fiji Islander who is well on the way to becoming the first Pacific Islands media educator at the regional university with a doctorate in journalism.

And Shailendra Singh, a former editor of the Fiji news magazine The Review who has put in far more of the hard yards for the benefit of Fiji and Pacific journalism over the past decade than any expatriate fly-by-nighter, is not even on the Laucala campus in Fiji.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

'Protect our reporters' - radio interview on The Wire

REPORTERS all over the planet die to tell stories. From the Philippines where journalists were massacred in Maguindanao on the southern island of Mindanao in 2009, to Mexico where journalists families are targeted with threats of torture.

The Pacific is a far cry from these situations yet only one Pacific country made it to the top 10 in press freedom for 2014 - New Zealand at ninth.

This is not a one off occasion. In 2013, the situation occurred where New Zealand was also the only Pacific country in the top 10. 

Australia was 28th in the 2014 index.

The highest placed Pacific Islands country was Samoa, ranked 40th, closely followed by Papua New Guinea at 44.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fiji in from the cold - and courted for the asylum seekers ‘Pacific Solution’

THE AUSTRALIAN yesterday featured an “historic come-in-from-the-cold” meeting in Suva between Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with Fiji military-backed regime chief Voreqe Bainimarama in a report by Asia-Pacific affairs editor Rowan Callick.

She revealed to Bainimarama that the past 56 requests for exemptions under the relaxed travel sanctions policy had been granted (except for one on a technicality), with Callick summing up the “warm” meeting like this:
In the Coalition’s most decisive step away from the foreign policy position of the Rudd-Gillard years, it is restoring links with Fiji across the whole of government, including, crucially, defence ties.

Ms Bishop’s meeting with Commodore Bainimarama went for an hour, running overtime.
According to Callick’s report, Fiji’s Foreign Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuobola, has been "to Australia often, and the government’s second most powerful figure, the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, was allowed to travel to Australia over Christmas". Callick wrote:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Harassment of The Guardian causes UK drop in press freedom index rankings

The Guardian offices ... harassed over intelligence leaks.
Photo: Bethany Clarke/Greenslade Blog
From the Greenslade Blog and Reporters Without Borders

THE UNITED KINGDOM has slipped three places down the World Press Freedom Index rankings this year - to 33rd.

According to the global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in its report this week, this was due to the country "distinguishing itself by its harassment of The Guardian" following its publication of the NSA and GCHQ leaks by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

That incident, and the White House administration's reaction to the Snowden affair and the jailing of Chelsea Manning over the Wikileaks revelations, also resulted in the United States falling by 13 places to 46th in the list.

RSF remarks: "The hunt for leaks and whistleblowers serves as a warning to those thinking of satisfying a public interest need for information about the imperial prerogatives assumed by the world's leading power."

Major declines in media freedom were recorded in Central African Republic and Guatemala but RSF also pointed to marked improvements in Ecuador, Bolivia and South Africa among the total of 180 countries.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

East Timor journalists form press union as concerns mount over draft media law

Timorese journalists check out their stories in two of the daily newspapers while
waiting for a media conference in Dili. Photo: David Robie

TIMOR-LESTE Press Club has this week transformed itself into the fledgling Timor-Leste Press Union and now seeks to become affiliated to the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists.

It is also seeking collaboration with the National University of Timor-Leste (UNTL) to establish a training programme for journalists in the industry.

These are just two of the current moves by journalists in response to mounting concern over a proposed media law that some fear may curb a free press in the country.

While journalists are worried about the legislation, some are reluctant to openly condemn it. Timor-Leste ranked 77th in the latest 2014 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index report.

Timor-Leste Press Union president Jose Belo, the country’s best known investigative journalist and publisher of the independent Tempo Semanal, has confirmed the new status of his journalists advocacy group and says he is concerned over “government control” of media.

Exposing the Invisible - digital technology for social justice

Unseen War ... one of the trilogy of Exposing the Invisible films.


IN A remarkable “before we are launched” event organised by the fledgling Sydney Democracy Network in one of Australia’s oldest lecture theatres, a digital technology collective has demonstrated dramatic and progressive examples of the global “information war”.

The Berlin-based Tactical Technology Collective co-founders, Stephanie Hanley and Marek Tuszynski, treated a packed theatre at Sydney University to a smorgasbord of video and technology at the forefront of ground-breaking social justice information collaborations.

The video Unseen War was an inspiring and provocative investigation into the use of drones for illegal targeting killings in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan – far from the glare of media publicity.

An estimated 2500-3500 civilians have been killed in this “unseen war” through drone attacks on urban areas.

Twelve journalists have also been killed in the past decade, many as a result of investigating these targeted killings.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Timor-Leste's media law ‘secrecy’ lifted, but draconian content revealed

East Timorese journalists at work ... no more freelancers
under the draft media law? Photo: David Robie

THE PROPOSED Timor-Leste media law is a draconian mixed bag. And it is ironical that such a document with lofty claims of protecting the freedom of the press should be shrouded in secrecy for the past six months.

After being approved by the Council of Ministers last August 6, it has languished in the “don’t touch” basket since then, apart from a critical airing at a conference on the state of the media last October.

And then suddenly, with few copies of the document being in circulation previously, a hurried “consultation" was held with journalist representatives this week. A journalists' submission is expected by Parliamentary Committee A by Monday.

But other people with a stake in the future of media regulation – such as academics, bloggers, book publishers, non-government organisations, political commentators and media users themselves – haven’t yet had a chance to give any input.

While the document contains an interesting attempt to define “duties” of journalists in an evolving new democracy such as Timor-Leste and professes to support freedom of information and the right to be informed, in reality many clauses seek to effectively gag the press and debate.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

'Pak' Prabowo seeks to 'clear' his name over Timor atrocities allegations in media jousting

Beatriz looks for her husband among the bodies after the 1983 Kraras massacre, as portrayed in
Beatriz's War, East Timor's first feature film.


INDONESIAN presidential hopeful ‘Pak” Prabowo, the retired Kopassus general notorious for his alleged human rights violations in Timor-Leste, has finally broken his silence and made a statement to the Jakarta Post denouncing a recent article about his past as “scurrilous allegations”.

Yet his odious record speaks for itself.

He claims in an open letter that allegations about his actions three decades ago, notably the massacre in August 1983 in Kraras - now known as the “village of widows",  were "based on unproven allegations, innuendos and third-hand reports".

What was he forced to reply to? Journalist Aboeprijadi Santoso, a contributor  to The Jakarta Post writing from the safety of Amsterdam, had written an article entitled: “Whatever happened in Kraras, Timor-Leste, ‘Pak’ Prabowo?”
Timor-Leste soldiers and young citizens paying homage
to the Kraras  massacre victims in 2013.
Photo: David Robie

He was referring to the massacre that has been immortalised in Beatriz's War, the harrowing new film about the Timorese struggle for independence from Indonesia, especially telling the story from a woman's perspective.

Heroine Beatriz (a composite character created from real life people) was a survivor from the Kraras massacre. Prabowo is depicted as being responsible for many human rights atrocities in the film.

Santoso recently described Prabowo as one of the “most interesting – and most controversial” presidential hopefuls in the Indonesian elections due in July because he has reinvented himself as an anti-corruption campaigner. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Timor-Leste’s Max Stahl – documenting the audiovisual and development ‘war’

Filmmaker and digital historian Max Stahl with an image from his 1991 Santa Cruz
massacre footage in Timor-Leste. Photo: David Robie
By David Robie

A YEAR after Indonesian troops killed more than 270 peaceful demonstrators at the cemetery of Santa Cruz in the Timor-Leste capital of Dili in 1991, news footage secretly shot by a cameraman surfaced in a powerful new film.

The Yorkshire Television documentary, In Cold Blood: The Massacre of East Timor, screened in six countries and later broadcast in other nations, helped change the course of history.

Until then, countries such as Australia and New Zealand – in spite of a New Zealander being killed in the massacre – had been content to close a blind eye to the illegal Indonesian invasion in 1975 and the atrocities committed for a quarter century.

The cameraman, Max Stahl, who risked his own life to film the massacre and bury the footage cassette in a freshly dug grave before he was arrested, knew this evidence of the massacre would be devastating.

In a documentary made a decade later by Yorkshire Television’s Peter Gordon, Bloodshot: The Dreams and Nightmares of East Timor, that interviewed key players –including Stahl himself - in the transition to restored independence in 2002, Timorese leaders reveal just how critical this footage was in telling their story of repression to the world.

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