Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Two countries, two kidnappings – Port Moresby shows Jakarta how it’s done with 3 PNG hostages freed

NZ pilot Philip Mehrtens with some of his West Papuan rebel captors . . . hopes for his
release as with the hostages in neighbouring Papua New Guinea.
IMAGE: TPNPB video screenshot APR


TWO countries. A common border. Two hostage crises. But the responses of both Asia-Pacific nations have been like chalk and cheese.

On February 7, a militant cell of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), the armed wing of the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) — a fragmented organisation that been fighting for freedom for their Melanesian homeland from Indonesian rule for more than half a century — seized a Susi Air plane at the remote highlands airstrip of Paro, torched it and kidnapped the New Zealand pilot.

It was a desperate ploy by the rebels to attract attention to their struggle, ignored by the world, especially by their South Pacific near neighbours Australia and New Zealand.

Many critics deplore the hypocrisy of the region which reacts with concern over the Russian invasion and war against Ukraine a year ago at the weekend and also a perceived threat from China, while closing a blind eye to the plight of the West Papuans – the only actual war happening in the Pacific.

The rebels’ initial demand for releasing pilot Philip Mehrtens is for Australia and New Zealand to be a party to negotiations with Indonesia to “free Papua”.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

West Papuan cat-and-mouse over NZ pilot taken captive by ‘freedom’ rebels

New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens taken captive by Papuan rebels . . . a "Papua Merdeka"
- Free Papua message. IMAGE: TPNPB screenshot APR


Papuan independence rebels are playing a desperate game of cat and mouse with Indonesian authorities over their hostage taking last week with a New Zealand pilot caught in the middle.

Christchurch-raised Philip Mehrtens, 37, a pilot for the national feeder airline Susi Air owned by a former cabinet minister and with Jakarta government supply contracts, was seized by rebels last Tuesday, February 7, shortly after he had touched down at the remote Paro airstrip near Nduga in the Papuan highlands.

Five Indigenous Papuans on board the aircraft were set free and the plane was set on fire.

After initial reports saying the authorities were trying to pinpoint the actual place where the rebels are in hiding and that a rescue operation is under way, the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) played a trump card today by releasing “proof of life” video footage and photos.

“Papua Merdeka!,” said Mehrtens in one of the obviously coached video messages. “The Papuan military have taken me captive in the fight for Papuan independence,” he added hesitantly while surrounded by a group of armed rebels.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Papuan journalist award-winner Victor Mambor targeted for his reports

Papuan editor and publisher Victor Mambor . . . “Journalists need to break
down the wall and learn freely about our struggle." IMAGE: Victor Mambor FB


When Papuan journalist Victor Mambor visited New Zealand almost nine years ago, he impressed student journalists from the Pacific Media Centre and community activists with his refreshing candour and courage.

As the founder of the Jubi news media group, he remained defiant that he would tell the truth no matter what the risk while facing an oppressive and vindictive regime.

“Journalists need to break down the wall and learn freely about our struggle,” he said in a message to New Zealand media via an interview with Pacific Media Watch.

Now the 49-year-old journalist and editor finds that the risks are growing exponentially as his media network has expanded — with an English language website and Jubi TV becoming add-ons — and the exposure of his networks have also widened.

He writes for the Jakarta Post, Benar News and contributes to international news services. Two years ago he was also co-producer of an award-winning Al Jazeera 101 East documentary about the plunder of West Papuan forests for oil palm plantations.

But last week the timing was impeccable over his latest award, the Oktonianus Pogau Prize for courageous journalism. It came just eight days after a bomb blast had happened in the street outside his Jayapura home.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Fiji’s media veterans recount intimidation under FijiFirst government – eye on reforms

Fiji journalist Lice Movono talks to Café Pacific publisher David Robie while
preparing interviews for her media freedom podcast for Radio Australia's
Pacific Beat. IMAGE: Screenshot Café Pacific

Pacific Media Watch

RADIO Australia’s Pacific Beat reports on how Fiji has fared under the draconian Media Act that has restricted media freedom over the past decade and moves to change the law.

There are hopes that state-endorsed media censorship will stop in Fiji following last month’s change in government to the People’s Alliance-led coalition.

Reported by Fiji correspondent Lice Movono, the podcast outlines former Fiji Times editor-in-chief Netani Rika’s experiences of repression under the former FijiFirst government.

But a change in government has also been reflected by a change in attitude towards the media.

It comes as the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation board has terminated the contract of FBC’s chief executive Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum amid reports that the CEO for the public broadcaster earned more money than the prime minister of the country.

Monday, January 30, 2023

What the resignation of New Zealand's inspirational prime minister means

New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs friends and colleagues
at her farewell to the nation as leader. Image: DAWN/AFP

By DAVID ROBIE for IDN-InDepth News

AOTEAROA New Zealand has been shaken to the core by the sudden resignation of one of its most iconic and revered prime ministers amid a fierce controversy over misogyny and death threats stirred by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Jacinda Ardern, the world’s youngest female prime minister at 37 when she was elected in 2017 on a stardust wave of “Jacinda-mania”, stepped aside on January 19 after emotional scenes at her last official function wrapped in a traditional Māori feathered cloak at the historic Ratana church.

It is now less than a fortnight after her resignation caught the nation by surprise and has thrown this year’s general election due on October 14 wide open.

Ardern told New Zealanders that after five and a half years as leader of the left-of-centre Labour Party and with the biggest mandate in modern times, she “no longer had enough in the tank to do the job justice”.

Her party had been trailing in opinion polls in the face of a revived conservative National Party led by former airline executive Christopher Luxon and the right-wing ACT party, but she was still the most preferred prime minister in spite of her eroding popularity.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

‘Terror’ bomb explodes near Papua journalist Victor Mambor’s home

Police gather evidence near the site of a bomb explosion that took place outside the house
of Jubi editor Victor Mambor, in Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia, on 23 January 2023.
IMAGE: AJI for BenarNews


Pacific Media Watch

A VETERAN journalist known for covering rights abuses in Indonesia’s militarised Papua region says a bomb exploded outside his home yesterday and a journalists group has called it an act of “intimidation” threatening press freedom.

No one was injured in the blast near his home in the provincial capital Jayapura, said Victor Mambor, editor of Papua’s leading news website Jubi, who visited New Zealand in 2014.

Police said they were investigating the explosion and that no one had yet claimed responsibility.

“Yes, someone threw a bomb,” Papua Police spokesperson Ignatius Benny told Benar News. “The motive and perpetrators are unknown.”

The Jayapura branch of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) condemned the explosion as a “terrorist bombing”.

In Sydney, the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) and Pacific Media Watch in New Zealand protested over the incident and called for a full investigation.

>>> Popular Café Pacific Posts