Saturday, March 18, 2017

Grief, repression, life and death in West Papua’s Highlands

Bonnie Etherington reading from her new book The Earth Cries Out at the Women's Bookshop in Ponsonby,
Auckland, this week. Photo: Del Abcede
THE Auckland launch of Bonnie Etherington’s thrilling debut novel, The Earth Cries Out, on grief, repression and life in another world -- the Highlands of West Papua -- this week was intriguing.

Along with the usual literati at events like this, were the human rights activists with “Free West Papua” emblazoned on their chests and the media freedom advocates intent on exposing the constant gags imposed on the West Papuans by the Indonesian military killing machine in defiance of an empty “open door” policy proclaimed by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in 2015.

The “Free West Papua” movement, fuelled by inspired and continuous social media exposes and debate, has been growing exponentially in recent years.

But you wouldn’t know that if you merely relied on the parochial New Zealand media, which doesn’t seem to have woken up to the human rights catastrophe happening on its Pacific doorstep. (Instead, global news services such as Al Jazeera English, or local services such as Asia Pacific Report and Radio NZ International are having to do the job for them).

Speaking at the Women’s Bookshop in deepest Ponsonby – a world away from the mountain jungle near Wamena in West Papua, Nelson-born Etherington gave three readings from her book, which she says is aimed at a more nuanced understanding of West Papua, one of them a chilling rendition of the fate of a woman accused and slain as an alleged “witch”.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

West Papuan students stage anti-Freeport protests in Indonesia


KBR audio report on the Jakarta protest in Bahasa. Audio: KBR/Asia Pacific Report

From the Pacific Media Centre's Asia Pacific Report.

West Papua is the ongoing Pacific human rights story that the mainstream New Zealand media ignores. Freeport in West Papua is the copper and gold mine - the world's second largest -- that the $20 billion NZ Superannuation Fund was forced to pull out of in 2012 after sustained protest about its "unethical" investment in the company.

PROTESTERS from the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and religious pupils from an Islamic boarding school (pesantren) have faced off against each other at the Malan city hall in East Java.

Both groups held the protests on Friday under tight police security, as West Papuan protests over Freeport took place at several other places across Indonesia.

Scores of demonstrators from the AMP and the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-West Papua) unfurled banners and conveyed a number of demands, including the closure of the PT Freeport gold and copper mine in Papua.

They also brought banners with demands such as, “A joint action to support the Papua problem at the United Nations Human Rights Council” and “Close and Expel Freeport”. Protesters took turns in giving speeches.

The spokesperson for the AMP and FRI-West Papua, Wilson, said that the action represented Papuan society’s anxiety saying there are so many violations at PT Freeport that it was creating ever more misery in the land of Papua.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Worlds of Journalism global research project produces NZ findings

The latest Pacific Journalism Review ... publishing for 22 years. Image: Hans Tommy/AUT
From Asia Pacific Report

NEW ZEALAND journalists are working longer hours, and feeling more pressure, both ethically and resource-wise, than they were only two years ago, a new research survey has found.

A survey of New Zealand professional journalists, published today in Pacific Journalism Review, also shows for the first time that women journalists are paid less than men, despite making up the bulk of the workforce.

The survey shows female journalists, despite predominating in the profession, are significantly disadvantaged in terms of promotion and income.

The average before tax income of all journalists was $69,400 (in 2015 dollars) but the median after-tax salary of women was 26 percent lower than that of men of equivalent rank and experience.

READ MORE: Pacific Journalism Review on the new Tuwhera platform

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Febriana Firdaus, following in the courageous footsteps of Suara Papua editor Pogau


The last video posted by Oktovanius Pogau on his YouTube channel before he died early last year
- a KNPB rally in Jayapura posted on 31 May 2015.

WEST PAPUAN editor Oktovianus Pogau, who died last year aged just 23, would have been proud. An inaugural award for journalism courage named in honour of him has been presented to a brave young woman, freelance journalist and blogger Febriana Firdaus, who has been covering human rights abuses in Indonesia.

This published on Asia Pacific Report from the Pantau Foundation that has made the award and which has made a point of shunning cash prizes and extras to concentrate on the recognition:

Febriana Firdaus ... winner of the inaugural Pogau Award
for journalism courage. Image: Pantau Foundation
“We want to honour our colleague, Oktovianus Pogau, a smart and courageous journalist, who edited Suara Papua newspaper and highlighted human rights reporting. He passed away at a very young age – just 23 years old. We want to honour his legacy by establishing this Oktovianus Pogau award,” said Imam Shofwan, chairman of the Pantau Foundation in a speech to a small gathering at his office.

The Pantau Foundation selected Febriana Firdaus, a Jakarta journalist, to receive the inaugural award.

Firdaus covered Indonesia’s efforts to deal with the 1965-1966 massacres, disappearances and arbitrary detentions. She also covered discrimination, intimidation, and violence against the LGBT community in Indonesia.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Colourful, vibrant Aotearoa rally condemns Trump’s ‘racist, Islamophobic’ bans


Video and images by the Pacific Media Centre’s Del Abcede. Video: Cafe Pacific on YouTube

From Asia Pacific Report

MORE than 2000 people have taken part in a colourful and vibrant  “Aotearoa Against Muslim Ban” march in New Zealand’s largest city to condemn the “racist and Islamophobic” immigration bans ordered by US President Trump.

The protest rally was held in Auckland’s Aotea Square yesterday in solidarity with those affected by President Trump’s executive orders to implement a 90-day ban on people from seven Muslim majority countries and 120 day ban on all refugees, with an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.

The Aotearoa Against Muslim Ban coalition condemned the US bans ordered by Trump.

“These border policies are racist, Islamophobic and unacceptable,” said Mehwish, one of the organisers of the “No Ban, No Wall” protest.

“They continue a pattern of white supremacist immigration exclusion in colonial settler countries like the United States. Bill English refusing to call it for what it is – racist – is a dangerously weak response and doesn’t represent the people of Aotearoa.

Friday, January 27, 2017

What now for the Tongan Democrats looking ahead to 2018?

'Atenisi Institute's Dr Michael Horowitz with two Tongan newspapers -- Koe Kele'a and Talaki -- at the seminar
at Auckland University of Technology this week. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
By Kendall Hutt of the Pacific Media Centre

THE FUTURE of Tonga’s Democracy Coalition remains uncertain as next year’s election draws closer, a Nuku’alofa-based educator has concluded in a public seminar in Auckland last night.

Dr Michael Horowitz, dean of Tonga’s ‘Atenisi Institute, told the audience at his seminar entitled Can the Democracy Coalition retain power in Tonga? the fate of the party – and with it the election due late next year — was impossible to predict.

This is largely due to the fact no survey research is conducted, continuing Tonga’s “big surprise” election-day tradition, Dr Horowitz said.

Dr Horowitz, also a visiting research scholar with Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre, said the Democracy Coalition may just hold on to power despite a bumpy term littered with controversy.

These controversies included a petition in 2015 for Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva to surrender his education portfolio over the so-called “raw marks” policy controversy and the “cloudy issue” of state-owned Tongan Broadcasting Commission head of news Viola Ulakai’s suspension over alleged false representation, which prompted questions about Tonga’s media freedom status across the Pacific.

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