Friday, July 10, 2020

From nuclear refugees to climate justice – the Rainbow Warrior legacy

Rongelap islanders with their belongings approach the Rainbow Warrior in May 1985.
Image: (c) David Robie
SPECIAL REPORT: By David Robie, who sailed on the original Rainbow Warrior to Rongelap atoll and is author of the book Eyes of Fire.

Thirty five years ago today the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was bombed in Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour by French secret agents in a blatant act of state terrorism, killing a photojournalist.

People’s campaigns have moved on since then from nuclear tests and refugees to climate justice – and future Pacific refugees.

The environmental campaign flagship was bombed on 10 July 1985 just weeks after it had been in the Marshall Islands carrying out four humanitarian voyages to rescue more than 320 Rongelap atoll villagers from the ravages of US nuclear tests and take them to a new home, Mejato island on Kwajalein atoll.

READ MORE: Eyes of Fire – Thirty Years On
LISTEN: David Robie reflects on the Rainbow Warrior on RNZ’s Crimes NZ programme

They were nuclear refugees seeking justice, relief and a healthy life far from the dangerous legacy left from 105 tests on Bikini and nearby atolls.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Toxic US politics, a brutal killing and the messengers become the target

CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez ... arrested in a First Amendment violation, then released
with a police apology. Image: Al Jazeera screenshot/David Robie
Three cartoonists had especially poignant takes on the tragic and toxic political aftermath of martyr George Floyd’s brutal killing under the knee of a white American policeman in Minneapolis last week.

The Boston Globe’s Christopher Weyant featured a split frame contrasting a red-capped “Make America Great Again” and a Covid Is A Hoax tee-short dangling his face mask while declaring: “You’re violating my freedom – I can’t breathe”.

On the other side of the frame is the accused policeman with his knee on Floyd’s neck as he gasps: “You’re violating my freedom … I … can’t breathe!”

READ MORE: US press freedom tracker records more than 300 incidents against journalists in the George Floyd protests

An unnamed Greek cartoonist shared by Elena Akrita showed the Statue of Liberty bearing the flame of freedom while extinguishing a life with a jackboot.

At the other end of the globe, in the South Pacific, New Zealand Herald’s Rod Emmerson depicted President Trump holding aloft a petrol can in his right hand instead of the Bible. In the background is the legend: In God We Trust: In Trump We Just Shake Our Heads.

Friday, May 22, 2020

West Papua’s highway of blood – a case of destruction not development

A Papuan with a face painting of the banned Papuan independence flag Morning Star. Image: The Road
REVIEW: By David Robie

The 4300-km Trans-Papua Highway costing some US$1.4 billion was supposed to bring “wealth, development and prosperity” to the isolated regions of West Papua.

At least, that’s how the planners and politicians envisaged the highway far away in their Jakarta offices.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is so enthusiastic about the project as a cornerstone for his infrastructure strategies that he had publicity photographs taken of him on his Kawasaki trail motorbike on the highway.

But that isn’t how West Papuans see “The Road”.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Jailing of Jakarta Six fuels virus fears over Papuan political prisoners

A past protest in London demanding the release of Papuan political prisoners. Image: Survival International
PACIFIC PANDEMIC DIARY: By David Robie, convenor of Pacific Media Watch

THE JAILING of the Jakarta Six – five Papuans and the first Indonesian to be convicted for a Papuan protest – in Indonesia last month has focused global attention on the plight of political prisoners in the face of a failing struggle against the coronavirus pandemic.

Already several analysts are warning that both Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are at risk of becoming coronavirus “failed states” and this will be of concern to Australia and New Zealand.

While Papua New Guinea has had only eight confirmed covid-19 cases so far – a spike is expected this month in spite of the state of emergency, Indonesia already has 10,843 cases with 831 deaths and the real toll is feared to be higher and climbing.

READ MORE: Tough coronavirus controls threaten Pacific, global media freedom


Friday, April 24, 2020

Tough coronavirus controls threaten Pacific, global media freedom

Reporters Without Borders has just published its annual World Press Freedom Index ranking
countries over censorship. Video: Hannah Cleaver/DW


Against a backdrop of many governments using tough controls under cover of fighting the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic to strengthen “creeping authoritarianism”, a global media freedom watchdog has signalled draconian virus reactions as a major threat.

From Papua New Guinea where media briefings have been curtailed with a lockdown of the national information and operations “nerve centre” at Morauta Haus, to Fiji where media personalities have been arrested, to the Philippines where state troll armies “weaponise” disinformation on social media, and to Indonesia where street artists have stepped in fill an information void, the signs are really worrying for defenders for media freedom.

The pandemic is “highlighting and amplifying the many crises”, already casting a shadow on press freedom, says the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders watchdog, which released its annual World Media Freedom Index this week.

READ MORE: The Reporters Without Borders 2020 World Press Freedom Index

While China and Iran have been singled out for strong criticism for suppressing details of the coronavirus outbreak early in the crisis, several countries traditionally strong on media freedom in the Asia-Pacific region have slipped down in the rankings – including Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Friday, April 17, 2020

How the ‘chief covidiot’ has blocked world health unity with WHO freeze

President Donald Trump ... deflecting the blame for the US coronavirus pandemic crisis onto WHO.
Image: Al Jazeera screenshot


Donald Trump’s sabre-rattling freeze on funding for the World Health Organisation at a time when many countries are pulling together for a global response to the coronavirus pandemic has surely earned him the epithet of the “world’s chief covidiot”.

The US President’s efforts at deflecting the blame for his country’s national public health crisis by pointing the finger at WHO and announcing that Washington would pull funding as the largest donor has shocked the world, triggering widespread condemnation from leaders and public health experts.

The impact of this shock decision is bound to be felt in the Pacific region with some countries and territories clinging precariously to their Covid-19-free status, while others – such as the US territory Guam, New Caledonia and French Polynesia – have already become hotspots.

American funding to WHO provided more than 15 percent of the international body’s 2018-19 budget of $4.4 billion.

While Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal, denounced Trump’s decision as “a crime against humanity” and an “appalling betrayal” of every scientist, health worker and citizen – and of global solidarity, the second largest WHO donor, Microsoft’s Bill Gates of the Gates Foundation, described the move “as dangerous as it sounds”.

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