Monday, February 11, 2008

Timor on edge after failed double assassination attempt

A state of emergency has been declared in East Timor as authorities try to work out whether yesterday's assassination attempt on the Prime Minister and President was the work of a few or many. As ABC's AM reports: President Jose Ramos-Horta is still gravely ill in Royal Darwin Hospital after being shot three times by a group of heavily armed men. The Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, was luckier. He managed to escape unhurt when more gunmen opened fire on his motorcade.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Assassination attempts jeopardise Timorese peace efforts

Australia now rues the botched bid to arrest renegade Major Alfredo Reinado in a violent raid on his mountain hideout last year that saw five of the rebel's men killed. According to The Age, Australian and other forces (including from New Zealand) are bracing for possible reprisal attacks following the death of Reinado, who had been charged with murder. He was shot in return fire when gunmen led by Reinado wounded President Jose Ramos-Horta in a dawn assassination attempt. Ramos-Horta had last year waived an arrest warrant for Reinado, deciding instead to seek talks and a peaceful resolution. But meaningful negotiations never eventuated. While Dili is reported to be calm, the attack jeopardises the efforts to normalise the country. The Age's account:
East Timor has been plunged into a new crisis by failed assassination attempts on its two top leaders and the killing of a rebel military leader.
East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta was shot and wounded in a dawn attack on his Dili home by gunmen led by rebel soldier Major Alfredo Reinado, who was killed in return fire, the government said.
A presidential guard was injured.
Timorese Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa said Ramos-Horta had undergone exploratory surgery at the Australian military hospital in Dili. Da Costa described the president's condition as "stable".
"He underwent surgery to locate bullets. One had hit him in the back and passed through to the stomach," he said.
It is understood Ramos-Horta will be flown to Darwin for further treatment. Royal Darwin Hospital is on standby.
"He will survive, and this country will survive", said Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres. Ninety minutes after the first attack, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped unhurt when his car was ambushed and shot at as he drove to his offices to deal with the crisis.
Gusmao's home was also attacked, bodyguards said.
Pictured: A election poster during last year's election campaign that swept Ramos-Horta to the presidency.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Eye-opening Jakarta media experience

Dylan Quinnell, one of AUT's crop of graduating young journos, has had an eye-opening experience in his Jakarta sojourn for international reporting. He has filed stories, pix and a video - an ultra brief one - on Suharto's death (see outside Suharto's house below). He has also been keeping us up-to-date with a regular blog at the Pacific Media Centre.


A couple of other Kiwi journos-to-be - Aroha Treacher (AUT) and Will Robertson (Massey) - have also been busy over there. Living in rumah kos, student lodgings, Dylan has just turned in a few pars about a nearby sweatshop:
Just down the street is a place we refer to as a sweatshop. A small metal door that leads off the alley shows a small cramped room about 5m by 5m filled with desk and sewing machines, always humming. Every morning when we wander past we get followed by friendly 'salamat pagis' that carry on even when we are long gone, in the evening its 'salamat malams'. A friend that works for the Jakarta Post interviewed a few of the friendly workers one day and this is what she found. First of all it is a legitimate, to a point anyway, factory and the people are, as it seemed, happy. Full blog: Our local Jakarta sweatshop
Other items:

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Parochialism in NZ rugby coverage

An interlude from the Pacific with an item on rugby. Considering the passion for the game in New Zealand, it is astonishing that the media is still so parochial in its coverage. For example, the refreshing French 27-6 victory over Scotland in the Six Nations at the weekend - four debutantes and three converted tries to none - should warrant decent coverage. The country's major newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, could only find room for one line - the score in the results section (not even a breakdown of the scorers).
How bizarre, given that only three months ago, the French team was responsible for the All Blacks' humiliating exit from the World Cup. Disappointed that France didn't go on to win the cup after dispatching the favourites, new coach Marc Lièvremont's axe has been wielded heavily on Les Bleus cup team. But one of the inspirational players at the weekend was young French-Vietnamese flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc (pictured) from Montpellier. He is certainly somebody quickly making an impression on the game. One of the leading global rugby writers is Ian Borthwick, a Kiwi writer on the French sports daily L'Equipe. Yet we rarely see pieces of his in New Zealand media. Borthwick's writing on French rugby in the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday was far more perceptive than anything run in the NZ media since before the start of the World Cup.
Another perceptive writer is Paul Ackford who analysed the "surreal environment" for France's flyhalves leading up to 21-year-old Trinh-Duc being tossed in the deep end. Trinh-Duc is the seventh player in the last 23 games to feature in the pivot role for France:
Walk with me back to June 2006. In that month the impish Thomas Castaignede was handed the 10 jersey against Romania. Thomas, bless him, lasted a single match before making way for Damien Traille who held on to it for four. Then it was David Skrela's turn. He also played four games against Italy, Ireland, Wales and England before getting booted out in favour of Lionel Beauxis who managed one before the baton was passed to Benjamin Boyet for France's 2007 tour to New Zealand. Too much to hope that Benjy would hang on to his place against the mighty All Blacks? Yep. Boyet had two outings and was summarily dumped.
Next, Skrela and Beauxis job-shared so-to-speak for France's World Cup warm-up games against England (twice) and Wales before Freddie Michalak entered stage left for the tournament proper, whereupon the trio mixed and matched for the remainder of the competition.
And now it's poor Trinh-Duc's turn.

But Trinh-Duc played impressively against Scotland in his debut.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Crocodile tears over Suharto's death - brutality in the Pacific

Amid the crocodile tears over Suharto's death and the glossing over the appalling crimes carried out under his dictatorship, it is refreshing to read accounts calling like it was. The little Marlborough Express in NZ was scathing about Suharto's "corruption franchise" and the regime's brutality against aspirations for independence in East Timor and West Papua:

The death of former Indonesian president Suharto brings into focus again the fate of East Timor and the role of Australia and, to a lesser extent, New Zealand in that country's life.
Not that it has really been away with half a million people still displaced and sporadic unrest in that fledgling nation. It also brings to the forefront the continuing struggles in places such as West Papua which are still fighting to rid themselves of Indonesian control.
The newspaper's editorial was rather dismissive of Suharto and the bank balances of the Indonesian elite.
And as the Suharto regime, which came in on the back of a failed coup and stayed on as an illegitimate military government, exploited the country's wealth to the utmost, civil liberties were the victim.
It is thought up half a million people lost their lives during the Suharto years. And in the middle of this brutal regime was East Timor.
As the world looked on with seeming indifference in 1975 the borders of Indonesia were enlarged to include the eastern half of the island of Timor.
Jakarta felt threatened by the setting up of an independent leftist state and moved to stop it. In the next 20 years East Timor lost 200,000 people under the Indonesian fist.
It is a period which brings shame to stronger Pacific countries, notably Australia and New Zealand.
A Crickey! piece by Jeff Sparrow exposed the West's media hypocrisy over Suharto and contrasted coverage with Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile, AUT Journalism has a couple of student journos on the ground in Indonesia filing actuality. Dylan Quinnell reported on how Suharto's death split opinions and the media. Read his story and see his pix - a street scene outside Suharto's house.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Farewell to The Bulletin!

So The Bulletin current affairs magazine - racist, radical and later probing in its time as an icon in Oz publishing - has been axed by its foreign equity masters. Another corporate nail in the coffin of independent journalism. The Australian, in an editorial, mused:
Surviving 128 years from provocative newspaper to colour magazine, the publication served generations of readers well, from its initial sell-out appearance in Sydney on January 31, 1880, onwards. The announcement of its demise made yesterday a sad day.
John Lyons, writing in The Australian's Media section had this to say:
An American chief executive working for a Scottish boss who represents a Hong Kong private equity fund yesterday closed an Australian institution with a 128-year-old publishing history.
Welcome to the brave, but soulless, new world.
When The Bulletin's death was announced at a 10am meeting in Sydney yesterday, it ended a tradition begun with the likes of Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and Miles Franklin, survived through literary greats such as Donald Horne and given a new lease of life in recent years with the likes of Les Carlyon and Laurie Oakes.
Its last edition, which went on sale two days ago, features lengthy articles by Thomas Keneally, Frank Moorhouse and Richard Flanagan.
Having worked full time on The Bulletin in the late 1990s and continuing to write for it until last year, I gained a sense of what the magazine meant for both the Australian public and the Packer family. It says everything about who now controls what used to be the Packer empire - a private equity company called CVC Asia Pacific - that the matriarch of the family, Ros Packer, was not even given the courtesy of a phone call to tell her that the magazine that had been at the centre of her family's media empire had been closed. She found out, by accident, when she turned on her television at 2pm.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

In defence of Samoa's public radio 2AP

Jason Brown, writing in an editorial on his stirring Avaiki website, makes an impassioned plea against the sale of Samoa's public radio 2AP. Responding to the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi - who says the sale decision has been in the pipeline for years and "there is nothing to worry about", Brown says:
"Listeners next door in the Cook Islands might disagree.
"For years, for example, residents on the atoll of Pukapuka have tuned into 2AP not just because the language is closer to their own but because the signal from their supposed capital, Rarotonga, has been too weak to pick up.
"That's because the station was privatised in the mid-1990s by an acting broadcasting minister and friend of the current owners, while the real broadcasting minister was out of the country.
"Among other things, like cutting news bulletins, the new owners dialed down the broadcast strength to save power, i.e. money.
"This had tragic consequences for the northern atoll of Manihiki.
"Fatally unaware of looming hysteria in Rarotonga over cyclone warnings of an approaching cyclone, 19 people died in Manihiki on the first day of the cyclone season, 1st November 1997.
"Not everyone could be reached by phone, local Manihiki police did not have time to travel the large lagoon warning everyone, not everyone took the warnings seriously....

"No commission of inquiry was ever held despite it being the worst loss of life in the country's history ..."

Listen to Mailbox on RNZI tomorrow (Monday, January 21) when David Ricquish of the Radio Heritage Foundation is due to explore some of the public radio issues. Visit for shortwave frequencies and times.

Jesson critical journalism award gets revamp

New Zealand's only award for critical journalism is being revamped to link in with a growing movement for more democratic local media.
The Bruce Jesson Foundation, set up after the death of journalist-politician Bruce Jesson in 1999, has provided up to $3000 a year since 2004 for “critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism or writing which will contribute to public debate in New Zealand on an important issue or issues”. A review after its first four years has concluded that the award should continue, with a slight change in the criteria to cover publishing, as well as producing, critical journalism.
Foundation chair Professor Jane Kelsey says experience to date shows that the barrier to good journalism is not always in the actual production of the work, but in finding an outlet in our commercialised market that is willing to publish it:
"For example, freelance journalist Jon Stephenson, who won our award in 2005 for a two-part report from Iraq for Metro magazine, is so dedicated that he would have found a way to get to Iraq somehow. You might argue that Metro, as the publisher, should have paid his full costs for his trip there. But the reality of our commercial marketplace is that neither Metro nor any other New Zealand news outlet was willing to pay Stephenson's full costs for stories of marginal commercial value, so by part-funding his trip we effectively subsidised his publisher because we believed in the social value of the stories he planned to write."
Kelsey says the award is now part of a growing recognition that the commercial imperatives of our largely foreign-owned media, increasingly focused on celebrities and consumerism, need to be balanced by a deliberate community-based effort to provide journalism on public issues – issues that affect us as citizens and workers as well as consumers.
The union representing most journalists, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), is organising a public review of NZ journalism this year, seeking submissions on issues such as media ownership and commercial pressures.
A Movement for Democratic Media is also being formed to bring together journalists and other citizens who want to produce and promote public issue journalism.
Kelsey says: "Our award is more important than ever now. We hope we can support some of the other initiatives to produce more public issue journalism, and we hope that the growing recognition of this gap in our society will spur more journalists and citizens to apply for our
The award covers living costs and direct costs such as phone calls and travel to enable New Zealanders to investigate and report on issues in depth. Applications for the 2008 award close on 30 June.
Past winners, criteria and applications. More information:
  • Chair: Prof Jane Kelsey, 09 373 7599 x 88006 or 021 765 055
  • Senior lecturer Joe Atkinson, 09 373 7599 x 88094
  • Simon Collins, 09 483 5911 or 021 612 423
  • Rebecca Jesson, 09 521 8118 or 0274 714 690
  • A/Prof David Robie (joined 2007), 09 921 9999 x 7834 or 021 112 2079
  • Jon Stephenson (joined 2007), 09 368 4689
Pictured: Dylan Horrocks cartoon for Bruce Jesson's To Build a Nation. His political cartooning web page is

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kiwi journo team in Jakarta on the ball

Good to hear from the Kiwi journo team on a Jakarta practicum this week - Aroha and Dylan (AUT) and Will (Massey). They've finished the course part and now move into the internships next week - Aroha is going to Metro TV, Dylan joins TVRI and Will gets his start with Reuters. They are on the programme along with 20-plus Oz journo students or graduates.
We should get a feed of stories from them - look for these at the Pacific Media Centre. Aroha's piece on ex-president Suharto's desperately clinging to life is here. And Dylan has a few bloggy bits here. Dylan was blown away by a national soccer semifinal between a Jakarta team and one from colonised Papua. Here are his thoughts on the experience:
The soccer semifinal was crazy, riot police everywhere and when the Jakarta supporters realised they were going to lose 3-2 things got nasty. A group who were sitting above the Papuan supporters started ripping up the bench seats and chucking them at the people below. Riot police charged up and restored order but after that plastic water filled bottles were flying and most of the Papuans broke through a fence at the bottom and milled beside the field flanked by police.
After the game, most were put of buses and escorted from the stadium to stop more fights. Two guys were set upon with metal pipes outside our hotel but got away with minor injuries, not a nice situation. My photo shows one of the Papuans celebrating on the field with some of the ever present police behind. I would hazard a guess that political tensions increased the tension as there seemed to be no love lost. A second group of supporters waiting for a later game also started bottling the Papauan, who charged up into their section with sticks forcing them to flee into ours, before I headed onto the field.
I am currently thinking of staying on for a while afterwards and working here to do a few independent stories.

I hope all is well in NZ...


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