Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Media protest over Hunter expulsion from Fiji

Still smarting from last week's embarrassing allegations by the Fiji Sun, Fiji TV and - particularly Netani Rika's Saturday expose in the Fiji Times accusing and naming interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry over his tax affairs, the regime hasn't wasted much time in turning its rage onto the messenger. In this case, Fiji Sun publisher Russell Hunter (pictured) was on a one-way plane ride from Fiji to Oz today after eight years in the country (plus a previous spell when he was forced out by Chaudhry when he was PM before the Speight coup in 2000). Chaudhry declared he was filing defamation writs against both the Sun and the Fiji Times. Media organisations have vented their outrage at the arbitrary move, claimed to be because Hunter was deemed a 'security risk'. The Fiji Media Council said it was shocked by the seizure then expulsion of Hunter, especially as he still had a further 18 months to run on his work permit. Chairman Daryl Tarte protested in a statement:
The action by the Immigration Department, with the approval of the Minister, was taken without due process being followed, without regard for is fundamental rights, without him having access to legal advice, nor any consideration for the plight of his family. He was taken from his home at 8.30 at night and transported to Nadi airport. Furthermore, the deportation took place despite an order from the High Court in Suva restraining the Director of Immigration from deporting Mr Hunter. The Minister’s justification for the deportation is that he is a prohibited immigrant under the new immigration act that came into force on January 3, 2008. No specific details of what Mr Hunter is supposed to have done were given.
Hunter said on arrival in Australia the Fiji media should carry on undeterred. Asked why he had been declared a 'prohibited immigrant', he said: "In my view, the fact that we revealed Mahendra Chaudhry's tax evasion and secret overseas bank accounts."
Interviewed on Radio NZ International, I warned of a new crackdown on Fiji media, adding: "The regime thinks the media should perform a parrot-like role but there is a long tradition of vigorous and free journalism in Fiji. The current media are upholding that tradition very well."

UNSURPRISINGLY, Dr Jim Anthony, who made headlines last year as the controversial choice to head an "inquiry" into the media organised by the Fiji Human Rights Commission, fired off a salvo to the Fiji Times : "... Good riddance to bad rubbish. All other foreign journalists on work permits in Fiji ought to be put on notice: all their permits will not be renewed. Fiji ought to get its act together and train and promote its own people to report the news fairly, accurately and in a balanced way right across the board ... Australia and New Zealand are not necessarily the only beacons of hope or measures of decency in the world." Among other major flaws, Anthony's media report was astoundingly flimsy about the degree of training and education that does go on in Fiji, ie the long-established University of the South Pacific journalism and diploma degree programmes and also the fledgling FIT course. (Netani Rika's view of the report? "Malicious, full of conjecture and untruths" ).
In an editorial headed WE ARE NO THREAT, the Fiji Times said: "The deportation of Fiji Sun publisher Russell Hunter as a security risk to this nation is deplorable. And his treatment as a human being was reprehensible. Taken from his home under the cover of darkness, he was driven to Nadi without being given time to change or say a word of farewell to his wife Martha and their daughter ... Even convicted fraudster Peter Foster was treated better than Mr Hunter."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fiji court 'intimidation' over criticism of judges rapped by RSF

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned what it describes as the Fiji Appeal Court's harassment of Leone Cabenatabua, editor of the Fiji Sun, and Virisila Buadromo, head of the Fiji Women's Rights Movement (and former journalist), who were summoned and warned by the court on 12 February 2008 because of an article quoting Buadromo in that day's issue criticising the military-led government's appointment of new judges to the court.
"The judges exceeded their prerogatives by trying to intimidate a newspaper editor who just published an activist's views on a violation of the rule of law," the press freedom organisation said.
Questioning the independence of the Fijian judicial system, Buadromo's article described the appointments as illegal and said they were an attempt by the military to legitimise their December 2006 coup. It was the three judges named in the article - Daniel Gounder, Nazhat Shameem and Jocelyn Scutt - who summoned Cabenatabua and Buadromo. No charges have been brought against them.
The Sun's editor-in-chief, Russell Hunter, clarified his newspaper's position in an interview with Radio Australia's Pacific Beat reporter Bruce Hill, whose interview was partially carried by Radio Fiji: "You have to listen to what the Court of Appeal tells you - but at the same time you have to exercise editorial judgement. I guess you'll try and fall in the middle somewhere."
Meanwhile, the decade-old Sydney-based Pacific Media Watch is being reestablished as a digital research repository at AUT University's Pacific Media Centre and will be available soon in its new format as a public domain searchable media resource. In Timor-Leste, the case of a beaten up AFP journalist is being investigated and censorship by the Australian-led military authorities is a growing concern.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mining hustlers court Bougainville

In spite of the devastating decade long civil war over Panguna copper mine, Bougainville under reconstruction is again the target of global mining (and petroleum) interests courting the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) for a lucrative share. The Post-Courier has waxed lyrically over the state of Bougainville, using a custom allegory in its latest Focus page:
BOUGAINVILLE is re-emerging from the long shadows of its armed struggles and is discarding her dreadlocks to sport a new look of a young maid just entering womanhood. In doing so, she is quickly catching the attention of every eligible bachelor in the region, most of whom want her hand in a marriage of convenience attracted by the vast richness of her mineral wealth and natural resources.
But like all good girls brought up to observe the strict protocols of custom but educated in the ways of the Western civilisation, she is leaving the final decision to her uncles and aunties in the ABG house of representatives because not only is her marriage the question but who the potential groom could be and more importantly the bride price and its beneficiaries.
The stepfather who brought her up is somewhere in Waigani and he also has made it known that her future is also his business ...
... The only company that has made a tangible investment on the island is Invincible Resources, a company that not many people, even Bougainvilleans, come to know of but according to company executives, Invincible Resources’ K20 million given to Bougainville is for capacity building so that "Bougainville gets out of the mess quickly".
The PNG government is still negotiating with the ABG over powers to regulate mining, petroleum and gas resources on the island. During the last meeting in Buka, Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and his deputy Dr Puka Temu requested that while mining, petroleum and gas powers were transferred to the ABG, mineral rights over Bougainville should remain with the PNG government. ABG President Joseph Kabui has rejected their request.

APN shortlisted for 'worst transnational' award

A news media group - APN News & Media (ANM) - has been nominated as a "finalist" in the annual Roger Award for New Zealand's worst transnational corporation.
The 2007 finalists are:
APN News & Media (ANM)
British American Tobacco (BAT)
Independent Liquor
Pike River Coal
The criteria for judging is by assessing the transnational (a corporation which is 25% or more foreign-owned) that has the most negative impact in each or all of the following categories:
Economic Dominance - Monopoly, profiteering, tax dodging, cultural
People - Unemployment, impact on tangata whenua, impact on women, impact on children, abuse of workers/conditions, health and safety of workers and the public, cultural imperialism. Environment - Environmental damage, abuse of animals.
Political interference - Cultural imperialism, running an ideological crusade
The judges are: Laila Harre, from Auckland, national secretary of the National Distribution Union and former Cabinet Minister; Anton Oliver, of France, former All Black and environmentalist; Geoff Bertram, from Wellington, Victoria University economist; Brian Turner, from Christchurch, president of the Methodist Church and social justice activist; Paul Corliss, from Christchurch, a life member of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union and Cee Payne-Harker, from Dunedin, industrial services manager for the NZ Nurses' Organisation and health issues activist.
To celebrate the fact it is 10 years since the first Roger Award event (also held in Christchurch) and that 2008 is election year, CAFCA is holding a conference - Privatisation By Stealth: Why This Discredited Practice Is Still On The Political Agenda - on that same day (March 16), to precede the Roger Award event.
The Roger Award is organised by CAFCA and GATT Watchdog and is supported by Christian World Service.

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.

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