Monday, June 16, 2008

Goro mining struggle now on mission to Canada

Clashes in New Caledonia persist over nickel mining and coral reefs as indigenous Kanaks campaign for customary authorities to have more say in decision-making over resource development, says an environmental campaigner. Marina Kahlemu, former president and now secretary of the Corail Vivant environmental group, says the struggle to save the reef is critical in the face of major mining projects. She talked about her people's struggle on a visit to the Pacific Media Centre this week with Canterbury University internship student journo Yvonne Sargayoos. Marina is on her way to Quebec where the next stage of the campaign to have New Caledonia's coral reef classified by UNESCO as a world heritage site is set. Groups like Corail Vivant and the more militant Rheebu Nuu have been at the forefront of the struggle. AUT film maker Jim Marbrook is working on a doco about the dilemmas of nickel mining and economic development and protecting the fragile environment. From what we've seen of the rushes so far, Jim has a compelling and doco in the making - one that indigenous campaigners protecting a way of life will find inspiring. Photo: Marina Kahlemu ... campaigning to save New Caledonia's reefs. Photo: Jim Marbrook. Video: Jeffery Zweig at a meeting earlier this year planning to halt the pipeline work.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New lease of life for Pacific Media Watch

Just 11 years or so after it was founded, Pacific Media Watch has discovered a new lease of life at its new home at AUT University. Always with an eye to journalist freedom in the region - and sometimes a persistent thorn in the side of self-interested media fat cats - the voluntary media monitoring service has been relaunched as a "future proofed" dynamic digital resource. Launching the database along with the latest edition of the research journal Pacific Journalism Review, Office of Pasifika Advancement director Pauline Winter described the new media resource as invaluable for media and journalism schools. The new Pacific Media Centre took over development of the PMW service last year and has established the database as the first project on DSpace, a digital archive set up by the university's Creative Industries Research Institute (CIRI). The revamped service combines more than 5000 news reports on Pacific media freedom, ethics, education and training issues - updated daily - with a major archive of media research reports and documents, and audio and video clips. But the new database is just at the first stage of its new development. Many new improvements will come in the months ahead.
The original PMW news monitoring service was established in 1996 as a journalism partnership between the University of Technology, Sydney, and the University of Papua New Guinea. The University of the South Pacific journalism school has also been a key contributor in recent years.
PMW campaigned in support of Tongan publisher Kalafi Moala, fellow journalist Filokalafi 'Akau'ola and pro-democracy MP 'Akilisi Pohiva who were wrongfully jailed that year for contempt of Parliament.
At the launch, I paid tribute to the researchers and students involved in the centre. But I would especially like to single out Sydney television journalist Peter Cronau for his sustained work on PMW over many years - including setting up the original PMW website and Kiribati journalist Tabs Korauaba who helped work on developing files for the digital archive last year.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Goodbye PNG rainforest - hello ecodisaster!

Papua New Guinea's forests are shrinking faster than the Amazon, says the New Scientist in its latest edition (2659). This report is one of a host sparked in global media this week from a joint new state-of-the-nation's-forests report prepared by a joint University of Papua New Guinea and Australian National University team. The New Scientist summary says:
The lush tropical rainforests of Papua New Guinea are not the unspoilt haven that many believed till now. In fact, they are disappearing faster than those in the Amazon.
That's the conclusion of a team led by Phil Shearman of the Remote Sensing Centre at UPNG in Port Moresby, who applied pattern recognition software to recent satellite images, and paired the results with map data from the 1970s to reconstruct the rate of forest loss. The team presented its findings ... at a workshop on climate change, forests and carbon trading in Port Moresby.
Their study found that in 2002, 1.4 per cent of PNG's forests were cleared or degraded, increasing to 1.7 per cent in 2007. If the trend continues, more than half the forest that existed when PNG became independent from Australia in 1975 will be gone by 2021.

The Guardian reported in a bylined piece by David Adam:
The forests of Papua New Guinea are being chopped down so quickly that more than half its trees could be lost by 2021 ... Papua New Guinea has the world's third largest tropical forest, but it was being cleared or degraded at a rate of 362,000 hectares (895,000 acres) a year in 2001, the report said.
Phil Shearman, lead author of the study, said: "Forests are being logged repeatedly and wastefully with little regard for the environmental consequences, and with at least the passive complicity of government authorities."
The researchers compared satellite images taken over three decades from the early 1970s. In 1972 the country had 38m hectares (94m acres), of rainforest covering 82 percent of the country. About 15 percent of that was cleared by 2002.
Shearman said: "For the first time we have evidence of what's happening. The government could make a significant contribution to global efforts to combat climate change, as this nation is particularly susceptible to negative effects due to loss of the forest cover."

Pictured: Not far behind the PNG rainforest roads, the rapacious loggers. Source: UPNG report.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Clark critical of 'personality driven' NZ media

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has highlighted a number of faults in the national media while discussing the need for a lively press "with responsibility" in the latest Pacific Journalism Review. Among several points she raises are:

  • Too many youthful journalists with energy but a limited grasp of history, geography, sociology and economics - leaving "a large gap in general knowledge".
  • The lack of resources given by the media to covering international stories of "importance to New Zealand".
  • The need for mainstream media to have a better understanding of cultural diversity.
  • Journalists shouldn't confuse healthy scrutiny with cynicism because that undermines the political process.
  • Personality driven media with journalists making themselves the centre of the story.
  • The role of blogs and the tendency for journalists to make "rushed judgments".

This edition's special section of research papers from the Journalism Education Association of NZ conference at Massey University last December has been edited by my Wellington colleague Dr Grant Hannis. The journal has only just gone out to subscribers but already there has been plenty of positive feedback. Other contributors include Fortune journalist and author Bethany McLean, who exposed Enron over its gigantic scam, and Dom Post editor Tim Pankhurst over how his paper is facing the challenges of digital media. Hannis himself contributes a revealing research paper about freelance journalists. Other articles in the AUT Pacific Media Centre- published journal highlight the Maori Party and the media, bogans in West Auckland and West Papuan coverage plus a state-of-media-health report by Bill Rosenberg. And a host of good reviews are also included.

Friday, May 23, 2008

'Underclass' Pacific migrants paper stirs media issues

New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres, plans a closer examination of the issues raised by Massey University economist Dr Greg Clydesdale’s widely condemned report alleging Pacific migrants are becoming an underclass in New Zealand. De Bres has convened a meeting of Pacific community representatives, academics and government policy analysts to discuss the report, which has stirred up a hornet's nest of controversy. Critics have lambasted Clydesdale over the lack of rigour and "racism" of his report. In his defence, Clydesdale has condemned "political correctness bullying" and - disturbingly - made allegations about unethical distortions by some named journalists. He claims in a message circulated to media criticising lack of media resonsibility that "it is obvious that the Dominion Post deliberately sensationalised my paper". For example, he claims he never said Polynesians were "a drain on the economy", as reported in Islands Business and many other media following The Dominion Post. He concludes:
I have had far more respect from Polynesians on this issue than the journalists (and many Kiwi-Polynesians actually supported me). If I was not writing an article on economic grounds, I would welcome more Polynesians and deport half the journalists.
De Bres says the report has caused "significant hurt" to Pacific communities and fuelled the venting of prejudice on the internet and talkback radio. But the right-wing blogs haven't had it all their own way. There has been some searing analysis of Clydesdale's research claims. In a satirical piece at Huia, titled "A little leeching and mooching from the underclass", Karlo Mila commented:
It’s hard work being a drain on the economy of New Zealand. But then someone’s got to do it and why not an ethnic minority? I woke up this morning and pondered on just how to suck the blood of the nation and simultaneously render myself devoid of any innovation – living out the 'lifestyle choice' of the Polynesian underclass I belong to – and the lifestyle that my children will default to (the research says so!!!)

Grumpy Old Geezers blog described the Clydesdale report as "clumsy as a heavy horse", saying:
... if you give a lot of money to a flaky Massey University research project, release the results to a bunch of semi-conscious journalists who are having a slack news night at the Dominion Post, then add a dramatic front-page headline written by a Qantas Award winner for headline-writing, you get something that reinforces racist, xenophobic social stereotypes and helps absolutely nobody.
The consensus from the Pacific community meeting convened by the HRC was that the contribution of Pacific Islanders’ to the New Zealand economy and society has been more positive. The meeting encouraged de Bres to invite submissions on the report to create a "broader, well-informed basis" for discussing the issues.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Farewell Ka Bel - a hero of the working class

"HE HAD wanted to die 'in the streets', says the Philippine Daily Inquirer, "that is, in the act of principled protest, deep in the trenches of a never-ending war against injustice. Instead, progressive Congressman Crispin "Ka Bel" Beltran died after falling off the roof of his modest, mortgaged house, in the act of tending to his family's needs. He was trying to fix the roof before the rains fell." It was a shock when his death came to the many activists, civil society advocates, democrats and journalists in the Philippines, New Zealand and the world who were inspired by his life of integrity.

The Inquirer added:
It may not have been a hero's death, but it was still a virtuous one, with a timeless lesson in personal integrity. It showed an astonished nation that it is possible to remain poor while serving in Congress, despite the trappings, the generous staffing budgets, the access to pork barrel funds. Despite all that, the 75-year-old Beltran remained a member of the working class he represented.

Beltran was detained in 2006 amid a crackdown on progressive politicians, human rights campaigners, unionists, journalists and religious leaders. The congressman was arrested on charges dating back to the era of Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the early 1980s and were quashed in 1988. Since then, further trumped up charges of sedition were laid. Beltran had been held under hospital detention for sixteen months but an international campaign succeeded in setting him free.

A statement by the Auckland-based Indonesia Human Rights Committee said:
The Indonesia Human Rights Committee takes a close interest in the human rights and justice issues in the Asia-Pacific region.
We therefore mourn the loss of Congressman Crispin Beltran “Ka Bel”, a great man and an exemplary leader, with his family, his friends and the Filipino people. His untimely death is a great loss to all freedom-loving citizens. His life is a concrete example of the struggles ordinary people wanting to have a better and decent life.
Ka Bel had a very challenging and colourful life. From the Marcos martial law to Arroyo’s ‘undeclared martial law’ he never stopped fighting for the poor people. He was a true defender of the workers, peasants, urban poor and other marginalised sectors of the toiling masses. He was also a staunch critic of privatisation, deregulation and other destructive policies of globalisation.
His speech in the plenary after he was freed by the Arroyo government sums up well the kind of man he was. He said: "I am innocent of the rebellion charge against me. It's neither a sin nor against the law to speak against graft and corruption and the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians.”
Not only was he involved in national politics but also in international issues. Ka Bel also stood against the United States' war of aggression on Iraq and its war on terror. He was steadfast in his call for respect for national sovereignty and international unity against foreign intervention.
As a parliamentarian, he was incorruptible and stood for his principles. In his three terms in Congress he was awarded the Filipino of the Year and Most Outstanding Congressman honours for four consecutive years from 2002 – 2005. In 2006 was judged part of the Congressional Hall of Fame.
One of his famous quotes was: "If helping the poor is a crime, and fighting for freedom is rebellion, then I plead guilty as charged."
His sister Gerodia Beltran-Mirafuentes said: “He was a politician of the poor. He died a poor man.”

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pacific j-schools and the sad fate of UPNG

Hard to believe, but the South Pacific has just had its first regional journalism school
workshop - 33 years after the first j-school was established. The University of Papua New Guinea led the way in 1975 - the heady year of independence - with a j-school established with NZ aid by the late Ross Stevens. Sadly, Ross would have turned in his grave if he saw the state of UPNG's j-school today. In his time (1975-77) on the Waigani campus, the teaching was in a creative "dungeon" in the bowels of the Michael Somare library. Today, journalism is housed in the relatively recent Ulli Beier building - in an air conditioned multi-purpose lab - but with no sign of actual journalism. Five e-Macs lacking a printer and a network. Hardly the stuff of a newsroom. Gone is any sign of the history and tradition of what was once the finest journalism school newspaper in the Pacific - Uni Tavur (first Pacific j-paper to win the Ossie award for newspapers in 1995, competing against Australian and NZ publications). That success was during my era at UPNG when I negotiated with the Post-Courier to print the paper every fortnight for 12 editions a year. Thanks OP for your great support in those days!

What is a journalism school without its own press and broadcast programmes? It's hard to imagine that UPNG has 100 j-students plus these days. What do they do? And what is their employment ratio? There are simply not enough jobs. Still, I was pleased to see many of my former students doing so well in the media, people like Titi Gabi, news director at PNGFM Ltd, and Jackie Kapigeno, news editor at The National, and her deputy, Christine Pakakota. Well done team! Good to see Freddy Hernandez still going strong in The National newsroom - check out his letters from Moresby. And a delight to see Jada and team at Wantok.

Now let's not get too nostalgic about PNG. Back to UNESCO and Abel Caine - they deserve a big bouquet for getting this much belated workshop off the ground. And already the second such workshop is in their sights for next August at the PINA convention in Vanuatu. Although some j-schools are more fortunate than others in the region, many of the issues about facilities and resources (including human) are familiar to everybody. And a sharing of issues and a draft plan for the future is encouraging for Pacific j-education. In my book, the only downside of the workshop was the failure of the new polytechnic j-schools to get their act together (apart from Fiji Institute of Technology, which was well-represented by Elia Vesikula) and be represented. Invitations to Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu were wasted. I wonder what possessed AusAID to lash out money on establishing these new schools when the existing j-programmes are so under-resourced as it is. There are simply not enough facilities and human resources to go around all the Pacific schools. The University of the South Pacific with the only regional regional j-programme has the capacity to continue running courses for everybody, providing the industry backs USP to the hilt. Its postgraduate programme is also developing quite nicely. The sheer scale of PNG means both Divine Word (especially) and UPNG have much to offer. But UPNG needs a huge injection of assistance to get it back to anywhere near its former status as the leading j-school in the region (see my book Mekim Nius for the history). Maybe UNESCO could offer a volunteer for a two-year project as well as resources?

Pictured: Top: "Behind bars" - symbolic of post-coup Fiji today. But this is now a sign of the security times in PNG. USP's Shailendra Singh and FIT's Elia Vesikula offer us the caged look at a downtown Moresby jewellery store. Above: Earlier in the day, Vesikula and PINA's Matai Akauola left us in no doubt with Fiji TV's ownership of EmTV when they took over the news readers desk for a laugh! Photos: David Robie

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