Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cora stirs ripples in Pacific pond

Cora Fabros dropped into New Zealand a week ago on the first stage of her tour exposing the impact of foreign military bases on sovereignty ... especially for indigenous peoples. She may not have made a mark yet in the mainstream media, but she has certainly stirred some ripples in the South Pacific pond. She is no stranger to New Zealand, having been here on several occasions with her previous Nuclear-free and Independent Pacific work. Nowadays lawyer Fabros is Asia-Pacific coordinator of the Manila-based International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases. She is a guest of NZ's Anti-Bases Campaign and is visiting spy bases around the country - including Waihopai (above), the base that attracted international attention when Ploughshare protesters sneaked into the site in a daring "raid" and deflated one of the large inflatable domes covering a radar dish. Comments by Cora reported in today's Marlborough Express:
"Information gleaned by the Waihopai Valley spy base is giving the United
States an unfair economic advantage ...

"Fabros described April's attack as a "very creative" way of bringing
attention to the facility.
"I really admire the courage of our friends who did this."
"She said Waihopai was ... spying on the communications of the Pacific Islands and the
information was part of the pool of data used by the US.
"That to me is very deceptive and a violation of the sovereignty of
independent nations."
Cora is speaking at the Pacific Media Centre on Thursday, July 17, 5-6.30pm, WT032, AUT Tower, Ground Floor, AUT University, Auckland (opposite Aotea Square). Don't miss the chance to hear her. More info? Contact Del Abcede: (+649) 921 9388.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Flosse to sue France 3 TV over JPK 'defamation'

Controversial Senator Gaston Flosse, the conservative Tahitian politician who has dominated political life in French Polynesia for more than two decades, plans to sue France 3 television over a documentary broadcast last week. The programme, Death in the Tropics, implicated Flosse in claims about the 1997 disappearance of a Tahiti journalist, Jean-Pascal Couraud (pictured), widely believed to have been murdered. The programme, which was broadcast in Tahiti and in France, explored the mystery surrounding the affair which has been at the heart of a stalled judicial investigation.
Flosse, president of French Polynesia’s local government when Couraud - known as "JPK" - disappeared, was quoted in Tahitipresse as saying he had been accused of "the most abominable deeds".
He plans to file a defamation writ because the TV programme - in the Tempo investigative series - didn't give him any right of reply in the face of the allegations. Flosse claims the programme violated the basic principles of democracy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pan-Pacific radio group in hot seat again

Cyberspace is running hot over at Google's PIMA.nius group over the future of Pacific Radio Network and its pan-Pacific radio stations, including NiuFM. The network recently announced restructuring and staff were invited to reapply for jobs. Several jobs are on the line. And tomorrow is D-Day for redundancies, according to the coconet wireless. Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) this week posted a statement saying that it accepted the need for restructuring and called for patience. But chairman Aaron Taouma says this "process is unfortunate" and his statement shouldn't be interpreted as PIMA backing for the PRN move.
"Let's make this a positive new beginning for Pacific media and Pacific radio broadcasting," he says. "Get rid of old shackles and bonds and begin again." PIMA seeks to work in the interests of all Pasifika media people. And it can be tricky balancing interests.
Some of the PIMA.nius online posters have been calling for some sort of a public debate. Their argument runs that, as the network is a community broadcaster and receives considerable public funding, it ought to consult more with a broader Pasifika media fraternity, at least. The pro-debate lobby is being led by Will 'Ilolahia and others who have been frustrated at what they think is stonewalling by both PIMA and PRN. So Will has set up his own blog to hear from disgruntled NiuFM fans who want a voice. If you have something to say, then you know where to go. The word seems to be that PIMA is having a rethink and might organise a wider "general media forum". A good idea.

Stop Press: Since I posted this item, a nutter has apparently run amok on Will's Pasifika broadcast gripes blog. Somebody closely associated with NiuFM - we all know who she is, of course - "TellTheTruth" can hardly get anywhere near the truth through her fog of personal abuse. If this is the sort of hack on the radio station's payroll, no wonder there are so many problems in Ponsonby. If she thinks she is onto something about my protracted and well-known clashes with PINA (now ancient history), then where has she been over the past 20 years? Check this out for balance for the real story behind her selected letters clogging the PiTV blog. She also might actually do some journo's homework and read my 2004 book Mekim Nius! Jason Brown has also filed a riposte on PiTV. For the record, Cafe Pacific has no particular interest in NiuFM - although we want to see it prosper for the good of the Pasifika community. We raise media issues as needed throughout the region as they arise.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The subversion of Fiji's search for political equilibrium

Amid the fog of political polarisation and ethnic characterisation in Fiji, it is refreshing to have some intelligent and thoughtful debate examining beyond the "race" perspective on Fiji, so often favoured by journalists. Ethnic and political identities are not identical, as University of the South Pacific's Professor. Despite this, the two have been molded into inseparable components of communal politics, says sociologist Dr Steven Ratuva, of the University of the South Pacific. Speaking at a public forum on identity and belongingness in Fiji, he was reported by the Fiji Times as saying the contest for state power continued to be based on ethnic and political identification and consciousness.
“While there is a clamor for a political identity at the national level there is also demand for distinctive ethnic diversity. The search for political equilibrium in Fiji’s communal democracy has been constantly subverted by indigenous ethno-nationalism, justified by the ideology of paramountcy of Fijian interests.”
The 2000 coup brought to surface a lot of contradictions of communal democracy. “But the State system has not in itself changed despite the change in ideological and professional focus of the military from being an institution of indigenous rights to one which serves national interest."
The 2006 coup was an attempt to transform the identity of the state in a fundamental way through institutional reform and a proposed charter, he said. And now the debate is on about the legitimacy of this approach.

Another assault on media freedom

Ironically, Fiji Human Rights Commission's Ombudsman Shaista Shameem, under attack from various media quarters over her leaked 41-page report upholding the "right" of the Fiji regime to deport foreign newspaper publishers Evan Hannah and Russell Hunter (both Australian), has a chapter in a media book being published in Fiji tomorrow. In this, she isn't very charitable about journalists and objectivity. "Can we, in reality, expect objectivity from journalists? Human beings , by nature, are not objective... Journalists cannot pretend to be objective. ... The role of the journalist is to scrupulously provide all sides of the story allow people to make up their own minds."
Fair enough, but this is journalism 101 - one of the fairness foundations of journalism that reporters grow up with. It is in the interpretation of fairness where the credibility gap begins. She complains that journos in the Pacific don't know enough about the difference between "coverage" and "cover-up". And she reckons that the "worldview of owners" is too influential. On her checklist for journos is:
  • "There is no such thing as objectivity of perspective; there are only subjectivities, including prejudices, and these must be kept firmly under control to protect journalistic professionalism.
  • "The right to a fair hearing is a requirement in reporting a story..."

In her book, there is far too much "manipulation" by media in the Pacific. But the chapter is generalised with no specific examples of her claims. In her adjudication in the Hunter and Hannah complaint (filed by "Opposition Leader" Mick Beddoes), there is an attack on an alleged "conspiracy" involving the New Zealand government - highlighted today by the Sunday-Star Times.
Meanwhile, media freedom in the region continues to deteriorate with Cook Islands News publisher John Woods becoming the latest journo to face the wrath of bureaucratic or judicial vindictiveness. He has been convicted of contempt in the High Court on Rarotonga over the breach of a suppression order related to a Manihiki land controversy.
Mike Field and others have also reported on the police raid on Fiji Television to block a Close Up current affairs programme featuring Rajendra Chaudhry that irked the regime.

Friday, June 20, 2008

New book explores crucial role for Pacific media in development

A new book on Pacific media is being launched in Suva, Fiji, on Monday to add to the growing literature on Pacific journalism. With a core of University of the South Pacific contributors and journalists and media analysts around the region, Media and Development will be exploring critical issues facing the Pacific - and what journalists can do about it. No doubt this publication will become a core text at the USP and other journalism schools, at least for postgraduate students. Published by the Fijian Institute of Applied Studies and co-edited by USP journalism head Shailendra Singh and economics professor Biman Prasad, the team of 23 contributors - including me - ought to be congratulated on the effort. After the book launching by Fiji Media Council chairman Daryl Tarte at USP, the co-publisher - Pacific Media Centre - will have another launch in Auckland further down the track.
With growing evidence of low economic growth, poverty, mismanagement, corruption and political instability in the Pacific, the co-editors argue that an unfettered flow of information is vital:
The media has a crucial role to play in facilitating quick and better access to information about issues such as health, education, technology, economy and politics to help to maintain the social and political cohensiveness that is so important for development in small and vulnerable countries.

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.

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