Friday, January 23, 2009

Fiji floods - more on aftermath reporting

JAMES MURRAY has been busy with his new blog Views on the News with an ethical take on the media. Half of his pieces so far have been on the Pacific. Good, given the relative under exposure elsewhere in the NZ media. His latest comment has been another bite at the issue of disaster coverage after my comments in one of his recent postings. I had called for more in-depth coverage of the region and less of an obsession with crises, coups and disasters. In other words, a lot more focus on the "why" - backgrounding of stories and the followups. This time, James has talked to one of his colleagues at TV3, Michael Morrah, recently back from covering the Fiji floods. James quotes Michael as saying that covering the floods opened up the door to other stories:
Poor infrastructure – especially roads, governance and health care are a few examples. Unfortunately, because of the lack of resources in many New Zealand newsrooms, and potentially the lack of appetite by viewers and readers, other local newsworthy events don’t get the airtime they deserve in New Zealand.

Exactly my point. It is the stories that follow that also need good coverage. While Michael says disaster stories can act as stepping stones to further reportage, he acknowledges a major problem - the reluctance of media organisations to put the necessary financial resources into followups and backgrounders. And this is a serious hurdle for any improvement. The available newsroom resources are threadbare compared with dollars thrown at international sport coverage, for example - providing Kiwi teams and participants are to the fore. Yet according to a national survey in the latest Listener (issue 3586) only 30 percent of New Zealanders have a strong interest in sport.

James offers a tragic story by Michael about Aquila Drisco who lost his daughter in the floods as an example of Michael's reporting. Incidentally, presenter of the story is Rebecca Singh - herself a daughter of Fiji and to my mind the best newsreader to come out of Fiji TV and arguably the current best in NZ. No doubt with her track record, it has been a boost for TV3 coverage of Fiji issues having her on the team.

Meanwhile, Fiji's regime plans to spend close to F$2.6 million on food rations to be distributed to door-to-door for 103,257 people - almost an eighth of the country's population - in the ravaged Western Division. The government announced the food ration for 30 days would include 45kg rice, 50 kg flour, 25kg dhal, packet of milk, 50kg sugar, oil, 48 tins of fish. The floods aftermath was Fiji's interim PM Voreqe Bainimarama's excuse for the postponement of the Pacific Islands Forum special summit in Port Moresby on the road back to democracy until February 10. ReliefWeb estimates infrastructure damage from the floods to be almost $55 million.

Views on the News - James Murray
Michael Morrah story on the Fiji floods
NZ Listener
Fiji floods situation report - ReliefWeb
PNG decision to delay forum throws Pacific leaders' plans into chaos

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Found guilty, but Fiji Times will fight on for free speech

WHILE the media fraternity was aghast at the assault on media freedom with the High Court verdict holding The Fiji Times in contempt over a letter to the editor, the newspaper itself was rather philosophical. But it made it very clear it intends to challenge the ruling on free speech issues. Its editorial "The law must take its course" today said:

We accept our guilt and will endeavour never to appear before the courts again. This newspaper will be the first to accept that the judiciary must exist in any real democracy. It will also defend the rights of our people to an independent judicial system. We must point out, however, that we do not necessarily agree with all of the judgment, and we do not agree with the penalties imposed on us by the judgment. There are avenues open to this newspaper to appeal and we will pursue these vigorously, as is our right.
Photo: Fiji Times picture of lawyer Richard Naidu (left) and acting publisher Rex Gardner outside court.

The bad news is that the penalties are extraordinarily harsh for what some might regard as fairly mild criticism of the judiciary in Fiji (published on the FT website on 22 October 2008 and condemning a judgment finding the Bainimarama coup in 206 not illegal). But Justice Thomas Hickie, an Australian, regarded the comments as "scandalous". These are indeed Orwellian times in the Pacific nation. The good news is that the punishment wasn't as bad as the military-backed regime had wanted - ie. a $1 million fine and actual jail terms for the paper's editor-in-chief and acting publisher. In fact, the paper was fined F$100,000. The court also imposed a three-month jail sentence suspended for two years on editor-in-chief Netani Rika and a conditional discharge for acting publisher Rex Gardner on good behaviour for 12 months. The newspaper has also been ordered to pay a $50,000 good behaviour bond for two years.

International Federation of Journalists led the charge of media outrage. Sydney-based Asia-Pacific director Jacqueline Park said: "The court's decision has serious implications for Fiji's media and the right to free expression in an environment where freedom of the press has been sorely tested over the past year." The IFJ is worried about this verdict as a backdrop to the regime's planned new media law, which some are predicting to be draconian. But some local journalists on the ground also regard it as a "wake up call" over ethics, morality, responsibility and the subjudice laws when they say material published by Fiji papers has frequently breached the boundaries. Interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told Radio Australia - putting his own spin on the judgment - that "standards have [been] completely thrown out the window". The AG ticked off many journalists from Australia and NZ for seemingly "dropping their standards" while in Fiji and condemned "trial by media". He added that he thought it would be a judgment widely cited in Commonwealth jurisdictions.

Ironically, a three-member Fiji Media Council independent review team has been meeting in Suva this week looking at media accountability and freedom issues. The Media Council itself declined to comment on the court ruling. The next question is what will happen to the Fiji Daily Post - more of the same? A verdict is expected in April.

Meanwhile, announcing a new blog devoted to Fiji affairs, Professor Croz Walsh says:

NZ media coverage of the Fiji situation has been so unbalanced that most New Zealanders see no difference between the Fiji and Zimbabwe situations. A friend told me yesterday: "That Bainimarama. he's just another Mugabe." Fiji media is more balanced but even then the ratio of negative to positive views is about 3:1. Today's court news from Fiji is sure to further demonstrate the need for a blog to offer some sort of balance.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Assault on Vanuatu publisher shocks Pacific journos

PACIFIC journalists are angry over the cowardly weekend assault on Vanuatu publisher Marc Neil-Jones - allegedly by prison officers incensed over an embarrassing news story. They are also disturbed over the implications for the safety of the region's media practitioners when faced with such an brutal attack by employees of a state agency. According to Radio NZ International, Marc suffered a broken nose, a black eye and kicks to the body in the attack on Saturday at his Vanuatu Daily Post's newspaper office in Port Vila. He was alone in his office at the time. The newspaper ran a picture of his injuries today. The radio said he had filed an official complaint, accusing police officers from the capital's Correctional Service Centre of the malicious attack on him. He was reported as saying that the officers objected to his newspaper's coverage of the burning down of the French jail correctional centre. The Daily Post on Friday ran a picture of the jail gates being left wide open with no security guards. A Daily Post story by Len Garae reported:

A truck pulled up with angry officers allegedly under the influence of alcohol working with Correctional Services at the prison. They stormed into the office and accused Neil- Jones of causing the dismissal of Joshua Bong as Acting Director of Correctional Services and demanding to know who was going to look after the prisoners now. A shaken Neil-Jones advised police:
“One of them was well built, strong and with a belly wearing shorts and a singlet punched me in the eye and nose and hit me four or five times.

“I was kicked a number of times when I was on the ground. The two others with him threatened to kill me because I hadn’t got their side of the story on the problems with the prison. One threatened me with a knife and said he would cut my neck and another threatened to shoot me with a gun. They said they were going to take me to the prison to look after the prisoners. It was not a pleasant experience."

Marc Neil-Jones, 51, is a Vanuatu citizen and an insulin dependent diabetic. He has been a strong campaigner for media freedom and has been assaulted on previous occasions. The Daily Post said he had suffered from high blood pressure since being illegally thrown in the prison by police after he had demanded the suspension of a police officer for assaulting his sports journalist in a rugby game between police and USP a few years ago.
After being freed, Marc wrote about human rights violations against prisoners. In 2000, he was deported by then Prime Minister Barak Sope for publishing "state secrets"- including "the news that eventually got Sope convicted in court".
Commander South Superintendent John Taleo says police are "investigating". Pictures: Vanuatu Daily Post

Pacific Beat audio: Vanuatu alleges bashing by prison guards

Pacific Media Watch condemned the "cowardly" assault, Media Asosiesen Blong Vanuatu (MAV) deplored it while also criticising "biased reporting" and the Pacific Freedom Forum denounced the "outrage". But not all media groups in Vanuatu are so supportive. A response to PMW blamed the "trial by media" style of Daily Post reporting as a source of some problems in Vanuatu. DP editor Kiery Manassah penned this "caught in the crossroads" commentary about the affair. Marc later called for a review of Australian and NZ aid to Vanuatu - especially NZ which is funding a revamp of Vanautu Correctional Services and "should be worried about how its money is spent" if officers are abusing their power.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rakon protest symbolises the Gaza bloodshed

PROTESTS in New Zealand over the massacre in Gaza kept up the pressure in the hours before Israel unilaterally declared a ceasefire. In Auckland, red paint bombs - signifying the Gaza bloodshed - and shoes were hurled at Rakon Industries, a company alleged to manufacture crystal oscillators for bombs used by the Israeli military. Nearly 1200 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli offensive began on December 27. Thirteen Israelis have died. Rakon protest photos by Del Abcede.

Incidentally, Gaza was among the topics in James Murray's new blog this week at TV3 - Views on the news. He isn't too keen on the lame name, but he plans to stir up the ethical minefields. All power to you, James.

Friday, January 16, 2009

New Kalafi Moala book examines 'Black Thursday'

PUBLISHER and free media champion Kalafi Moala has an absorbing new book on socio-politics, culture and the media in Tonga heading for the public arena. And when it does, expect a few fireworks. Among the wide-ranging topics that he tackles with In Search of the Friendly Islands, are the flaws - as he sees them - of the current leadership of the pro-democracy movement. He also pulls no punches in his verdict on the "Black Thursday" riot in Nuku'alofa during November 2006, which left deaths, a trail of destruction and bitter political controversy in its wake. Moala won the PIMA Pacific Media Freedom Award in 2002 and 2003. This new book is a sequel to his The Kingdom Strikes Back (2002) about his struggle for media freedom.
Meanwhile, he has had a spot of bother with his Kiwi branch of the Taimi 'o Tonga publishing operation. Last weekend's Sunday Star-Times reported the closure of its local publishing company, the Lali Media Group - liquidated because of an unpaid tax bill. Moala blames it on a management communications problem. As he is now based back in Nuku'alofa after his stint publishing in exile in Auckland, he had less of a close oversight of the Auckland operation than in the past. But the newspaper, now run by Tonga-based Taimi Media Network, is still going from strength to strength. Another registered company, Taimi Ltd, is now the New Zealand branch. Picture: TNews

Oz, NZ boost aid to flood ravaged Fiji - and then?

GOOD to see the political correctness over Fiji's military regime in Australia and New Zealand has given way to humanitarian principles - at least for the moment. Canberra has upped its aid to A$3 million and Wellington to NZ$600,000. Bula vinaka! According to ABC News, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says $1 million will be spent on emergency food, water and sanitation, including $150,000 that has already gone to the Red Cross. The rest is an immediate contribution for recovery and reconstruction. ABC says Smith rejected suggestions Australia had not done enough soon enough, and said he stood ready to do more.
Auckland-based columnist Ranjit Singh, a frequent critic of New Zealand government policies and hypocrisy over post-coup Fiji, praised Wellington for "having a heart" and directing aid through the Fiji Red Cross. He added in his Fiji Times piece "Will disaster heal rift?":
Congratulations to the National Government for rising above petty-points-scoring and thinking of the suffering of poor people of Fiji, despite its difference with Bainimarama's regime. I hope this feeling will snowball to an extent where, in addition to increased disaster aid, the cooler and moderate heads will get together to engage Fiji in fruitful dialogues that will redeem New Zealand as a caring elder brother and not be branded and perceived as a heartless bigger and richer bully.

And a word of praise from Café Pacific for the efforts of Rotary. Felicity Anderson, in a media "labour of love", has dished out some "photographic evidence to show practical aid is getting through NOW". Pictured is the delivery of emergency boxes. Another $180,000 worth of aid was being despatched today in a deal with NZAID and Air Pacific.

For those keen on donating to help Fiji through Rotary in New Zealand, cheques can be made payable to Rotary NZWCS Ltd Project Account and posted to RNZWCS Ltd, PO Box 20309, Christchurch 8543, or e-banking donations can be made to Westpac Bank A/C 03 1702 0192208 01.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Time to take off the blinkers about Fiji

CROZ WALSH fired Café Pacific a copy of his letter in the latest Listener. He takes a potshot or two at Kiwi politicians, diplomats and journalists who "wittingly or unwittingly continue to misrepresent the Fiji situation". Like Croz, I am no defender of this military regime, but many in New Zealand (and Oz) need to take off their blinkers and not be so naive about Fiji post-coup realities. The indiscriminate application of NZ's travel ban is a farce and does little to contribute to a return to democracy. Fairly fundamental changes are needed in Fiji (including the electoral system requiring all MPs to gain cross-cultural support), and trying to bulldoze Fiji down a path towards the so-called BB (before Bainimarama) "democracy" - such as the regime presided over by Laisenia Qarase - is futile and would be disastrous. Croz Walsh, a respected former leading University of the South Pacific academic and now adjunct professor, writes:

I’m not an avid supporter of the Fiji 2006 military takeover or the far-from-democratic regime it displaced. I’m even less a supporter of New Zealand politicians, diplomats and journalists who wittingly or unwittingly continue to misrepresent the Fiji situation. My credentials? Fifty years of study, research and writing; 16 years of work and residence in the Pacific, eight of them in Fiji.

The current diplomatic crisis should cause us to ask what our Government still hopes to achieve, two years after the military takeover, by the indiscriminate application of its travel ban? The young goalkeeper whose fiancé was the daughter an army officer was not closely linked to the regime. Neither is the daughter of the former Permanent Secretary of Health, or the son of the Permanent Secretary to the President. No one questions the President’s legitimacy and his secretary is a career public servant appointed in 2004, two years before the military takeover.

The Fiji Interim Government was not asking that the travel ban be removed, as the New Zealand public has been informed; only that it not be applied indiscriminately. Our High Commissioner was expelled for more than the travel bans: Wellington allowed her to engage freely with the regime opponents but not in any meaningful way with the Interim Government. Similar reasons explain TV reporter Barbara Dreaver’s expulsion. Her Fiji interviews have been very one-sided. And TV’s continuing use of two-year-old film footage of armed soldiers patrolling Suva’s streets is a little more than innocently deceptive.

It is the responsibility of the media to be informed and fair-minded. They should report that the Interim Government intends to end widespread corruption, check extreme Fijian nationalism and religious fundamentalism, counter laws and practices which discriminate against non-Fijians, check alleged election irregularities, and devise an election system which guarantees these undemocratic practices will not be repeated. And we should be told what its opponents say about these claims. It is reported that the Interim Government has taken no steps towards parliamentary elections. This is not true. We should be informed of these steps, and left to decide for ourselves whether they are genuine or not.

More of the same will not help resolve the Fiji crisis. Fiji is a deeply fractured society with “goodies” and “baddies” in each of its many camps. Its leaders must resolve the situation in the Pacific way, by dialogue and, hopefully, consensus. We can assist this process by adopting a critical but even-handed manner, and demonstrate that we do indeed have some idea of Pacific ways, or we can continue to demonstrate what some see as arrogance and others as an abysmal ignorance of Pacific mores.

I would urge the new government to discard our former PM’s ideological blinkers, and take a new look at what we can do to assist Fiji along the path towards a more inclusive democracy.

Crosbie Walsh
Adjunct Professor
University of the South Pacific

We do indeed need a fairer and more balanced media coverage of Fiji - and far more rigorous criticism of the NZ Government's handling of policies.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Auckland protest against Israeli genocide in Gaza

RANDOM images from the international protest against the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday. Speakers included Green MP and foreign affairs spokesman Keith Locke. Photos: David Robie and Del Abcede

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Time to target Israel's bloody occupation, says Klein

AFTER the impressive weekend protests in New Zealand - and globally - against the Israeli genocide in Gaza, The Nation has published a thought-provoking article by Naomi Klein on the "boycott, divest and sanctions" campaign that worked so well in bringing down apartheid. She argues:
It's time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.
In July 2005, a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on "people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era." The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions - BDS
for short - was born.
Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause, and talk of ceasefires is doing little to slow the momentum. Support is even emerging among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel. It calls for "the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions" and draws a clear parallel with the anti-apartheid struggle. "The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves.... This international backing must stop."

Pictured: Palestinian women and their large national flag carried at Saturday's Auckland city protest. Note Israel-apartheid links in posters. Photo: David Robie

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Kiwi protests against Israel's shame in Gaza

RANDOM letters to New Zealand media protesting against the global hypocrisy over Israel's shameful and murderous assault on the citizens of Gaza. Also check out the YouTube video on an earlier Auckland protest against Israel's genocide against the Palestinians earlier this month featuring Green MP Keith Locke and may other speakers.

Condemn Israeli attacks
There can be no excuse for the totally disproportionate Israeli attacks, which should be condemned by every Western Government without hesitation. The Nazis tended to take 10 French lives for every German killed. This ratio in Gaza is 280 to one. That is the true measure of the appalling nature of what is happening and the tacit support by the US is shameful.
Peter Berman
Dairy Flat

Israeli airstrikes
Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli airstrikes. Israeli spokesman Avi Benayahu says this is just the beginning. While he claims the targets are the (official) police force of the (democratically elected) Hamas Government, the reality is that the victims have been a cross-section of the population already weakened by the illegal siege, which has starved them of food and medical supplies.
The international community must demand that Israel stops the bombing ends the siege, removes Israelis from the illegal settlements and abides by UN resolutions.
Bob van Ruyssevelt
Te Atatu South

Rule of law
Israel's merciless military assault on Gaza is a war against the rule of international law, human rights and the Geneva Conventions. The violence continues to be framed as a conflict between warring peoples with equal power. But Israel is a version of an apartheid state, based on racist ideology and a colonial occupying force with one of the most advanced militaries in the world.
The multiple forms of collective punishment currently being inflicted on the Palestinians in Gaza reflect Israel's 60 plus year history of ethnic cleansing: blockades of fuel, food and medicine, and endless brutal attacks promoted as acts of self-defence.
For human rights of the Palestinians to be advanced, Israel must be isolated like apartheid South Africa was in the 1970s and 1980s.
J. Wakim

NZ's response
I wonder why our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, has refrained from condemnation of the Israeli military action against the people of Gaza. It is true that the events are saddening, but this calls for public condemnation.
Israel's actions are hugely disproportionate to the dangers posed by the homemade rockets some Gazans launch. Mr McCully's assertion that it is pointless to debate proportionate versus disproportionate use of force is disconcerting and lacking context.
Some 1.5 million Gazans have been effectively starved since June 2007 by Israel blockade of the coastal city.
If I am denied food, water, medicine, fuel, sewage treatment for one and a half years, I would get pretty angry. Yet the rulers of Gaza have honoured a ceasefire for the past six months but saw no lifting of the blockade in return.
Khalil Bosauder

Gaza bombing
When Israel bombed Gaza's elected Hamas Government, university and mosques and killed more than 300 citizens, I sent emails to ten leaders in Israel and New Zealand. Only one of them was not delivered.
The letter addressed to Prime Minister Key was returned with the message:
Undeliverable: (Contains Potentially Offensive Language).
My polite letter contained no word that would embarrass any sensitive person. I was raising questions of policy about which a Prime Minister might welcome comments from citizens he was elected to serve.
I told him that I believe God made and loves all human beings. Hence the Israeli Government's atrocities are comparable to those committed by the Nazis.
By years of brutal occupation, starving and impoverishing 1.5 million people and psychologically damaging half a million children, Israel actually provokes the people of Gaza to retaliate.
Rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza cannot be justified - I said - but if our government does not act to stop this holocaust we will be guilty, like those who did not speak out to stop the massacre of Jews in an earlier one.
Peter Munane
Dominican friar

Pictured: The bloody hand of Israel - from Electronic Intifada (Greek protest against an earlier Israeli assault in 2006).

Timor campaigners blast Blair's Pacific role

TIMORESE human rights support campaigners are rightly upset at retired admiral Dennis Blair's nomination by the incoming Barak Obama administration as US Director of National Intelligence. They point to his appalling record over Timor-Leste's path to independence and as a Pacific point man in the so-called "war on terror".
A statement by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) called on President-elect Obama to reconsider the nomination, and "make a break from past policies that have undermined human rights worldwide". John M. Miller, national coordinator of ETAN and a key monitor of Indonesia and Timorese media, says:

During his years as Pacific Commander, Blair downplayed human rights concerns. He actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties with Indonesia's military despite its ongoing rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity.

The statement quoted Ed McWilliams, a senior US Embassy official in Jakarta at the time, as saying:

Admiral Blair undermined US policy in the months preceding the U.S.-supported and UN-sponsored referendum in East Timor in 1999. While senior State Department officials were pressing the Indonesian military to end the escalating violence and its support for militia intimidation of voters, Blair took a distinctly different line with his military counterparts.
As Pacific Commander, his influence could have caused the military to rein in its militias. Instead, his virtual silence on the issue in meetings with the Indonesian generals led them and their militias to escalate their attacks on the Timorese.
The extraordinarily brutal Indonesian retaliation against the East Timorese and the UN teams in East Timor following the Timorese vote for independence from Indonesia transpired in part because of Blair's failure to press US Government concerns in meetings with the Indonesian general.

Miller says: "Blair's actions in 1999 demonstrated the failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military's behavior; his actions helped to reinforce impunity for senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day."
According to the ETAN statement, in April 1999 - just days after Indonesian security forces and their militia proxies carried out a brutal churchyard massacre - Blair delivered a message of 'business-as-usual' to Indonesian General Wiranto, then Commander of the Indonesian armed forces. Following East Timor's pro-independence vote, Blair sought the quickest possible restoration of military assistance, despite Indonesia's highly destructive exit from the territory.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kenyan media gag law lesson for Fiji

THOSE fretting over Fiji's proposed "media promulgation" law (what happened to its promised unveiling last month?) ought to consider the latest chilling of press freedom in Kenya. President Mwai Kibaki has signed into law a draconian Communications Amendment Act that will curb press freedom. According to a BBC dispatch about the development:
The law gives the Kenyan authorities the power to raid media offices, tap phones and control broadcast content on grounds of national security. Kibaki said he had carefully considered the journalists' concerns but added press freedom must go hand in hand with responsibility. He said the bill was crucial for Kenya's economic development.
In a statement, Kibaki added that regulating the electronic media would promote and "safeguard our culture, moral values and nationhood". The Kenyan Communications Amendment Bill gives the state power to raid media houses and control broadcast content.

Pictured: Kenyan journos protest against the new media law - Daily Nation.

The Fiji Media Council has called for public submissions on the future of the council and its self-regulatory procedures. The deadline is January 16. Café Pacific hopes that this belated, long overdue review will add a constructive and level-headed dimension not too late to have some sobering influence on the regime's planned "catch all" state regulatory framework. One of three people named to conduct the review - Transparency International Fiji chair Suliana Siwatibau - has called for an urgent national feedom of information law in response to a proposed crackdown on state whistleblowers. Write to: Public Submissions, PO Box 11852, Suva, Fiji. Email:

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Café Pacific’s New Year honours

A QUICK round-up of some of Café Pacific’s 2008 random media highlights (and lowlights):

Weapons of Mass Delusions Award for media exposes: The disturbing yet highly entertaining book Flat Earth News by Guardian investigative journalist Nick Davies. Not much on the Oceania region (New Zealand, for example, rates merely a page – with a section in the distorted news-from-nowhere basket), but the insights into “churnalism” are global and examples are rampant throughout the Pacific media.

Transparency Pacific Award for media freedom: Fiji’s military backed regime wins this category virtually uncontested for deporting the country’s two most influential publishers on “security” pretexts – Evan Hannah of the Fiji Times in May and the Fiji Sun’s Russell Hunter in February. As the FT summed it up in its review of the year:

“Not only were they denied their rights, they were stolen in the night and deported despite court orders issued that they be produced in court.
“In fact, so desperate were the state officials to rid Australian nationals before being directly served the orders that Mr Hannah was deported to South Korea, where he had no links at all; neither family or friends.
“And, on the same day Mr Hunter – who was the first to be meted this unsavoury fate, was deported, the Immigration Act was amended to bar any court appeals against the Immigration Minister’s decision to deport.”

George Orwell Award for media insights: Dr Jim Anthony and the Fiji Human Rights Commission for a so-called Fiji media review ironically dubbed in newspeak “Freedom and Independence of the Media in Fiji”. It had been widely known in media circles for some time that some sort of overhaul of the Fiji media self-regulatory mechanisms was long overdue. (If for no other reason than to head off the inevitable government clampdown using the law "promulgation"). A sort of updated Thomson Report (1996 - commissioned by the post-Rabuka coups government) has been needed. But the racist invective and malice directed at the media plus the lack of rigorous methodology in the Anthony report made a mockery of this process. The 2007 NZ Press Council review is an example of how such an exercise can be conducted constructively. Hopefully, the recently announced Fiji Media Council review can produce some answers.

Pseudo Events Award for regional j-school publications: Te Waha Nui student newspaper for its Ossie award for best regular publication. This should be something to really celebrate, but as a co-founder of this paper (in 2004 - and I am no longer involved), I cannot truly share the bubbly. Too many flaws for my liking. The recent website revamp isn’t a patch on its newcomer rival NewsWire at Whitireia Journalism School. (An example of this was NewsWire’s vigorous coverage of the NZ general electionTWN started off well and then abandoned coverage two weeks before the actual poll). And recent reflections on gatekeeping at the paper are rather revealing. Incidentally, Pacific uni j-school papers – such as Liklik Diwai, Uni Tavur (deceased) and Wansolwara – have done remarkably well in the Ossies over recent years.

Waigani Ostrich Award for media relations and investigation: Sir Michael Somare’s government for the inept handling of the cash-for-recognition Taiwan affair and stonewalling of the media. The PNG media has an enviable track record for media investigations into corruption and did a fair job in digging over this scandal. But the media-political climate has still had a ticking off from global integrity groups and the industry failed to live up to its achievements with an ugly end-of-year brawl.

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