Saturday, June 6, 2009

The browning of New Zealand media

CURIOUS how a seminar with many of the movers and shakers in the New Zealand diversity media industry running the show didn’t cut it in the news itself. Hardly a mention in news coverage, apart from on the Pacific Media Centre niusblog at AUT University and a John Drinnen item in the NZ Herald's Business about how public broadcasting was being ignored. Nevertheless, this year’s NZ On Air seminar with the theme “Screen and Heard: NZ broadcast audiences in 2020” was really worthwhile with many contributors giving fascinating and inspirational insights into this country’s media future – from SBS managing director Shaun Brown’s rundown on multicultural programmes in Australia, through BBC’s Murray Holgate on the changing role of the global broadcaster in the Asia-Pacific region to Oscar Kightley and Stan Wolfgramm on the future of diversity creations such as bro’Town and Pacific Beat Street. Brown encountered some light hearted flak over his metamorphosis from his old role in market-driven TVNZ to cross-cultural SBS – “the browning of Shaun Brown”, as Asia Downunder’s Bharat Jamnadas (and onetime Fiji journo) coined it. Brown himself said:
New Zealand is – in at least some respects – ahead of Australia in confronting and debating the issue of diversity in programme making.

For a start, while Australia has a vibrant sector dedicated to advocating on multicultural and indigenous issues, I cannot recall a discussion of this scale taking place between Australia’s broadcasters about our contribution (or even obligation) to reflect cultural realities on screen.

Also, an important element in reflecting diversity on either side of the Tasman is the place indigenous content occupies on our screens. Here particularly Australia has much to learn from New Zealand.

The outstanding success of Māori Television and the scale of Māori programming on other broadcasters places New Zealand well ahead of Australia.
Asked if he had “seen the light” about public broadcasting after he left TVNZ for SBS, Brown launched into a candid attack on a succession of NZ governments for their failures over broadcasting policy, which had been turned into a political football: “Without a charter, you don’t have a compass.”

The “scene setter “ was provided by demography professor Richard Bedford of Waikato University’s Population Studies Centre, who outlined the two-pronged challenge for New Zealand media – the demographic changes making the audiences “browner” and more culturally and ethnically diversified, and also becoming older. As PMC’s Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Josephine Latu reports:
In fact, by the year 2021, current statistical projections show that the Asian population will have increased by more than 70 percent, the Pacific Islander population by 44 percent, and the Māori population by about 24 percent since 2006.

New Zealanders of European or “other” ethnic backgrounds (including from African and South American and other nations) are altogether predicted to
increase by just below 6 percent in the same timeframe.

The number of people aged over 35 is also set to swell for all ethnic groups. Figures showed that between 2006 and 2021, those aged 35 and over will increase by 22 percent, compared to only about 5 percent for those under 35.
Café Pacific’s David Robie has produced an overview of the state of demographics and the rise of the ethnic media, published in the latest edition of Pacific Journalism Review with the theme “Diversity, identity and the media”. (The edition was launched by the Human Rights Commission’s Sam Sefuiva at the seminar).

Radio Tarana’s Robert Khan and broadcasting manager Terri Byrne of Planet Radio – “the best thing we ever did” was moving from AUT University campus to Unitec, where it has been thriving – gave inspirational insights into how “minority” broadcasting was in fact becoming “mainstream”.

But in spite of the optimistic mood of the day, the seminar crashed to earth in the final session about “the broadcast media scene in 2020”. TVNZ head of television Jeff Latch, TV3’s associate director of programming Andrew Szusterman and Radio NZ’s head of news Don Rood didn’t seem to get it about the dramatic changes facing NZ’s media audiences. No visionary solutions there for the twin targets of diversity and age.

Bro'Town graphic from NZ On Air; photo of Shaun Brown by the Pacific Media Centre's Del Abcede.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A date with the ghosts of Balibo

FORMER ABC journalist Tony Maniaty, now a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney, has scored a coup with his new book on East Timor - Shooting Balibo. He covered the war in the self-declared independent former Portuguese colony in 1975 for ABC TV News and came under heavy shelling in Balibo. A few days later, five other journalists working for Australian media - who had ignored his warnings not to go to Balibo - were murdered by Indonesian soldiers in the dusty border town. The martyred journalists were Brian Peters, Gary Cunningham, Malcolm Rennie, Greg Shackleton and Anthony Stewart.

Maniaty was aged 26 during the war. Thirty-three years later, in his role as consultant to the forthcoming feature film Balibo about these gruesome Indonesian killings, Maniaty returned to Balibo for the first time.

Shooting Balibo is his memoir of going back to that traumatic event, and of how Timor has changed since. Together with the haunting experience of watching five young actors playing his murdered colleagues (and watching himself portrayed as a young reporter), Maniaty also conducted revealing interviews with some of Timor's key players, including President Ramos-Horta, about the events that led up to the Indonesian invasion.

In the book, Maniaty joins the cast and crew of Balibo as they travel to the gutted shell of the burned house where his colleagues were killed a generation earlier. The book has already had an emotional and well-received launch in Timor. Maniaty reflects:
They say we've only got one war in us, and my days in Timor in 1975 were enough to teach me many things, not least that experience in the house of conflict is expanded, and that the exhilaration of war, once felt, can never be replicated in everyday life; that risk goes hand in hand with raw beauty; that life is never so intense as it is, or was, in that compression of life called war...
Tony Maniaty's article about television war reporting in Pacific Journalism Review.
The Shooting Balibo trailer

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Fiji junta, an insider on censorship and cross-cultural reporting

CENSORSHIP and the assault on human rights and freedom of expression in Fiji are featured in the latest edition of Pacific Journalism Review being launched at the NZ on Air diversity conference in New Zealand this week.

The AUT Pacific Media Centre-based publication, New Zealand's only peer-reviewed international media research journal, publishes a special article by an "insider" on the military regime's political and social "reforms".

The 246-page edition, themed around "Diversity, identity and the media" issues, analyses the junta that has dealt an unprecedented "mortal blow" to press freedom in the South Pacific's most crucial country for regional cooperation.

The insider article, "Fragments from a Fiji coup diary", concludes that the New Zealand government needs to have secret contacts with the Suva regime to help investigate corruption and to help restore the country on the road towards democracy.

In other commentaries, Dr Murray Masterton analyses "culture clash" problems facing foreign correspondents and warns against arrogance by Western journalists when reporting the region. Television New Zealand's Sandra Kailahi examines the Pasifika media and Scoop co-editor Selwyn Manning looks at strategic directions in Asia-Pacific geopolitical reporting.

Malcolm Evans contributes a frothy profile of global political cartooning - and also the cover caricature of Fiji's military strongman Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

Research articles include demographics and independent cross-cultural reporting, media diversity and a NZ Human Rights Commission seminar, the "Asian Angst" controversy and xenophobia over Chinese migration, a Lake Taupo air space media case study, the Clydesdale report deconstructed and New Zealand women's magazines and gossip.

Bill Rosenberg provides the second of two annual New Zealand media ownership and trends surveys compiled for PJR.

"This edition provides some challenging and fresh insights into diversity reporting in New Zealand, from Fiji to Asian stereotypes," says the managing editor, Associate Professor David Robie. "But it also celebrates some important achievements."

A strong review section includes books about the dark side of the pro-independence movement and media in Tonga, terrorism and e-policies in the Asia-Pacific region, conflict reporting, the making of a US president, editing and design in New Zealand and an extraordinary dissident Burmese political cartoonist.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Empowering women inside Fiji’s political maze

LITTLE has been reported about the experience of post-coup Fiji women in either the mainstream media or the pro and anti blogs. FemLINK pacific continues to be one of the brighter lights leading the way – especially with communication and advocacy – thanks to coordinator Sharon Bhagwan Rolls and her tireless team of “suitcase” community broadcasters. AWID’s Kathambi Kinoti recently profiled a gender perspective on Fiji through an interview with Bhagwan Rolls. This gave some fresh insights six weeks into the censorship era after the Easter putsch. The eerie atmosphere harks back to Rabuka’s original coup in May 1987. Café Pacific offers some excerpts:
There is an uncanny calmness because people have to continue to work and children have to continue to go to school, so I guess there is also a sense of "life must go on." However, there is also uncertainty, especially with the control of information through the mainstream media, and this is most apparent in rural communities who were already living within the reality of an information and communication gap.

Talking to rural women also, especially those who have suffered due to the devastating floods in January this year, there is still a sense of reliance on the government to provide, but at another level we are not sure just how much available financial resources the administration has to support the social welfare and rural development needs of these communities. It will be very interesting to see what the outcomes of the national budget for 2010 will look like.
Mainstream information and communication is seriously controlled. Our organisation runs a community radio and is also subject to censorship by the military. We have to send our broadcast log and community news collation to the Ministry of Information prior to each broadcast. We are also intently monitored when we are on air, and on our monthly “Enews bulletin” and “Community Radio Times". This very much reminds me of the media control following the first military coup on 14 May 1987.

However, we are hoping that we can continue with our work, despite there being restrictions on public meetings. We have been able to produce a new “Women, Peace and Human Security” radio series from our visits, as I have been able to conduct rural consultations during the last three weeks and hope that we will also be able to stage the rural broadcasts with our community radio station.

Community or alternative media is a critical space right now. Even if we are only communicating within an 8-10 km radius, it is an important space that we will work hard to retain. Ultimately though, with information and communication channels being tightly controlled, rural women will continue to be further marginalised and isolated.

femLINK Pacific has been advocating the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 which mandates the meaningful participation of women in peace-building processes and this has now been stalled because processes of engagement such as the Political Dialogue Forum do not seem to be an immediate priority of the new order. However, I feel that as the women's movement we need to find ways in which we can continue our work safely.
AWID: What are women's experiences [like] living under military rule?
I will address this from the micro or grassroots level first. Going back to the military coup of December 2006, when I travelled out to meet women in rural communities, there was a sense of isolation from what was happening in the capital city as well as a reality that they just needed to get their children back to school and provide for their families. You need to appreciate that these are women from informal settlements, women who sell at the local markets, who live in squatter settlements or traditional settings, so for them the information and news was very confusing. If we are to make a difference as a women's movement, this is where we need to strengthen our work and efforts.

Right now the feeling is the same, especially since many of the women whom we work with experienced the brunt of the devastating floods in January 2009 and are still trying to put their lives back together, so their immediate priority is their families. On our recent visits the key insecurities identified were economic, health, environmental, as well as human security issues relating to infrastructure like improved roads and water supply.

There is also a sense of fear and uncertainty as with any political crisis. I feel that the military has demonstrated its might very early on and the ongoing detention of anyone who is considered to be a risk in light of the Public Emergency Decree is a way to silence any possible opportunity to publicly denounce the actions - and if you did, with the media control in place, it would be very unlikely that your message would be heard. So we do need to consider alternatives. What is critical right now is to ensure women's realities are not lost in the political maze and that the status, particularly of rural women, can provide critical development benchmarks to demonstrate that we need democratic governance so that women can have a place in decision making for their peace and human security.

There is also a need to link the growing violence, especially sexual and domestic violence to the political realities and how these impact very clearly on the status of women.
How have women's organisations responded to these challenges?
Dating back to 1987, following each military or civilian coup, women have responded actively calling for respect for the rule of law and human rights, and these have been acts of peace and non violence. Women have been detained in 1987 and again in 2006 for their work. Women human rights activists in particular were detained and suffered at the hands of the military following the takeover in 2006.

Women have rallied together, through silent peace vigils which demonstrate our commitment to peace and make the point that we will not be silenced by the acts of the overthrow of any democratic government. We have negotiated at the policy level, as well as by using our women's networks to communicate with other key political players.

Women have documented events, they have spoken out on human rights abuses and they have also been involved in ongoing lobbying and advocacy especially for a formal and mediated dialogue process which would have the support of the UN and the Commonwealth Secretariat. But this is not easy especially as these are new concepts which need to be discussed and understood by the broader movement, by more women.

A challenge has been the diverse viewpoints and perspectives within civil society on the styles of engagement with those who now have political power, and also on the process of the development of a People's Charter which now is the mandate of the current political administration, and so we have to better understand each other in order to be able to move forward collectively.
What do you see as a viable way to get Fiji back to democratic governance, and what will women's roles?
There is a critical need to continue to strengthen women's capacity as leaders and negotiators during this current period. It is critical for women to understand how to negotiate and proceed through some very new waters, as well as how not to lose sight of the need to attain parliamentary democracy while we address some critical development issues, such as the feminisation of poverty, which is a stark reality right now.

Also, how do we analytically respond to developments at the macro-economic level? Especially when women continue to face the brunt of their poverty situation - poverty of opportunity, information as well as the reality of struggling to pay school fees, rent and other expenses. This is the situation faced by rural women, older women and women with disabilities and other marginalised groups.

So any process must ensure that women are empowered to speak and be heard, especially since we can, as women, also perpetuate the traditional barriers of decision making.
We need to be assisted in this dialogue process. We cannot simply focus on the process of elections. We also need to be able to analytically address poverty which is extremely disempowering to women and affects their engagement in any political process. We need to be able to address issues of security sector governance and we also need to prepare women who are willing to participate in future elections.
Sharon Bhagwan Rolls is coordinator of femLINK Pacific and a women’s human rights advocate. Pictured: FemLINK Pacific's community radio takes to the streets of Suva. Veena Singh Bryar does an interview during a 16-day activist broadcast campaign in December 2008. Photo: FemLINK Pacific.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A case for change, peace and progress in Fiji

This despatch has been filed by a regular contributor to Café Pacific who was at Thursday’s meeting at the Institute of Policy Studies, Victoria University, and supports being a “Friend of Fiji”. As certain journalists and news sources have provided misrepresentations of this meeting and of John Samy’s report, a link below provides the full 75-page document in the interests of fairness and balance:

Commodore, will you dance with me?
THERE was no protest at all when two people who had worked closely with Fiji coup leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama began talking at an informal meeting held on the University of Wellington campus on May 21. Their purpose. How do we improve the New Zealand relationship with Fiji?

The meeting of nearly 40 people was conducted under Chatham House rules. In short, that means people attending the meeting agree keep their mouths shut about who said what and about what was said. So I have to be careful how I explain what happened.

Holding the interest of the audience were Jone Dakuvula and John Samy. Jone Dakuvula is an indigenous Fijian with long links to New Zealand. He has family here and his working life includes holding government posts and non-government posts in Fiji, and he has at times been a human rights advocate and a media commentator.

During the early days of the George Speight ethno-nationalist coup in 2000, Jone was working for the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum in Suva. Jone opposed the coup. One evening he went on Fiji Television to express his disapproval about what had happened. He left the building immediately after this TV broadcast and just missed the chanting crowd of Speight supporters who were incensed at what he said. They had gathered at Parliament, then began walking down the road chanting and firing guns. At the TV building they marched in, smashed the TV studio and looked for Jone.

After the 2006 coup, Jone joined the Secretariat for the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF). This was established through Commodore Bainimarama, the army chief. He said the work of the NCBBF in creating a People’s Charter would be one of the key steps towards making Fiji a better country for all.

Who was the other speaker? John Samy. He was born in Fiji and was working for the Fijian government in 1987 when a young army officer called Sitiveni Rabuka seized the country with the first army coup. John was unpopular with Rabuka and soon lost his job. As a highly talented development economist, he went on to join the Asian Development Bank, eventually becoming deputy director-general. Later, he settled in New Zealand, but his links with his home country remained strong.

Key figure
Commodore Bainimarama then took his turn to have a military coup in December 2006. It was not long before John Samy was back in Suva. After talking with the commodore, he became the key figure in the Secretariat for the NCBBF. He worked with Jone Dakuvula and many others to put together a draft of the People’s Charter, a proposed blueprint for the future of Fiji.

People around the country talked about the “pillars” in the proposed charter. Some opponents kicked it all over the media. The NCBBF listened. Two hundred thousand copies of the draft of the People’s Charter were printed in the three different languages, English, Fijian and Hindi, and sent it far and wide all over the country. People were invited to sign a paper saying if they agreed with the draft, disliked it or wanted to change this and that part of it.

Six out of every 10 adults in Fiji approved the ideas in the proposed People’s Charter, and said so, by signing a response form. This was good news for both John and Jone. The army liked the draft charter too and so did the NCBBF members. After a final meeting the NCBBF closed up shop, its work done. Fiji now seemed to be ready to move forward towards restoring democracy

Alas, the country has been adding to its woes since the draft charter was approved. Fiji is now under martial law. There is to be no general election until 2014. People who disagree with the army are either beaten up, threatened or they shut up to save their own skins. Diplomats have been kicked out of the country – New Zealand has been kicked twice with the diplomatic boot.

New Zealand and Australia have been curt, saying they expect Commodore Bainimarama to have a quick general election and then go back to his barracks along with his troops. He thumbed his nose at Australia and NZ – and although we are not shooting at each other, but … if words were bullets…well!

So, as you can see, there was a good reason for these two caring men to meet on that cold Wellington morning and ask, how can we get out of this deepening quagmire?

Creating momentum
I can’t tell you who said what at the meeting – Chatham House rules and secrecy prevail – but the solution seems to start with getting a small group of people in New Zealand and the Pacific region together to begin working behind closed doors to build bridges between Fiji and New Zealand. As one person put it, we need to create a “Friends of Fiji” group.

One speaker commented that the public service of Fiji is weak and has been getting weaker ever since 1987. It needs strengthening and support, otherwise how can any future stability be created and become lasting?

The economy is sinking, said another. Just recently the currency was devalued by a fifth. That decision doesn’t help the four of 10 people in Fiji who live on and near the poverty line. It may cost them up to 20 percent more when they buy essential food items such as tea, coffee, rice and bread.

Another speaker felt the Fiji economy would collapse further and further. He went on to say it wouldn’t do NZ any good either, to see Fiji drop down into a dark hole.

Oh, said another person, China is not only there in the wings, it is already helping Fiji and Commodore Bainimarama. So we may have another factor to cope with as this powerful world player wets their toes on the beaches and political sands of Fiji.

The 1997 Constitution of was abrogated by the President. Judges have been dismissed. After the meeting ended, one academic was heard to say quietly that a “Friends of Fiji” group would need a constitutional lawyer in their small secret team.

Bainimarama is determined to change the electoral voting system in Fiji to make it fairer. So some help is going to be required with the drafting of the new electoral Act. The same person said – we will have to see how much of the abrogated Constitution can be saved or salvaged.

Setting guidelines
A key point of discussion revolved around the President’s dialogue forum, a gathering of all political parties which met to set and accept some guidelines for starting a process back to democracy. There have been at least two meetings, but there are problems. Laisenia Qarase, the former Prime Minister and the leader of the biggest indigenous political party in Fiji, is fighting for his future political life with the army commander. Qarase says he is the rightful elected leader. He won a court appeal, supporting his position.

With the Constitution abrogated it looks like a fight to the finish. Commodore Bainimarama keeps saying Qarase is politically finished. So will these two powerful men talk to each other, and will either listen? That question was certainly in the minds of some of the speakers at the meeting.

So how do we start to go forward and get Fiji and New Zealand talking again…with respect! Someone – a friend – a good friend will probably have to persuade John Key and his Foreign Minister to keep their mouths shut for a while. Someone will have to get the army commander to do likewise. Then the serious talking can begin. Dialogue needs contact between people. The bosses in Fiji will at some time have to come face to face with the bosses in Wellington.

But…but… said someone… there is a travel ban on the Fiji coup leaders and their relatives. Somehow, that restriction needs to be lifted, or become “inoperative” or twisted into “diplomatic jargon” to allow the leaders in Fiji to talk with the new leaders in Wellington.

No one must lose face. That is a Pacific requirement. And if you and I do care about Fiji and its future relationship with NZ – we may have to shut up too when we find out that this dialogue is underway.

Pictured: Top: John Samy (Radio Fiji); Jone Dakuvula (Café Pacific).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

'Bula Frank - stop punishing your people in Fiji'

Reporters Without Borders | Reporters sans frontières

Open letter to Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama

Commodore Frank Bainimarama
Interim Prime Minister

Suva, Fiji Islands

Dear Prime Minister,

Reporters Without Borders would like to refer you to the decline in press freedom since you promulgated the Public Emergency Regulations 2009 on 10 April, initially for a period of 30 days. These regulations have officialised prior censorship.

Criticism of your government has disappeared from the Fijian media. Political, social and economic news is still being covered but journalists are not able to play their role as Fourth Estate. Fear has taken hold within the news media following a number of arrests of journalists and threatening statements by officials.

The Public Emergency Regulations 2009 give the permanent secretary for information, Lt. Col. Neumi Leweni, full powers to prevent the media from publishing or broadcasting reports that could “give rise to disorder” or “promote disaffection or public alarm.” He has warned on several occasions that those who fail to respect the rules will be arrested and prosecuted. The media have been told to limit themselves to providing “positive” news.

As a result of the regulations, which have been extended until 10 June, soldiers and Information Ministry officials have installed themselves in newsrooms in order to control content and prevent undesirable reports. Around 10 journalists and bloggers have been arrested and several foreign journalists have been expelled.

The journalists who have been detained include Shelvin Chand and Dionisia Turaganbeci, who were arrested on 9 and 11 May for writing an article for the FijiLive news website that was “negative” about you, and Theresa Ralogaivau, who was arrested on 14 May because of an article in the Fiji Times.

Joseph Ealedona, head of the Suva-based regional news agency Pacnews, announced on 14 May that it would be temporarily relocated because of the political situation in Fiji. Journalists based in Suva have told Reporters Without Borders about the fear reigning in newsrooms. Some journalists even refuse to talk as they are scared by the possibility that someone could be monitoring what they say.

Your government seems to be considering taking direct control of certain programmes on Fiji TV and using the Fiji Sun newspaper to publish official information. This would be a veiled and arbitrary form of nationalisation that jeopardises years of editorial independence for these privately-owned news media.

As you know, the international community has adopted sanctions in response to the promulgation and strict implementation of these regulations. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has tried to give Fijians an explanation. He sent all the Fiji news media an editorial on 13 May about the reasons for your military-backed government’s suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum. None of the media in Fiji carried the editorial, presumably because of censorship.

Your recent decisions suggest that you only tolerate the news media when they do not question your management of the country’s affairs and your government’s legitimacy. Fiji is heading dangerously towards a system of permanent prior censorship.

These policies prevent the international community, including the European Union, from resuming close cooperation with your country. The repressive regulations that you have introduced are punishing the Fijian people and jeopardising the development aid that Fiji’s economy and society need. You have a duty to stop exposing your country to this danger.

We ask you to lose no time in repealing the Public Emergency Regulations, especially articles 16 (1) and 16 (2), which violate the international human rights accords that Fiji has signed. We also urge you, as Prime Minister, to order the security forces to withdraw from newsrooms and to stop arresting journalists.

We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration.


Jean-François Julliard

47 rue vivienne - 75002 Paris (France)

Tel: 331-4483-8484 / Fax: 331-4523-1151

Veteran media freedom champions speak out

New Pacific media freedom group plugs the gaps

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

From Fiji to the kanaka Maoli struggle against corporate media

REFRESHING to see West Papua make it into this month's Apia declaration on Pacific media freedom:
Initiate constructively critical awareness programmes supporting media freedoms in areas of high priority like Fiji, West Papua and some small island states including Tuvalu.
However, just why West Papua is mentioned alone outside of the Pacific Islands Forum countries or territories isn't entirely clear. Café Pacific would also similarly bracket the world's youngest nation, East Timor; French-ruled Tahiti and New Caledonia; and the US state of Hawai'i. All of these countries, territories and states have critical indigenous and cultural freedom of expression and free media issues too. On the topic of Hawai'i, Pasifika Foundation Hawai'i executive director Ana Currie, one of the delegates at PFF, has shared an impassioned statement among colleagues. Now it is also being shared on Café Pacific:

Aloha kakou,

When focusing on protecting the freedom of expression of the peoples of the Pacific, it is important to expand the borders of our minds and hearts to include Hawai'i Nei – Ka Pae ‘Aina – in the circle of Pacific island nations in very real need of our attention and inclusion.

There are often statements in the Pacific about Hawai'i being “too American,” but just as you would never reject Tahiti and her islands as being “too French” or West Papua for being “too Indonesian,” it might be helpful to reflect on the fact that the sovereign, independent nation of Hawai'i, which has never been legally extinguished, is suffering under a very heavy load of occupation and deprivation of rights. The fact that Hawai'i is considered a state of the USA is a painful one, and one which would hopefully never be used as a reason to exclude Hawai'i from Pacific regional organisations. For those of who who are interested, I’ve included a short summary of the statehood vote fraud after this comment.

While the dangers of media freedom in Hawai'i are much different from those of, for example, Fiji, where media suppression is done at the point of a gun, it may be very instructive to examine what has happened to news in Hawai'i, where the flow of information is increasingly under control of mainland US corporate control. You will never see kanaka Maoli issues accurately or fairly reported in mainstream television or print news in Hawai'i. As in the rest of Pasifika, we are very grateful for the growing influence of internet-based media, but the fact remains that the majority of people receive their news from the corporate outlets, which have their own various agendas – making it very difficult for the average consumer of news to develop anything even close to an informed opinion about Maoli issues.

The Pacific has already had a small taste of these kinds of effects with the controversy over the Barbara Dreaver "guns, gangs and drugs" in Samoa story. Although Dreaver has attracted a lot of personal animosity in Samoa for this story, in my mind the issue is not about Dreaver at all, but about the style in which the story was presented by ONE News; although the basic facts of the story may be true, the real issues are almost lost in the dramatisations, which are more like “info-tainment” than real news.

I’ve watched over the years as the American corporate trend of sensationalising news has crept into the New Zealand media. Dreaver’s story was just like every single news item one could watch on American television every night. In this case, the story happened to come up against the national pride of Samoa and thus became a issue in and of itself, but hundreds of stories like this are aired every week in the US and generally the subjects don’t have the critical mass (as in the case of Samoa) or the energy or funds, to lodge a protest about the way the story was told. People have just come to accept it.

This trend is something we need to find a way to resist if true Pacific media freedom is to be achieved. While situations like those in Fiji need priority support, we also need to be on guard against Pacific media becoming gradually overtaken by corporate interests from outside the region and/or being submerged under the tidal wave of dumbed-down, sensationalised pseudo-news, a trend that started in the US and is sweeping across the planet. If we allow outside corporate media to frame and control perspectives and information, the voice of the Pacific may be lost in the din.

Part of the work that Pasifika Foundation Hawai'i does is to encourage and support independent Maoli media in Hawai'i. One such initiative is The Hawaii Independent, a new print and online publication launched by a current PFH staff member, Ikaika Hussey. This publication seeks to report mainstream and Maoli news and to “set a new standard for Hawai'i-based media, with a fundamental ethic of non-partisanship, probing investigation and analysis, robust debate, and democratic dialogue.”

Aloha pumehana, malama pono,


The Hawai'i Statehood Fraud
In 1945, leaders of nations gathered to sign a UN Charter which called for self-governance of territories under colonial-style conditions, and in 1946, the U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution 66 in which specific U.N. members and the respective territories under their rule were named. The United States became obligated under a "sacred trust" to bring about self-governance to Alaska, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, Panama Canal zone, Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

Over the years, the term “self-governance” was clarified to mean that the people of the territory must be offered choices of how they would relate to the UN member - integration, free association, or independence. Many countries around the world began to emerge from de-colonisation through this process. But in Hawai'i, the legal process went totally awry. Rather than permitting the three choices called for by the U. N, the United States limited the choice, placing only one question on the 1959 statehood ballot, "Shall Hawai'i immediately be admitted into the Union as a State?" A yes response resulted in Hawai'i’s integration into the US as a State. A no vote would have resulted in continued territorial status in the US (also a form of integration). The choices of free association or independence were never presented to the people. The vote was boycotted by many kanaka Maoli and the members and families of the occupying military forces were allowed to cast votes!

The United States then reported to the UN General Assembly in 1959 that Hawai'i had exercised its right to self-governance and in doing so, elected to become a State, it convinced that assembly to remove Hawai'i from the list of territories subject to self-governance. This was nothing less than outright fraud.
Picture: Kanaka Maoli activists, including Hawaii Independent publisher Ikaika Hussey, protesting at the University of Hawai'i over an intrusion by the US Navy in 2005. Photo: Uriohau

Barbara Dreaver fights off smear campaign
'Gangsta paradise' story and a Samoan media vendetta
PIMA chair resigns in fallout from Samoa story
The Hawaii Independent

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sugar-coated offers from Beijing?

SO THE 30,000 Fiji Islanders directly affected by the sugar industry are now being made to suffer – along with another 200,000 people whose livelihoods are in some way linked. Just days before the harvesting season seriously gets under way. While the politicos and media flacks in New Zealand and Australia are rubbing their hypocritical hands with glee, cane growers are wondering how to survive. Now that the European Union has confirmed it will not be paying the 2009 sugar allocation for sugar industry reform (worth more than $US30 million) for the second year running, it is a matter of looking to Plan B. The EU has blocked the sugar assistance because of the military-backed regime’s refusal to return the country to democratic rule (until 2014).

When the funds were first suspended, Fiji was found to have breached the Cotonou agreement between the EU and the ACP bloc of countries (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific). Speculation was rife about whether Fiji regime censorship would gag this story, but it has at least slipped past the censors on Fijivillage News and Fiji Daily Post websites. Fijivillage added that it had been told that regime leader Voreqe Bainimarama said – before flying out to sugar meetings in Guyana and Brussels - that the governments of Australia and NZ were “trying to collapse the Fiji economy”.

Sabotage in other words. And yet another relentless push into railroading Fiji further into the arms of China and chequebook diplomacy. Chinese aid to Fiji has soared after the December coup - from $US23 million in 2006 to $US160 million in 2007 and still climbing.

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