Saturday, March 20, 2010

France shrug aside the 'Marcatraz' rugby stigma

A RARE Café Pacific switch from media and politics to rugby: France deserve the Grand Slam accolades for Marc Lièvremont and his coaching crew’s patience in rebuilding the national team with vision and confidence after their humiliation at the hands of les Rosbifs at the 2007 World Cup.

The French team has shrugged off its ‘Marcatraz’ stigma – a reference to the Marcoussis training centre outside Paris and San Francisco’s notorious ex-prison Alcatraz. This was how the centre was dubbed in the conservative coaching era of Bernard Laporte.

While France's 12-10 defeat of England in the Parisian rain at the weekend was a pale imitation of the scintillating victories over Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy in previous matches, the Grand Slam was a deserved honour for les Bleus. Bravo!

Sounding a 2011 World Cup warning to both hosts New Zealand and fellow group contender Tonga, Reuters rugby writer Jean-Paul Coret says about Lièvremont’s resolve against the insults during 2008 when the coach chopped-and-changed to blood a range of young players for the future:
The 41-year-old's tendency to tinker was castigated but Lièvremont remained firm. By the end of the season he selected 58 names.

The eventual result is a strong and competitive squad with an awesome front five and a backbone of 10 players in key positions -- front row, backrow, halfbacks, inside centre and fullback.
Stuart Barnes in the Sunday Times described how Lièvremont had gone from “villain to hero” in France, adding:
An entire nation savoured France’s first Grand Slam since 2004. It was all the more ecstatic for the choice of England as the fifth and final victims. Perfidious Albion — more than any other rugby nation — has haunted French rugby throughout the past decade. Supporters remember how a limited but bloody-minded England stole their dreams with fierce determination and Jonny Wilkinson’s boot in the semi-final of their World Cup three years ago. This was French rugby’s Agincourt moment…

French rugby understands its own market. It has reverted to tradition and is rediscovering the best route to present and future glories.
Four of Lièvremont's players – Morgan Parra, Imanol Harinordoquy, Mathieu Bastareaud and Thierry Dusautoir – have been nominated for the Six Nations' player of the year award alongside Shane Williams of Wales and Ireland's Tommy Bowe. As French captain, Dusautoir may well get the nod in recognition of a standout performance from the whole team.

Pictured: Marc Lièvremont fields the press. Photo: Planet Rugby

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Muslim scholars defend Islamic schools' 'correct' teaching

By Ismira Lutfia of the Jakarta Globe

Muslim scholars are countering allegations that Islamic schools are terrorist breeding grounds by arguing that the schools are key weapons in the fight against extremism.

Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali said on Sunday that his ministry was seeing positive results after it had approached Islamic schools (madrasah), and Islamic boarding schools (pesantren), in order to disseminate the correct Islamic teachings.

He said that unlike the terrorists in the country whose targets and enemies were unclear, Islam taught that in jihad, the target was evident.

"The Muslims who died [in the terror attacks] were the innocent ones," Suryadharma said at a birthday celebration for Prophet Muhammad in Magelang, Central Java.

On Thursday, Mahrus Amin, the head of the Darunnajah Islamic Boarding School, told journalists that none of the terrorists who bombed several places in Indonesia were graduates of the country's pesantren.

“The kyai [Islamic clerics] know very well that none of them were pesantren alumni,” Mahrus said during a reception for about 30 journalists from throughout East Asia, who had visited the school at the end of a three-day media forum on conflict reporting in Jakarta.

Mahrus said in one of his replies to questions from the journalists that the kyai believed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has generated the issue of Islamic jihad, which is carried out by terrorists who launch bomb attacks “to discredit Islam and to divide people".

Suryadharma said terrorists gave Islam a bad name by claiming religious motivations for their attacks. He said terrorist networks were only a minor movement in the country and did not represent Islam.

“But they managed to capture a lot of attention as if they are a big [movement] in Indonesia,” Surydharma said.

Terrorism experts have said the Al-Mukmin Pesantren in Central Java founded by radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the reputed former spiritual leader of terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah, is a recruiting ground for JI.

Two of its most infamous students were Ali Ghufron and his younger brother Amrozi, two of the three Bali bombers executed in November 2008.

But of the estimated 14,000 pesantren in the country, fewer than 20 are considered radical or are suspected to have links to JI.

Syafii Anwar, the director of the International Center for Islam and Pluralism, previously said the reluctance of Islamic boarding schools to focus on pluralism and tolerance was a major obstacle to changing the mind-set of their students, leaving them open to radicalism and conservatism.

“Anyone can become a terrorist if he or she is being indoctrinated into a certain perspective” Syafii said.

“Economics is not the only factor in the making of a terrorist.” 

Pictures: Top: Mahrus Amin (right), head of the Darunnajah Islamic Boarding School and a teacher. He defended school educational values in a media conference with visiting Asia-Pacific journalists. Middle: Manila Bulletin journalist Edmund Usman asks a question. Right: Indonesian journalism educator Dr Warief Djajanto Basorie with a school staff member. Photos: David Robie

Ismira Lutfia is a Jakarta Globe journalist who attended the East Asia media forum supported by the New Zealand government, European Union and Indonesian government. This story was reported with input by Antara news agency.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shooting of terrorist Dulmatin overshadows key media conflict seminar

WHAT an irony that the Jakarta media headlines were focusing on a “terrorism training camp” scare in Indonesia’s western-most Aceh province and shootouts in an outlying suburb that left fugitive Dulmatin and two other suspects dead just when a regional East Asia media forum opened with a focus on the “intersections of conflict, culture and religion”.

The forum, jointly hosted by the New Zealand government, the European Union and the Indonesian government, brought together some 57 senior journalists and media educators from 16 countries to reflect on how well the region’s media is coping with complex new challenges to culture and conflict reporting.

Coinciding with the three-day conference, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was visiting Australia and Papua New Guinea and news commentators noted how the death of Dulmatin would ease Yudhoyono’s “task to convince the Australian public and Parliament that Indonesia is a key security and economic partner”.

The shooting of 40-year-old Dulmatin came as a shock as the Jemaah Islamiyah bomb-maker, strategist and financier was believed to be still in hiding with the Abu Sayyaf group in the Southern Philippines.

Some newspapers warned of a “resurgent and expanding military network” just as Indonesia seemed to be making spectacular headway against terrorist groups.

Indonesian and Filipino journalists at the media conference speculated on how many other terrorists may have slipped across the porous border triangle bounded by Indonesia, Malaysia and Mindanao in the Philippines, unknown to security authorities in all three countries.

Media also commented on the high risk public ambush that killed Dulmatin – a onetime Islamic boarding school teacher suspected of being part of the 2002 Bali bombings - in a suburban internet café but, miraculously, this did not harm any bystanders.

Criticism also focused on sensational media coverage - especially by television of the drama - such as "terrorist manhunts, complete with graphic footage of dead bodies and puddles of blood sandwiched between comments from terrorism experts".

A day after the conference ended, two further terrorism suspects were killed in Aceh.

The conference irony was that Aceh and Maluku were both featured as examples of “post-conflict achievement” in contemporary Indonesia.

Two impressive speakers from the Maluku Media Centre, Lucky Sopacua and the Antara news agency bureau chief in Ambon, Muhammad Din Kelilauw, gave moving accounts of how both Christian and Muslim media people put aside their differences and worked hard to rebuild community trust in a shattered island province torn apart by religious conflict from 1999-2002.

A classic example of “peace journalism” having a strategic impact.

New Zealand has been a key supporter of the Maluku Media Centre with assistance for training.

Speaking on Aceh, courageous Jakarta Post reporter Nani Afrida, who had been a “frontline” journalist covering both sides of the war with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) until the peace agreement in 2005 in the wake of the devastating tsunami, gave an insightful account of Aceh’s history of struggle and hope for the future.

Afrida has now “retired” from frontline reporting and has taken up economics reporting at the Post’s head office.

The conference opening featured a keynote speech by former Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, who has been touted as something of a regional peacemaker on the strength of his spectacular success at home with resolving several Indonesian secessionist and insurgency problems.

Kalla, currently Indonesia’s Red Cross chairman, blamed “inequality” as being mainly responsible for ethnic conflicts and separatist movements in Indonesia and in other countries.

His recipe for success included efforts to reduce “wealth gaps” in the process conflict resolution.

According to the Jakarta Post’s Lilian Budianto, Kalla is “preparing to play a role in peace negotiations in southern Thailand”, but he was reluctant to confirm this:
In 2005, the then vice-president offered Aceh separatists a special autonomy deal, including receiving 70 percent of the share of its natural resources yield, implementation of its own Islamic law and the formation of local parties.

The peace deal with GAM ended three decades of guerrilla insurgency in the impoverished province.

Apart from the Aceh peace deal, Kalla also successfully brought conflicting parties in the two provinces of [Central] Sulawesi and Maluku, in 2001 and 2002 respectively, to sign peace pacts when he served as coordinating public welfare minister under president Megawati.
Kalla is regarded as a strong negotiator who can “effectively convince hardline insurgents to put down their guns”, the Post quoted Sanata Dharma University history professor Baskara T. Wardaya as saying.

The Jakarta conflict and media conference had a strong line-up among is presenters and on the opening day, Monash University politics lecturer Waleed Aly, an Egyptian-Australian and author of People Like Us: How Arrogance is Dividing Islam and the West, gave an inspiring address on “culture, conflict and coexistence”.

A panel on “media and democracy” featured India’s Mail Today deputy editor Dr Manoj Joshi; Marga Ortigas of the Manila bureau of Aljazeera; a Korea Times editor, Cho Jae-hyun; and Philippine Star executive editor Ana Marie Pamintuan.

Jakarta Post chief editor Endy Bayuni chaired a panel on “Breakdown: Reporting war, terrorism, insurrection and civil unrest” with Pakistani presenters Zahid Hussain, senior editor of Newsline magazine and Rahim Ullah Yusufzai, senior analyst for the television channel Geo who is also working for BBC Radio’s Urdu, Pashto, Hindi and English services.

The AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre director, Dr David Robie, chaired the “post-conflict” panel on Aceh and Maluku and Tempo Weekly editor-in-chief Bambang Harymurti headed a workshop featuring “local conflict” case stories in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Twenty nine of the delegates signed a strong open letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines in the wake of the Mindanao massacre last November when 32 journalists were among 57 people killed by a local politician’s militia.

"Their murder, and the death of countless other media workers in your country in recent years, will not be forgotten by us," the letter said. "We urge you, your government and the institutions of state to take the appropriate action to ensure justice is done and to create a better, safer environment for journalists in your country."

A proposal for a regional journalism training programme was inconclusive, especially when Filipino journalists questioned the need for such an initiative when at least two such regional programmes based in the Philippines were well established.

One of the highlights of the week came at the end of the conference when Pesantren Darunnajah Islamic Boarding School wowed delegates and presenters with an spectacular display of cultural and campus activities by the delightful students.

Pictures: Top: The Indonesian police turned down a $10 million reward offer for Dulmatin's capture. National police chief General Bambang Hendarso Danuri is pictured by the Jakarta Globe holding a wanted poster for the shot suspect. Middle Top: Metro TV coverage of the police shooting of terrorist suspects. Middle Bottom: A Jakarta newspaper street hawker and Jakarta Post chief editor Endy Bayuni (left) with the New Zealand Herald's Edward Gay and Pacific Media Centre's Dr David Robie. Above: Students at Pesantren Darunnajah welcome media conference delegates.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Samoan 'gangs, drugs and guns' too gung-ho for the BSA

SO THE Samoan government has jumped the gun on the Television New Zealand “gangsta paradise” affair. In its eagerness to win a political point or two over the state-owned broadcaster (which incidentally has just supplied a "Pacific TV" gift of broadcast equipment to Samoa) in its long-standing controversial complaint about TVNZ accuracy, fairness and ethics, the government has itself breached the broadcast industry's watchdog embargo. This is a violation of an important part of the adjudication process, which enables both parties to prepare their response to the orders and to consider an appeal. In fact, Café Pacific wonders what part of the "NOT FOR PUBLICATION" label stamped on each page of the draft ruling, the Samoan government officials did not understand. If it was a court, this would be contempt.

According to TVNZ’s corporate affairs manager Megan Richards, an appeal could well be on the cards. She told Pacific Media Watch that TVNZ had complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about the embargo breach. TVNZ had expected the adjudication to be released on March 29. Richards said TVNZ was "considering an appeal in this case, which has a number of very unusual aspects. TVNZ stands by the substance of the story and the integrity and professionalism of the journalist concerned" – respected Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver.

The BSA ruled against TVNZ on accuracy and balance grounds in its 25-page adjudication against the news item broadcast on ONE News on April 6 last year and also run on Tagata Pasifika . It has reportedly ordered TVNZ to make a public apology, awarded costs of $5000 to be paid to the Samoan government and $2000 to the Crown. But two other complaints over fairness and the impact on law and order were not upheld by the BSA.

Unsurprisingly, TVNZ is spitting tacks over the adjudication. This ruling signals a growing trend for Pacific governments to use the BSA as a means of waving a big stick against stroppy and independent journalists. Fairfax’s Michael Field faced a similar caning from the BSA following a complaint by the Fiji regime's solicitor-general in September 2008.

Pacific governments 2 - Regional journalists 0.

Radio New Zealand International picked up the Samoan press release but ran five paragraphs of the government’s spin with no follow-up comment or balancing interviews. It did not get comment from TVNZ or mention that the government had broken the embargo:
The Samoan government has welcomed a ruling by the New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority, which found that Television New Zealand breached standard broadcasting laws in a news item suggesting the widespread presence of gangs, drugs and gun smuggling in Samoa.

The complaint was lodged by the Samoan government last April year when it claimed that the item tarnished the country’s image and would dissuade tourists from visiting.

In its ruling, the BSA says the report by Barbara Dreaver presented only one perspective and viewers needed information about the gravity of the problem in a wider context and from other perspectives.

TVNZ has been ordered to make a public statement, pay costs to the Samoa government and the Crown.

Samoa’s prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, says he sees the ruling not so much a victory for his government but a victory for responsible and substantive reporting.
But RNZI didn’t mention the prime minister’s further comments:
There have been far too many incidences of unbalanced reporting with
reporters and editors alike bent on producing and publishing half-cooked, sensationalised stories with the sole aim of stirring up controversy.

The ruling by the BSA is an onus for broadcasters and publishers to produce fair, balanced, in-depth and accurate news items.

There are also some very important lessons there for our local editors and budding journalists in how they do their jobs.
The ruling wasn’t to be found on either BSA online or the Samoan government press releases website.

No doubt there will be plenty of clucking in Samoan media circles, but it doesn’t stem the concerns that many of the region's journalists have about the dreadful threats or vindictive witch hunt faced by Dreaver or the hysterically partisan reporting of the issue in some sections of the Samoan press. It would be unfortunate if the BSA has not balanced its ruling with some stern criticism of the culprits in the Samoan media.

Of course, none of these stories below would have much to do with Samoan “gangs, drugs and guns”, would they?

Cops pay social visit to alleged drug lord's house
Drugs and criminal gangs exposed
Bail hearing for Tagaloasa
Filipaina remains in custody
Inquiry report on police boss role submitted

Pictured: RNZI's report of the "ruling"; TVNZ's Barbara Dreaver; and a still from her "gangs, drugs and guns" story. Other background:

Fiji high chief, seven others jailed over Fiji kill plot

IN HIS summing up in the controversial Fiji assassination conspiracy case, High Court judge Justice Paul Madigan put the blame on a ninth man who wasn't in the dock - New Zealand businessman Ballu Khan. Eight other co-conspirators in the alleged plot to assassinate the regime leader, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, were jailed for sentences ranging between three and seven years. But the judge said he was convinced the plot had been orchestrated by Khan, in collaboration with the eight accused. The New Zealand government has since denied any knowledge of the plot, saying it had merely provided consular assistance to Khan.

Madigan made his statement while sentencing the eight accused men in a packed courtroom. According to Fijilive, the judge said Khan’s business interests in Fiji had "waned after the military takeover in December 2006", and that the businessman was eager to "restore his fortunes to their former felicitous state”. Justice Madigan added the idea of weakening the military, “removing” Bainimarama and the President, and ridding the country of Indo-Fijians had both sinister and racial intentions. Fijilive reported that Fiji high chief Ratu Inoke Takiveikata - described as a "ringleader" - and seven others had been sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven years for Takiveikata to three years for the others for plotting to assassinate Bainimarama and two other senior government figures in 2007:
Takiveikata and former Pacific Connex employee Sivaniolo Naulago were both jailed for seven years while former Fiji Intelligence Services director Metuisela Mua was jailed for three and a half years.

Former Counter Revolutionary Warfare soldier Barbado Mills was jailed for six years and six months while CRW fellowman Feoko Gadekibau was given a prison term of five and half years.

Other former CRW men Eparama Waqatakirewa and Pauliasi Namulo were jailed for three years each while fifth CRW figure Kaminieli Vosavere was jailed for four years.

Justice Madigan walked into a packed court room, filled with different nationalities. Members of the media were allowed in first.

The defendants, found guilty earlier this week by a five-member team of assessors, looked relaxed as they awaited the judge’s decision.
They faced a maximum prison term of 14 years for the offence.
Pictured: The accused chief, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata. Photo: Fijilive.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Fiji students’ internet coup – a decade on

IN A couple of months, it will be a decade since the University of the South Pacific student journalism students staged their own internet coup with award-winning coverage of the George Speight “attempted” coup in Fiji on 19 May 2000. While renegade businessman Speight and his journalist offsider, Jo Nata, were eventually scapegoated into prison for treason, the politically acceptable face of the Speight coup, Laisenia Qarase, consolidated his power from caretaker leader to elected prime minister – twice. But, as we know, Qarase was no paragon of democracy and was subsequently ousted by a coup by the military’s Commodore Voreqe Baimimarama in December 2006. Many of the group of students who covered the Speight coup for Pacific Journalism Online and Wansolwara and won a string of awards from the Journalism Education Association in Mooloolaba, Queensland, that year have gone on to bigger and better things. Wansolwara editor Reggie Dutt, for example, is now at Bond University doing a masters degree. But the heady moments of that coup coverage will never be forgotten. The students' story was told in a short video, Frontline Reporters, which has now been posted on the Pacific Media Centre’s YouTube channel for posterity. The university unilaterally closed the student journalists' website and tried to gag the newspaper (actions later condemned by the faculty board of the School of Humanities) but the students continued filing their stories to the University of Technology, Sydney, which set up a special coup website.

An earlier video (1999), Pasifik Niusbeat, tells the story of the early stages of online newsreporting and Radio Pacific at USP. You’ll recognise many young media faces familiar around the region today. Another video, Fri Pres, covers the fight for media freedom across the region in 1996. Produced and presented by David Robie, and reported by Stevenson Liu and Priscilla Raepom, it was broadcast by EMTV in Papua New Guinea and Fiji Television. The astonishing thing about this University of Papua New Guinea programme is that while it was made 16 years ago, it could just as easily have been talking about post-coup Fiji censorship and the rest of the Pacific today.

Pictured, a clip from Fri Pres with then PNG Forestry Minister Tim Nelville talking about a death threat on talkback radio.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two out of three murder charges dropped in Fiji plot case

FIJI'S ASSASSINATION conspiracy case has taken a dramatic turn with the dropping of two of three charges against eight men indicted.

The eight - including a high chief - had been accused of plotting to assassinate the self-appointed Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, and two senior regime ministers in 2007.

Presiding judge Justice Paul Madigan dropped the charges of conspiracy to murder Mahendra Chaudhry and conspiracy to murder the Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum because of “ambiguous” evidence.

The eight men now face one remaining count of conspiring to murder Bainimarama.

Fijilive reports:
Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, Feoko Gadekibau, Barbedoes Mills, Metuisela Mua, Sivaniolo Naulago, Eperama Waqatairewa, Kaminieli Vosavere and Pauliasi Ramulo are now free on charges that they conspired to murder Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Mahendra Chaudhry.

The first count still stands and that is the [alleged] plan to kill the Army Commander.

First accused Ratu Inoke Takiveikata has opted to give sworn evidence from the witness box as the case on the first count proceeds.

Five local assessors are also presiding over the case, now into its fourth week.
Ironically, the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum today also issued a statement calling on the regime to take urgent action over the independence of the judiciary. Reverend Akuila Yabaki, director of the CCF, called on the government to invite the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to visit Fiji as soon as possible.

>>> Café Pacific on YouTube


>>> Popular Café Pacific Posts