Friday, February 11, 2011

That outrageous pick-and-flick Trinh-duc inspired try

FRANCOIS TRINH-DUC'S moment of genius with a flick pass under his legs to Imanol Harinoroquy. The outrageously exciting try contributed to France's 34-21 victory over Scotland in the Six Nations tourney last weekend. One of those distinctly French gems in rugby that have been missing for a while.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fiji blogs and The Fiji Times

AN OPEN letter from outgoing Fiji Times publisher Dallas Swinstead explains why he left the country's leading newspaper after rescuing it for the Motibhai Group following the buyout of News Ltd last year. The Australian-based Murdoch subsidiary was forced to divest 90 percent of its interest to local ownership under the terms of the controversial Fiji Media Industry Development Decree in September. But News Ltd elected to sell up completely:

People keep telling me I’m getting the occasional mention on blogs (which I don’t read). Anyway, it would be a good idea to share with anyone who is interested why I left The Fiji Times.

1. Motibhai, the new local owners of the paper, could not organise insurance nor medical evacuation for me, a requirement of our contract.

2. This became an issue for both them and I and they agreed to pay out the remainder of the work permit, four or five weeks.

3. I am tremendously proud, in fact exhilarated, by what I achieved with the full-blooded co-operation of some 160 The Fiji Times employees, as they embraced the job of resuscitating the newspaper the government intended to close.

4. The newspaper published its editorial charter on October 9 in which we stated that we supported the Prime Minister’s dreams of One Nation One People. We made it clear we would not be kissing arses but nor would we be instinctively kicking them. Like every decent paper in the world we have kept that promise.

5. The government continues to subsidise the opposition newspaper, the Fiji Sun with about 3000 pages of advertising a year. In return it publishes verbatim, mostly, all government releases. It is a shameless, even dangerous, publication.

6. Depending on what happens in Fiji in the weeks ahead, I may, or may not, fill in the details of that journey other than to take this opportunity to thank those dozens of the business, academic, legal, diplomatic and public servicemen and women who shared frank and revealing conversations with me about the way Fiji works.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In Egypt, the 'lamestream media' shows its courage and value

By Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post

THE TURMOIL in Egypt has been a lesson in the fragility of a right we so often take for granted: to speak.

It also has been a reminder to those who deride the "lamestream media" as the enemy, traitors and worse that many members of that maligned tribe are also very brave.

A list of journalists who have been assaulted, beaten, harassed and arrested in Egypt since demonstrations began would consume the balance of this column. They include attacks on CNN's Anderson Cooper, as well as reporters and photographers from The Post, Fox News, the New York Times, and numerous other publications and broadcast organisations from around the world.

The attacks have been well organised and strategic, suggesting something more than an organic eruption from the street. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), founded in 1981 to protect press freedom and journalists, has added its voice to those asserting that the attacks were arranged by Hosni Mubarak's government.

Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, reported Wednesday that:
The Egyptian government is employing a strategy of eliminating witnesses to their actions. The government has resorted to blanket censorship, intimidation, and today a series of deliberate attacks on journalists carried out by pro-government mobs. The situation is frightening not only because our colleagues are suffering abuse but because when the press is kept from reporting, we lose an independent source of crucial information.
Outrage expressed
Outrage that journalists are being targeted has been appropriately expressed by various heads of state, including President Obama.

Attacks on journalists are nothing new. Five have been killed already this year, including one Friday in Cairo. Since 1992, 850 have died in the line of duty. Of those, more than 500 were murdered with impunity, according to CPJ. An additional 145 journalists are in prison worldwide for the offense of reporting.

What is new to most eyes are these real-time attacks on people we know. Watching Katie Couric being harassed and shoved by a crowd of angry men in Cairo was especially jarring. Our little Katie? Make no mistake. Perky Katie is also brave Katie.

For journalists, there's no adrenaline rush like Being There. There's something in the constitution of those who sign up for Journalism 101 that makes them want to be part of the action but also to do something of value. The bias so many recognise in the media is, among other things, a bias toward the underdog, whether that's an unwed mother or an oppressed people. That government thugs want to silence reporters in Egypt is understandable. The camera is focused on the powerless masses who want to unseat their pharaoh.

Bear witness
This is to say that those reporters who put their boots on the ground go willingly. I'd wager that every reporter confined to a cubicle at this moment wishes he or she were there, even with a touch of quiet gratitude for being safe. It isn't only to be where the action is but also to bear witness to history and to the eternal human struggle to be free.

It is rare to get to see our constitutional rights (and responsibilities) so starkly displayed or to have the courage of our convictions tested, if only vicariously. The Egyptian people are brave, too, but it is their fight. Another lesson: Democracies have to emerge from the passions of their own constituents. Freedom may be God-given, but, like life, it has a gestation period and is usually born with much pain. Afterward comes nurturing through the conscientious exercise of human will and institutions yet to be conceived.

Fundamental to this process, as our own Founding Fathers understood, is the freedom to gather and to express oneself. Every day we tolerate posers, pundits and porn along with klanners, clowns and clambering ninnies for the greater good of a free society where no one gets his head bashed for speaking truth to power.

Not so lucky are the hundreds or thousands of Egyptians who have suffered blows (or death) as they have sought their own route to liberty. Reporting from Cairo, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof tells of a carpenter named Mahmood who had needed medical treatment seven times in 24 hours. His arm was in a sling, his leg in a cast and his head was bandaged. He was going back for more.

Kristof was "awestruck" when Mahmood told him: "I'll fight as long as I can."

We should all be so awed - not only by the Mahmoods, but also by the Kristofs.

Cartoon: "Stop intimidating journalists," says the newspaper headline in Arabic. Source:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

NZ ‘honour killing’ bandwagon a case of ethno-media values?

ASTONISHING how quick some mainstream news media in New Zealand were to latch on to the catchy phrase “honour killing” over the cruel and tragic death of an Indo-Fijian nurse working at an Auckland hospital last month.

Twenty eight-year-old Ranjeeta Sharma (pictured) was found burned to death at the side of a road near Huntly, in rural Waikato, Her husband Diwesh, 29, fled to Fiji with their four-year-old son the following day. But he was brought back to New Zealand and faces murder and other charges.

The persistence of some New Zealand media in speculating over an “honour killing” even after police insisted that they were simply investigating a homicide – a particularly gruesome one, admittedly - and various Indian and Indo-Fijian media and community commentators argued that this was extremely rare in the region, if not unknown, was unfortunate.

After two days of media hype, one television network online editor fired off a query to Café Pacific saying:
Some people are calling it an honour killing, but many Fijian Indians are saying this doesn't exist in Fiji in the same way it does on the subcontinent. On the other hand I have anecdotal stories from some people who have fled Fiji fearing a similar fate.

Could you shed some light on this or know anyone who could talk knowledgeably? Are honour killings in existence in Fiji - even if they are rare?
Use of the term “honour killing” stirred a spate of criticism in the ethnic press and radio over “insensitive” mainstream media. Clearly the sensationalist reporting of the issue has undermined progress in cross-cultural reporting made in NZ in recent years. Indian Weekender editor-in-chief Dev Nadkarni , a onetime coordinator of the University of the South Pacific’s journalism programme, condemned NZ media reporting of the killing:
Nearly every major news outlet played along with the honour killing angle, interviewing ethnic Indian workers of women’s and social organisations to record their general statements about honour killings and linking them to this case.

At the time of writing, no media outlet had clarified the investigation team’s present position – that it was being treated as a homicide. Follow up reports persisted in linking the honour killing angle.

One would expect the media to try to break stereotypes, not reinforce them.
Former Fiji Daily Post publisher Thakur Ranjit Singh was even harsher, describing it as a case of Indian and “Hindu-bashing” by news media:
This report and similar “stereotyping” reports in other media prompted concerned Indo-Fijians and Indians to call meetings in Auckland to show their concern and disappointment at the “media-bashing’ of a community.
Singh noted that the new Hindu Media Watch group, formed out of frustration with NZ media reporting of cultural minorities, was considering laying complaints with the Broadcasting Standards Authority and NZ Press Council.

In the Herald on Sunday, Deborah Coddington wrote:
It's truly horrible that nearly 600 years after Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, in supposedly civilised New Zealand a 28-year-old educated woman is burned alive and tossed on the roadside like rubbish.

Poor, wretched Ranjeeta Sharma, an immigrant from Fiji. Nobody deserves this, least of all amid speculation she may have been the victim of a so-called "honour killing".
Fortunately, Radio NZ’s Mediawatch and Bruce Hill’s Pacific Beat report for Radio Australia provided some clarity, context and sanity about the issue. In an interview with Hill, Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre director Shamima Ali said:
There are honour beatings [in Fiji] - we could term honour beatings when … young women don't adhere to what their parents want, what the community they belong to want and so on, particularly in terms of falling in love with someone outside of that community or someone undesirable perceived by the parents. So often girls are brought back and beaten quite badly, sometimes locked up and forced to marry other people. So that has occurred and continues to occur in Fiji.

… But as far as honour killing - strictly honour killing - has happened in other communities, particularly Muslim communities in Fiji, I haven't heard of one.
A Canadian 'honour killing' controversy

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dodging the censors – an ungagged recipe to rescue Fiji’s national pension fund

HOW BIZARRE. The Fiji censors have gagged a perfectly reasonable and well-argued article about how ordinary Fijians can help their much-maligned national pension fund. Almost two years ago, the University of the South Pacific economist and former MP Professor Wadan Narsey penned an article in The Fiji Times about the “circling coup wolves”, which were putting the Fiji National Provident Fund at risk. His accompanying cartoon depicted the FNPF as a cash cow laden with pensions with a bunch of wolves snapping at its hooves. (By law, some 16 percent of Fijians wages and salaries must be paid into the fund - savings amounting to F$2.5 billion and with assets on paper worth $3 billion). The introduction said:
contributors and pensioners should be concerned. Perhaps worried. Perhaps frightened. Because our FNPF life savings are under threat.

While outlining the threatening wolves and the potential harm they could cause the FNPF, he also pointed out the lack of representation for the country’s contributors and pensioners:
We the FNPF contributors who own the savings do not have a single direct representative on the FNPF board who can be accountable to us. Why don't we?

We remain quiet at our peril.

But this fresh article on Pacific Media Centre Online today has a far more positive tone, more in the vein of what Fijians can do for the country’s fund (to rescue it) rather than what the fund can do for them. A visionary recipe for development. Yet the regime’s censors gagged the article from a Fiji Times edition last week – they “took it away and didn’t return it”. Narsey says:
Can Fiji National Provident Fund contributors and pensioners assist it become more viable?

With a stagnating economy, FNPF revenues have been severely constrained. Few new jobs have been created and existing incomes have not grown; many loans are non-performing; returns on FNPF investments have been declining; and large amounts of capital values have been written off because of mismanagement.

But collectively, FNPF contributors and pensioners remain the largest group of spenders in the Fiji economy.

Here is the challenge: can FNPF contributors and pensioners direct their consumption expenditure towards FNPF investments, and change FNPF policies for the better?

And Narsey made a number of suggestions about how the fund can be restructured, provide fairer representation and also about strategic help. This was a very positive and constructive article. As the author notes:
Why would the Bainimarama regime ban this article from a daily newspaper? What greater damage is being done to our people’s welfare which the papers are stopped from reporting, every day? Why do we Fiji citizens continue to suffer this daily loss of our basic human right to freedom of expression, without even a whimper?
Fiji’s draconian media censorship has to stop.

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