Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pacific Media Watch highlights threats to region's freedom

THANKS AGAIN  to Pacific Media Watch:

Brutal repression of journalists and civil rights in Indonesian-ruled West Papua, censorship and self-censorship in Fiji and abuses of a free press in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu have been highlighted in a Pacific media freedom report being published tomorrow.

The 41-page report by the Pacific Media Centre’s freedom project Pacific Media Watch is a harrowing indictment of the “fragile” state of the media in the region.

Marking the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) - observed globally on May 3 each year - the report is also accompanied by an eight minute video about the media made by a School of Communication Studies crew at the Auckland University of Technology.

“The state of Pacific media freedom remains fragile with setbacks across the region in spite of the brief glimmer of hope in Fiji with the lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) at the start of this year,” said Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie.

“While official censorship has been lifted, the tough Fiji Media Industry Development Decree imposed by the military-backed regime is still in force and is a major chilling factor for the local – and foreign – news media.

“Self-censorship is rife and suspicion plagues rival media groups eyeing a favoured place in an authoritarian mediascape.

“It is not an encouraging environment for freedom of expression as the country looks to the promised and hoped for elections in 2014.”

Media freedom video
The media freedom video, reported by Pasifika student Jordan Puati and directed by AUT television journalism lecturer Danni Mulrennan, examines media freedom issues in New Zealand as well as in the Pacific.

It also highlights freedom issues faced by Māori, Pasifika and ethnic journalists in comparison to the mainstream media culture.

The video and media freedom report will be launched at a WPFD seminar hosted by the Pacific Media Centre and chaired by Fijian Dr Steven Ratuva of Auckland University’s Centre for Pacific Studies at AUT tomorrow night.

Dr Robie said the media freedom report had been republished in book form from an article published in Pacific Journalism Review late last year.

He said the worrying trend set last year had continued into this year and he cited the following issues:

•    Fiji: The lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) has ended formal censorship the draconian Fiji Media Industry Development Decree 2010 is still in place:  “Many journalists and civil society advocates are still fearful of speaking out due to the harsh legal penalties that they face under the law and this will damage the democratisation process,” Dr Robie said.

•    Papua New Guinea: A rise in assaults and intimidation of journalists reporting on the ongoing political crisis with “two governments” since late last year, two violent incidents involving armed police. “The continued political uncertainty and climate of impunity has raised the stakes for journalists,” Dr Robie said.

•    West Papua: “In the past year, there have been two killings of journalists, five abductions or attempted abductions, 18 assaults (including repeated cases against some journalists), censorship by both the civil and military authorities and two police arrests (but no charges),” said the media freedom report.

Dangerous places
Dr Robie said: “Clearly the two provinces of West Papua are the most dangerous places for the media in the Pacific region.

“While politically, the territory is regarded globally as part of Indonesia, the Papuans are Melanesian and the Pacific Islands Forum and Pacific media advocacy groups should be giving their Melanesian brothers priority support.

“This is the major media freedom hot spot at the moment. But it is mostly dropping below the radar for Australia, New Zealand and independent Pacific nations.”

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Quick PINA postmortem from the sidelines

Another positive outcome from PINA ... work on a new Pacific media freedom documentary by the University of the South Pacific. Pictured: Director Don Pollock, Radio Djiido's Magalie Tingal and Samoa Savali editor Tupuola Terry Tavita. Photo: David Robie

AFTER THE furore over contrasting views on PINA 2012 and a season of personal insults and attacks, here is a calm and welcome voice of reason:

So congratulations to all our media colleagues who made it to PINA 2012.

To most of us the Pacific is home, this is where our bread and butter is so it is in our hands to either move the Pacific media forward or kill it with our bare hands. I am not for the latter!

There are some among us who are in the Pacific just to make money so I can excuse them for lacking the passion for the Pacific media.

I really do not care if it is PINA or PASIMA - as long they work on uniting the Pacific media and practitioners, train them, fight to give us better pay and to me that was the clear message coming out of PINA. And I must congratulate PINA for moving in that direction.

Vinaka and meitaki atupaka all.
Ulamila Kurai Wragg

Friday, April 27, 2012

PINA deconstructed ... peace, progress and propaganda

THANKS to Pacific Media Watch for the following item about the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), media freedom and truth in the Pacific media. But first, this gem of a picture above. PARTNERS AT PINA: Pictured while dining with Fiji regime leader Voreqe Bainimarama at the Lagoon Resort in Pacific Harbour are arch critic Lisa Williams-Lahari (International Federation of Journalists Pacific campaigner and coordinator of the Pacific Freedom Forum, just behind VB in striped blouse); Pitt Media Group director Shona Pitt; former PINA president  Fr John Lamani, managing director of the Solomon Star; and Moses Stevens of Vanuatu, recently reelected to a second two-year term as president of PINA. (Source: PINA Facebook. Lisa has promptly pointed out on the PIJO network and elsewhere that this photo is out of context and not what it seems. She says she was in the picture at the insistence of her Cook Islands colleague Shona.) Since these items below were broadcast or published, Fiji-born journalist Graham Davis has written a devastating critique about "off this planet" commentary and his original article about PINA has been published in The Australian.

Media view 1 (April 26):
Academic criticises PINA for stifling dissent at media summit

Dr Marc Edge (Canada): Author and Head of Journalism at the University of the South Pacific - first PINA conference after less than a year in the Pacific:

QUOTE (in a Radio Australia interview with reporter Bruce Hill): The PINA conference organisers have to be very happy but they've managed to keep a lid on all the dissension. That was largely because many of the dissenters were not there, and those who were dissenters were either trying to act as conciliators, or were not able to make their voices heard because it seems most of the decisions were made behind closed doors by a small group. USP is an associate member of PINA, and I have wanted to bring up certain issues and I just found that there was no opportunity. Like I said they managed to keep a lot of the dissension out of the conference, but that doesn't mean there's not dissension. I was not impressed at all with some of the speakers, a lot of the panellists were forced to confess from the outset that they had no expertise on the subject. It seems just that whoever donated money as a sponsor was given time on the program whether they knew anything about the subject or not. Most of the sponsors donated money so that they could give sessions on different topics which were largely propaganda; things like non-communicable diseases dominated the agenda. And certainly it's white propaganda because it's for a good cause, but it's propaganda nonetheless. They were paying to get a captive audience of journalists in one spot to get out their message. 
Listen to the full radio interview

Media view 2 (April 23):
Pacific media 'at peace' after bitter infighting over Fiji:

Graham Davis (Australia): Fiji-born award-winning television investigative journalist who has had a lifetime of Pacific experience:

QUOTE on the Grubsheet blog: The South Pacific media has been wracked by deep division over how journalists should respond to the 2006 Fiji coup and Frank Bainimarama’s continuing hold on power. The last gathering in Vanuatu three years ago of members of PINA – the Pacific Islands News Association – was marred by bitter infighting, so much so that a group of mainly Polynesian delegates broke away and set up a rival organisation, the Pacific Islands Media Association ( PasiMA). There were unprecedented scenes of acrimony at the conference venue in Port Vila. One prominent delegate threatened to kill another. And the then editor of The Fiji Times, Netani Rika, stormed out in protest at the presence of two representatives of Fiji’s Information Ministry, one of whom was reduced to tears by the vitriol aimed in her direction. It clearly wasn’t the most pacific of occasions. And many delegates expected more of the same at the 2012 PINA summit in Fiji – the cause of all the trouble in the first place. Yet three years on, the hand of sweet reason appears to have descended on the region’s media professionals, judging from events at Pacific Harbour, the rain-drenched summit venue. The deeply religious head of the PINA secretariat, Fiji’s Matai Akauola, cast it as the hand of God bringing peace to his fractured media flock. Either way, the 2012 PINA summit was notable for healing some of the deep divisions of the past.
Read the full article

Media view 3 (April 2):
Peacemaker Moala helps bury the PINA hatchet:

Dr David Robie (NZ): Journalist, author and director of the Pacific Media Centre. This was his third PINA conference (two of them - in Fiji and PNG - on the host organising committee, but is not and has never been a PINA member):

QUOTE on the Café Pacific blog: Whether it was the 21st birthday (as celebrated by the cake at a gala dinner) or 40th anniversary (as flagged by a former president in the opening speech notes), last week’s Fiji milestones for the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) were notable achievements. There was a convivial and relaxed atmosphere at the Pacific Harbour venue – in marked contrast to the tense last Pacific Media Summit in Port Vila more than two years ago. And an optimistic mood about the future. Instead of beating itself up over unresolved differences such as The Great Fiji Divide or the Tired Old Vanuatu Feud, PINA seems to be picking up the pieces and moving on. A more inclusive atmosphere characterised this summit and the boycott threats fell flat. The peacemaker was veteran Tongan publisher and media freedom campaigner Kalafi Moala, the only journalist to actually put his campaigning credentials on the line and be jailed for trumped up contempt of Parliament charges by his kingdom. Moala has perhaps mellowed these days, but believes strongly that it is up to Pacific media “elders” to bury their differences and build on their common goals. As deputy chair of the rival Apia-based Pacific Islands Media Association (PasiMA), one of the key organisations to call for a last-minute boycott of the PINA summit, Moala made an impassioned plea – in his private capacity as publisher of the Taimi Media Network – to “go forward” in unity and diversity.
Read the full article

Disclosure: David Robie was not funded by PINA or any donor organisation to be at the Pacific Media Summit. He was there in his capacity as director of the Pacific Media Centre and independently funded by his university.

Truth, media and the role of journalism education

IN THE recent controversy about The Australian's hatchet job and joke video about journalism schools, a couple of comments stood out for Café Pacific for their clarity:

Truth telling and analytical skills
The ongoing debate about journalism education in The Australian on Jeanet and elsewhere, is part of a healthy debate that exposes different views from committed individuals who care and who are deeply concerned to achieve the best possible outcomes for their students and ultimately the profession.

For me, journalism education operates on three levels:
  • To provide students with a broad knowledge base
  • To develop analytical and research skills
  • To acquire writing and and digital media skills

It is always a “work in progress” but sometimes, I think editors only want educators to concentrate on the last point.

The editors have to realise that journalism education involves far more than just skills training.

Our team at Edith Cowan University tries, as best we can, to assist students to be
  • Knowledgeable on a wide range of topics and issues
  • Responsible for what they write and broadcast
  • Committed to truth telling
  • Confident about the role that journalism plays in society
And we work hard to help our students gain research and analytical skills so they can delve below the surface,  and  we train them to acquire competent writing and media skills for a variety of digital platforms in an ever changing digital media landscape.

We operate on all these levels, and indeed,  it's always a "work in progress".

Associate Professor Trevor Cullen
Edith Cowan University
Perth, Western Australia

Journalism as free speech, or as a profession?
As journalism educators, we can only be amused (not flattered) that The Australian sees our degrees as so newsworthy.  Part of the problem I think is that we do not have accurate information about how many students are enrolled in journalism programs at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. This may be something that the Journalism Education Association of Australia (JEAA) should try to undertake soon. At least then we would be able to offer accurate and recent information regarding enrolments.

I remain somewhat mystified by this assumption that universities are fraudulent and students are chumps when we all have experience of the astute and penetrating questions they ask about our degrees. NO journalism lecturer or course coordinator is going to promise every student a job of any kind, much less in mainstream traditional journalism, on graduation (not least because that is not where the jobs are any more). As Peter McAllister points out in his report, not even the most traditional of professions (law, medicine, engineering etc.) assumes every graduate will walk into a job in that profession even if they want to.  All new graduates face competitive job markets.  Every new graduate must talk their way into their first job. Duh! The fact that certain personal qualities(confidence, good communications skills, curiosity etc.) are more likely to secure a job is true no matter what the degree.

All new graduates even in the traditional professions require some supervision and mentoring in their first job (some, such as teachers and doctors, must even practice their profession for 12 months under supervision, before they can be registered - but of course, journalists don't want to be registered).

The Australian cannot have it both ways.  If journalism is free speech then anyone can practice it regardless of their educational qualifications and some on-the-job training and socialisation will always be required in ongoing "in-house" employment, no matter what the prior learning. If journalism is a profession, then it requires a body of knowledge that includes both theory and practice, and an ethical framework understood and shared by its members, as well as the "trade" skills. Either way, for universities to offer courses and degrees in journalism is perfectly legitimate.

The Australian has made this into a beat-up of a campaign through the intensity of its attention to a relatively minor element in the Australian higher education landscape.  On the one hand, it makes a change to have some focus on the humanities and social sciences, as opposed to reflecting the national policy and funding attention paid to the sciences.  On the other hand, perhaps it reflects the very real and entirely understandable fear of the press that they are becoming less and less relevant to audiences today.

Anne Dunn
Journalism Education Association of Australia (JEAA)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Social media and the ANZAC press on Fiji

A BELATED posting of a presentation at the recent PINA Pacific Media Summit in Pacific Harbour that took a swipe at the Australian and New Zealand media coverage on Fiji. This was part of a panel discussing social media and credibility:

By  Leone Cabenatabua, publications manager of the Fiji Sun

Should the public believe social media content? That choice rests with the individual.

However, for us in the news media, we should always show responsibility when it comes to using social media content in our stories.

It’s sad to note that prominent Australian and New Zealand media outlets have sensationalised issues about Fiji based on content that are written by faceless cowards.

These are posted in anti-Fiji blog sites like Coup 4.5. For example, if you believed Coup 4.5: 
  • ... Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimara is so unwell he cannot walk properly. Yet there he was leading his men and women on a four-hour route march just recently. You saw him yourself last night.
  • If you believe Coup 4.5, our Attorney-General has been arrested and held incommunicado at Queen Elizabeth Barracks ... yet a simple check would have found that he was at home catching up on sleep after non-stop work trip through through different time zones.
  • What makes it worse is the fact that these media outlets we in the Pacific Islands once looked up to, make no apparent efforts whatsoever to verify  allegations made on such blog sites.
  • Some even reported Commodore Bainimarama was dead … based solely on a discredited anonymous blog site. Commodore Bainimarama was in fact on a trip to China to promote Chinese investment in Fiji.
Where have their media ethics gone to report such nonsense from such discredited blog sites?

All these allegations come from people who are out to fulfill their own agendas. They do not have the interest of the nation at heart.
This senseless type of reporting has a huge negative impact on a nation, especially its citizens who are the innocent victims.

It’s a different story when we have prominent academics like Pacific Media Centre's Dr David Robie who have written good analytical pieces for us to ponder on and share ideas of our progress from it.

Or to have blog sites like the ones written by Dr Crosbie Walsh.

In my experience through our numerous exchange of emails and phone calls, he makes it his business that whatever he puts down is accurate information- nothing else.

Again, I’ve nothing against social media or whether people want to believe in its content or not.

There are many good uses for social media.

But as journalists we must be more professional and more responsible than some of those who use social media to spread misinformation.

We should know better than to just report the claims of an anonymous blog site run by faceless people promoting disinformation and racial hatred.

Unfortunately, some  in Australia and New Zealand seem more interested in discrediting Fiji than getting it right.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is my ten cents worth on social media.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

After Hackersgate, Britain's biggest media cover-up

QUOTE from blogger Guido Fawkes aka Paul Staines: Operation Motorman uncovered industrial scale criminality and hundreds of suspects' names. Currently in Britain the newspapers are neither naming nor shaming because the criminal enterprises are the newspapers themselves, who understandably do not wish to report their own crimes. Their silence is a matter of self-preservation.

QUOTE: In the wake of the News of the World scandal last year David Cameron appointed Lord Justice Leveson to
inquire into the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International, other newspaper organisations and, as appropriate, other organisations within the media, and by those responsible for holding personal data.
QUOTE: Leveson has the evidence required to initiate criminal actions and civil actions by thousands of victims of crimes committed by newspaper journalists. Guido challenged Leveson to his face to publish the evidence, thus allowing the victims of industrial scale illegal invasions of privacy to get justice. Leveson claimed it was difficult nine years on. Guido understands that there have been two applications to Leveson to release the Operation Motorman files. The applications, heard in private, were refused.

Remember, the Australian subsidiary News Limited owned The Fiji Times until last year - the very paper at the heart of Fiji's George Speight putsch coverage controversy in 2000. It was forced to divest ownership to local Motibhai Group under the terms of the Media Industry Development Decree 2010.

Journalist with links to sleuth named on net

Associated Press report in the New Zealand Herald:

The names of three dozen British journalists allegedly involved with a shady private investigator have been leaked to the internet, posing another potential embarrassment for the British media.

Paul Staines, who blogs under the name Guido Fawkes, published what he said were more than 1000 recorded transactions between staffers at Rupert Murdoch's British papers and freelance detective Steve Whittamore, who was convicted of trading in illegally obtained information.

In a blog post, Staines said he wanted to expose the "industrial scale criminality" perpetrated by Britain's press, accusing newspaper companies of refusing to name names because they "do not wish to report their own crimes".

Whittamore worked with hundreds of reporters, bending or breaking the law to keep his clients supplied with unlisted numbers, vehicle registration records and other confidential information. Whittamore was convicted in 2005, but did not go to prison and none of the journalists who were named in his files were ever punished.

Interest in Whittamore and his associates has been revived by Britain's phone hacking scandal, which erupted last year after it emerged that Murdoch's News of the World tabloid routinely hacked into the phones of celebrities and others in the news and bribed officials to win scoops.

Several British media organisations - including The Guardian, The Independent and ITV News - have run stories based on the documents recovered from Whittamore's office, but so far no one has identified the journalists involved.

Staines did so yesterday, publishing a spreadsheet naming 35 journalists from Murdoch's News International.

The Guido Fawkes blog only published a small subset of the more than 300 reporters named in Whittamore's files, but it includes several people at the heart of the hacking scandal.

Among them: former Murdoch protege Rebekah Brooks (under her maiden name); former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck (whose name is misspelt in the file); and the scandal's first whistleblower, Sean Hoare, who has since died.

A spokesman for Brooks did not immediately return a call and an email seeking comment. Thurlbeck declined comment, as did News International spokeswoman Daisy Dunlop.

The Information Commissioner's Office - which investigated Whittamore - declined to authenticate the spreadsheet, but in a statement his organisation said authorities had been mulling whether to release the information before it appeared online.

But even if wrongdoing could now be proven, the limitation period attached to Britain's Data Protection Act means that prosecution of the journalists is not likely.

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