Sunday, May 20, 2012

Why the gagging tactics over the Kiribati Independent?

WHY IS the Communications Ministry in Tarawa dragging its feet over registration for the Kiribati Independent newspaper? Five months waiting for registration and lots of confused messages in the process. Perhaps the answer is simple. Café Pacific understands the new newspaper with its Auckland-based online edition is a bit of a political embarrassment for President Anote Tong’s government.

Twice the new newspaper has been ordered to stop publication since December while officials dither over the formalities under the Newspaper Registration Act.

In March, the Kiribati Independent published stories featuring the reputed “richest woman in Kiribati”, New Zealander Joyce Lieven and her alleged relationship with the government. Businesswoman Joyce Lieven is daughter of the late NZ businessman Norman Lieven and reportedly a “close friend” of the ruling party and President Tong (pictured).

One story focused on a donation of AUD$24,000 to Joyce Lieven’s Mauri Festival last December during the presidential campaign. Donations are normally given to not-for-profit groups but the Mauri Festival it is not an NGO, it was reportedly a Lieven business venture.

In March, the Kiribati Independent reported about a 2010 government contract worth AUD$80,000 awarded to Lieven’s brother to build a copra shelter in Teraina Island in the Line and Phoenix group. The newspaper reported that “there was no copra shelter and the contract money had been used up”, said KI publisher and editor Taberannang Korauaba (pictured above with Maria Printers staff).

President Tong reportedly threatened to sue the newspaper over allegations about a AUD$1 million  junior secondary schools transport contract involving Joyce Lieven, claims denied by the national leader. A lawsuit hasn’t eventuated, but the Communications Ministry has again stalled over registering the newspaper and ordered it to stop publishing. Read more on the KI website:
Ministry of Communications demands closure of Kiribati Independent

TARAWA – Sunday, 20 May 2012 – The Ministry of Communications has ordered, for the second time, Kiribati Independent (KI) newspaper to cease publication immediately.
The latest instruction was received on Friday, 18 May 2012. Ruatu Titaake says the ministry has received affidavits from the publisher and printer. But he says:  “This never meant to allow you to publish KI newspaper straight away while your application for registration is still being processed.”
Ruatu says the publisher should have aware of the provisions in the Newspaper Registration Act that all newspaper publishers should be properly registered before making any publication.
“In accordance with those provisions, you have been instructed to cease the publication of Kiribati Independent (KI) and to follow the proper procedure for KI registration. Despite this instruction, you have published several KI newspapers without proper authority and continue to do so until your last issue on 4 May 2012.” 
With your continual ignorance to the procedure, I regret to inform you that the Ministry still not recognise the publication and advise the publisher again to cease the publication of KI immediately and to await proper registration.
Publisher and editor, Taberannang Korauaba, who lives in New Zealand, says there is a lot of confusion here. “The law requires us to deposit our affidavits, we have done that.” Then they asked us about the stamp of a New Zealand solicitor, now they instructed us to cease publication.”
“There is hidden agenda and political motive in this instruction,” he says.
In December 2011, the ministry advised the publisher to wait while his application to register was processed. The lawyer acting on KI’s behalf, advised the publisher there was no need to wait for their decision.
The lawyer said the publisher, editor and printer were required by law to deposit their affidavits. The newspaper can publish once these affidavits have been deposited.
Kiribati Independent will seek the advice of its lawyer on this latest instruction.
In one message to the Communications Ministry on May 18, Korauaba asked: “[Do] you want Kiribati Independent to wait while its application is being processed or don't you want the paper to publish at all for hidden and political reasons?” 

For the ministry, Ruata Titaake (for the Communications Secretary) replied on May 21: “You may or may not intend to publish for political reasons but our intention is to encourage all our local publishers to obey and respect our own laws that govern all citizens of Kiribati.”

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why development or peace journalism? The real issue is independent Pacific journalism

IT IS astounding how misinformed and shallow the thinking of many journalists around the Pacific has been when faced with a quickfire debate on such terms as “development journalism” and “peace journalism”. Simply because one Canadian media educator trumpeted a discredited interpretation of “development journalism” - which Westerners like to project - based around the notion of a compliant form of media partnership with governments as promoted by past political leaders of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. But Café Pacific argues there are other interpretations - and the one David Robie has always supported is a form of investigative journalism that empowers citizens to make real change in their lives.

One of the best known exponents of this form of journalism is Kunda Dixit, editor-in-chief of the Nepali Times and a longtime senior editor of the Inter Press Service. His ideas were expressed in his book Dateline Earth: Journalism as if the planet mattered (republished in 2010 and in a sequel, A People War, which was reviewed in Pacific Journalism Review). There are many other advocates and it was a hallmark of the independent brand of journalism of the long missed Gemini News Service - once widely used by Pacific media  and now currently the target of a revival project.

Another prime example of this form of development journalism was through campaigning and courageous newspapers such as the original Malaya ("Freedom") while struggling against the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. Such cutting edge journalism has now been carried on in contemporary times by the nonprofit Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), which has led investigations against corruption, including a famous expose of how a then presidential Anti-Crime Commission tortured two 12-year-old boys suspected of a role in a kidnapping.

Some of David Robie’s concepts of “development”, “revolutionary” and “transitional” journalism - as taught for many years in the Pacific - are explained in book chapters such as his South Pacific notions of the Fourth Estate: A collision of media models, culture and values and Media and development in the Pacific: reporting the why, how and what now published in 2008. Both of these chapters explored his "Four Worlds news values" model. However, rather than using the term "development", which is generally so misunderstood and maligned in Western media discourse, "deliberative journalism" is better and far more appropriate as a concept - based on rationality, accountability, inclusion and fairness in a a strategy for media citizen empowerment. An excellent book on the topic is Angela Romano's International Journalism and Democracy: Civic Engagement Models from Around the World (2010).

About “peace journalism”: this approach has gained traction in the South Pacific in the last couple of years as represented in two conferences at the University of the South Pacific in 2010, and also through research-led initiatives by former journalist advocates, such as Associate Professor Jake Lynch at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University, and political studies lecturer Dr Heather Devere of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS) at Otago University in New Zealand. These initiatives have been parallel to a growing awareness of conflict resolution developments in the wake of the Bougainville civil war, ethnic warfare in the Solomon Islands and four coups in Fiji.

Mainstream media is too heavily biased in favour of  “official” sources embedded in power elites and not enough attention is given to the parallel “alternative” people's sources, leaving a fragmented understanding of issues. Spectacular failures of the "Western" media model have included the reporting of both the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan – the destruction of nations to "save" them in the so-called “war on terror”. Other failures closer to home have been the reporting of the Bougainville conflict and the current one-sided reporting of post-coup Fiji.

In contrast to a negative view of development journalism and/or peace journalism, both notions are variations of “good” journalism - contextual, balanced and truthful. Peace journalism in a nutshell (as defined by Dov Shinar in Peace Journalism: The State of the Art, 2007):

1.    Presenting causes of conflict and options on all sides – realistically and transparent.
2.    Giving voice to all rival parties.
3.    Offering creative ideas for conflict resolution, development, peacemaking and peacekeeping.
4.    Exposing lies and cover-up attempts.
5.    Paying attention to post-conflict development.

David Robie’s own ideas about peace journalism in a Pacific context are outlined in his 2011 article Conflict reporting in the South Pacific: Why peace journalism has a chance and he talked about this in a Radio Australia interview. Also, listen to his Radio New Zealand Checkpoint interview.

Essentially David advocates a homegrown brand of vigorous, ethical and independent "Pacific" journalism - as demonstrated in his books The Pacific Journalist and Mekim Nius.
  • Issues such as journalism styles and methodologies will be discussed at the upcoming Media and Democracy conference hosted by the University of the South Pacific on 5-6 September 2012. Selected double blind peer-reviewed articles will be published in a special edition of Pacific Journalism Review.

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