Friday, June 8, 2012

Return of the cacerolazo – a new wave of protests in Argentina

THE CACEROLAZO has returned as social protest to Argentina with a vengeance – three rallies in a week and Café Pacific was at one of them along with other media. This Latin-American brand of protest where people bang pots and pans – usually over poverty and economic human rights issues – began on May 31 when the CP publisher was actually celebrating his birthday at Rio’s Copacabana. The following day he flew to Buenos Aires and was caught in the middle of Cacerolazo 2 on June 1 at the intersection of Santa Fe and Callao where about 2000 people gathered and then marched on the Plaza de Mayo. Finally, Cacerolazo 3 on June 8 attracted thousands who protested at the central plaza (around the city’s spectacular Obelisk).

But unlike the spontaneous and famous cacerolazo of 2002 when middleclass demonstrations over the devaluation of the peso ousted the government, the current social democrat government of President Christina Fernández de Kirchner seems solidly in control at the moment.
Cacerolazo 2 protest in Recoleta district of Buenos Aires on June 1. Photo: David Robie
The mainly middleclass protesters are alarmed over currency controls that affect travel abroad and are aimed at curbing the outflow of US dollars from the economy. Protesters are also angry about fiscal taxation reforms that will triple rates for property and land owners and allegations of corruption. Farmers are also protesting over the land tax reforms.

At one cacerolazo protest, three journalists working for the public television current affairs programme were assaulted, prompting complaints by media freedom groups. The assaulted Television Publicá journalists from the  6, 7,8 programme were named by the Buenos Aires Herald as as Lucas Martinez, Sergio Loguzzo and Ezequiel Schneider. This was reported by Pacific Media Watch.

A local senator, Anibal Fernández, enraged protesters with statements reported in the media that exposed his hypocrisy and, by implication, that of other lawmakers.

According to Global Voices website, which reported on the cacerolazos, when Senator Fernández was asked why he had his savings in US dollars while he asked citizens to “think in pesos,” he replied: “Because I feel like it. Didn't you hear me? Because I feel like it, it is my right, I do as I please with my money."

On Twitter Claudia Rucci (@claudiarucci) reacted to the senator's statements:

Anibal Fernandez, with his remarks, is a great mobiliser of the masses… of others. Every word is an invitation for a ‪#cacerolazo. What does he want?

A cacerolazo logo distributed for the
June 1 protest by Twitter.
The protests have been fuelled by Twitter mobilisation and updates with the hashtag #cacerolazo
  • Wikipedia describes a cacerolazo or cacerolada as a form of popular protest practised in certain Spanish-speaking countries – in particular Argentina, Chile and Uruguay – which consists in a group of people creating noise by banging pots, pans, and other utensils in order to call for attention. What is peculiar about this type of demonstration is that the people protest from their own homes, thus achieving a high level of support and participation.
  • Argentina's pot-banging protests
  • Pacific Media Watch on the media assault
  • Buenos Aires Herald

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.”

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