Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rabuka's post-coup Fiji 'forgiveness', corporate civil-military consultation proposal

The logo for the Macmillan Brown Centre
for Pacific Studies-organised conference.
MILITARISM has always been part of Fijian society and the country needs to find a “corporate” bridge between its civil and military based sectors, believes the man who sparked off the modern day coup culture more than 25 years ago.

Sitiveni Rabuka, then a lieutenant-colonel and third-ranked military commander in the Republic of Fiji military Force (RFMF), led the first two of four coups in 1987. The other coups followed in 2000 and 2006.

Former Fiji coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka speaks
at the Democracy in the Pacific conference
at the University of Canterbury on Friday.
Photo: David Robie/PMC
Rabuka, later an elected prime minister, was giving his views on “democracy” as keynote speaker on Friday in a Pacific-wide conference hosted by Canterbury University’s Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies.

“Militarism has always been a part of Fiji culture,” he said. “Militarism has always been a way of thinking.”

The military traditionally believed that they were the final guarantors of the security of the Fijian people.

“Unfortunately, I broke the democracy way and I stand accused,” Rabuka said, adding that he hoped for better relations with the military in future.

‘Corporate’ committee
He said what was needed was a “corporate” style special committee consulting between the military and the civilian government after the hoped for return to democracy in 2014.

“This would keep tabs on civil-military relations to prevent them breaking down again.”

But he said he believed that the return to democracy in Fiji rested on a fragile election plan that may not eventuate.

If elections did not go ahead, regime Prime Minister and 2006 coup leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama would remain in power.

So far, Bainimarama had made no move to establish a new political party, join an existing party or distance himself from the military.

Talking about traditional tribal rivalries and earlier military traditions leading to United Nations peacekeeping duties and politicisation of the army, Rabuka several times cited the famous Battle of Marathon in 490BC when a smaller Athenian army defeated the Persian invading force.

A runner sped to Athens to break the news, declaring: “We have won!”

‘Forgiveness’ process
He said a truth and conciliation “forgiveness” process involving chiefly protocols of “vakaturaga” of the iTaukei culture would contribute to a lasting resolution of Fiji’s problems.

During a plenary session later in the day, Rabuka admitted that he had initially thought the invitation for him to speak at the democracy conference was "a joke”.

“Fiji has had an army destroyer of democracy and a navy destroyer of democracy [Bainimarama] and now I thought they wanted to hear an army destroyer of democracy.”

In a reply to a question about the state of the press in Fiji, Rabuka replied there was a "selective" freeing up of news media debate: "My submission to the Constitution Commission hasn't been reported, for example."

The two-day conference included keynote addresses from current NZ Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, former Labour Minister of Foreign Affairs Phil Goff and wide-ranging papers from Pacific politicians (including a former Pacific Islands Forum chairman), foreign diplomats, academics, researchers, civil society advocates and doctoral students.

Conflict resolution
"Topics included alternative governance for conflict resolution in the Solomon Islands; conflicting “democracies” in customary and parliamentary governance in Samoa; Tongan constitutional reform; grassroots or top down approaches in overseas territories development aid?; the role of the military in post-colonial Fiji; and peace journalism in the South Pacific: a media and democracy frame in Timor-Leste and West Papua.

Macmillan Brown Centre acting director Dr Malakai Koloamatangi  praised the "successful" outcomes of the conference, vowing to plan towards a comparable future event and to establish an "Institute for Pacific Research and Governance".

Monday, October 15, 2012

David Robie talks on Pacific media freedom, politics and public trust

Coups, conflicts and human rights: Pacific media challenges in the digital age

Public lecture by Professor David Robie

Date: Tuesday, 16 October 2012
Time: 4.30pm - 5.30pm
Venue: WA Conference Centre, AUT City Campus

View full lecture at AUT University on demand

PROFESSOR DAVID ROBIE is director of the Pacific Media Centre in AUT’s School of Communication Studies and editor of the international peer reviewed journal Pacific Journalism Review. He holds a PhD in History/Politics (2004) from the University of the South Pacific, Fiji. He has lived and worked as an international journalist and media educator in seven countries for more than four decades.

In this professorial address, Professor David Robie reflects on the challenges in the context of the political economy of the media and journalism education in the Asia-Pacific region. He also explores emerging disciplines such as deliberative journalism, peace journalism, human rights journalism, and revisits notions of critical development journalism and citizen journalism.
 

Friday, October 12, 2012

‘Desperate’ search for online business media model, but what about public trust?

News organisations have mostly reacted defensively about media "regulation"
but with little attention paid to public trust. Photo: TG
ONLINE media business models will succeed only if news organisations put more effort into regaining public trust, says Pacific Journalism Review in its latest edition, reports Pacific Media Watch.

In an issue devoted to the Leveson inquiry into Britain’s News of the World phone hacking scandal and the Finkelstein and Convergence reports on the Australian news industry, the research journal has questioned the “increasingly desperate” search for a business model.

“Is the new model the only answer to the current plight of journalism?” writes edition editor Dr Johan Lidberg from Monash University in Melbourne.

“Are media proprietors paying enough attention to the fact that the business model is built on the public trusting the journalistic practices that sit at the heart of the media brands?”

It is as important to retain public trust in journalism and to rebuild lost trust as the quest to make online journalism pay, Dr Lidberg writes.

“Indeed, without, or with low, public trust in news media, will online journalism ever pay enough to sustain quality journalism?” he asks.

One important tool to retain and rebuild trust in any professional practice is openness and accountability.

Ethical codes
“It is to achieve this that industries construct ethical codes of conduct to complement the existing legal framework.”

Along with the British and Australian media crises, the journal also examines NZ Law Commission proposals for media accountability reforms.

“The NZ media has not yet demonstrated anything like the excesses that have been the focus of the Leveson inquiry,” comments media law analyst Linda Clark.

“Which means the government can afford to sit back and watch what happens in the UK and in Australia. It can allow the broadcasters to experiment with an extra layer of self-regulation.”

Contributors to this edition include professors Wendy Bacon, Duncan Bloy, Rodney Tiffen, Mark Pearson and Denis Cryle (an assessment of Rupert Murdoch’s flagship newspaper, The Australian, two decades on).

Dr Lidberg, who also contributes an article about Australian media attitudes to accountability, was assisted for the edition by Professor Chris Nash and managing editor Professor David Robie.

He said he hoped the issue would be the beginning of an ongoing debate where media practice accountability would be elevated to the same level as media regulation.

Conference theme
It is a theme for the annual conferences of both the Journalism Education Association of Australia (JEAA) and Journalism Education Association of New Zealand (JEANZ) next month.

Professor Wendy Bacon has also contributed an article for the new Frontline section of the journal devoted to a “research journalism” strategy in an academic environment.

“Over the last two decades, the history of journalism research in universities has been a dynamic and intellectually rewarding one,” writes Bacon, who is editor of Frontline.

Frontline will build a public archive of examples of journalism research and exegeses to assist those who embark on the challenging process of critiquing their own work.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Stunning about faces by NZ and PNG over West Papua human rights


PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's EM TV interview on West Papua.

NEW ZEALAND’S public pension fund has stunned the human rights fraternity monitoring the recent upsurge in West Papua violations by Indonesian security forces in West Papua by pulling out more than $1 million in investment from the US-based copper and gold mining giant Freeport-McMoRan.

The $15.7 billion NZ Superannuation Fund announced it was ending investment in four companies that were violating international ethics standards.

The fund decided to can its Freeport investment in the wake of persistent allegations of human rights offences committed by security forces around the company’s controversial Grasberg mine.

But the Auckland-based Indonesia Human Rights Committee and a young photojournalist affiliated with the Pacific Media Centre can take a bow for their contribution to the change of heart by the super fund.

The IHRC has been an ardent campaigner against the investment while Karen Abplanalp, then a postgraduate student at AUT University, carried out a major investigation of the mine and the New Zealand connection as part of her Asia-Pacific Journalism coursework.

Her article was worked up into the lead investigative article, entitled "Blood Money", in Metro magazine in its December edition. This gave a major public profile to an issue that had previously been “hidden”.

If that wasn’t a big enough setback for the Indonesians in the global credibility stakes over its failed West Papua policies, Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill declared that he was going on the front foot by applying diplomatic pressure on the Indonesians over the human rights violations against their Melanesian brothers.

This is an extraordinary, but welcome, step for a PNG leader to take – and the first such move by a prime minister since independence in 1975. Here is Karen’s Pacific Scoop report on the investment fund fallout:

NZ Superfund stand against Freeport mine ‘rights breaches’ stirs headlines

By Karen Abplanalp

New Zealand’s public pension Superfund stand against alleged Indonesian government security forces breaches of human rights is making a mark around the world.

The story has been covered by international media and hit the front page of Indonesian news website the Jakarta Globe, with the headline New Zealand fund pulls Freeport investment, cites Papua rights offences.

It is the first time a government fund has made statements linking Indonesian security forces, corruption and human rights abuses.

The NZ Superfund (NZSF) and its investment in the US-owned mining giant Freeport McMoRan’s Grasberg mine were the subject of a major Metro investigation last December written by me while I was a postgraduate communication studies  student at AUT University.

At the time, the fund was adamant that it would not divest from Freeport and that the mining company was meeting the fund’s responsible investment standards.

What has changed then for NZSF since the Metro investigation?

NZSF’s head of responsible investing Anne-Maree O’Connor replied to Pacific Scoop:  “We have had more time to continue our engagement with a number of companies on our portfolio and to review the resources we have to commit to engagement, and look through which companies we would likely have success with engagement, which ones we needed to draw a line with that we should not pursue engagement because we did not feel that would could generate enough change given our resources and our holdings in the company."

Human rights breached
The NZSF statement said: “Freeport-McMoRan has been excluded based on breaches of human rights standards by security forces around the Grasberg mine, and concerns over requirements for direct payments to government security forces by the company in at least two countries in which it operates.

“Despite improvements in Freeport-McMoRan’s own human rights policies, breaches of standards by government security forces are beyond the company’s control. This limits the effectiveness of further engagement with the company.”

NZSF has investments with RioTinto, which owns 40 percent of Freeport McMoRan – does this mean that NZSF will divest from Rio Tinto also?

O’Connor said: “Freeport McMoRan is the operator mine and they are the ones who make the payments to (the military) and are responsible on the security issues.” 

“…  It is a significant stake, 40 percent, but Freeport McMoRan is the company that is operating the mine, and they are the ones that need to make management policy decisions.”

It will be interesting to see if  other crown financial institutes follow suit.

The Government Pension Fund and the Earthquake Commission also have investments in Freeport McMoRan.

IHRC thanks fund
The Auckland-based Indonesian Human Rights Committee (IHRC), which has long campaigned against “unethical” investment in the mine, met with the NZSF to thank the fund for its decision to divest from Freeport McMoRan.

IHRC chair Maire Leadbeater said the meeting went “extremely well”.

“We were met by CEO Adrian Orr and by Anne-Maree O’Connor and were shown to a room of about 40 people, all of their staff.”

Leadbeater told the staff they were really pleased about the decision, and told them about the kind of response they were getting from around the world.

Indonesia and Timor-Leste campaigner Josef Benedict from Amnesty International said the agency continued to receive “credible reports” of human rights violations committed by the security forces  in the neigbouring provinces of Papua and West Papua.

The reports included allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, unnecessary and excessive use of force and firearms and possible unlawful killings.

“Investigations into reports of police abuses are rare and only a few perpetrators have been brought to justice,” he said.

“Amnesty International is also concerned that international observers, non-governmental organisations and journalists continue to be to be denied unrestricted access to the two provinces.”

Amnesty International believes that the lack of independent and impartial monitoring of human rights in the West Papua region contributes to a “climate of impunity”.

Freeport-McMoRan responds
In a response statement to Pacific Scoop, Freeport-McMoRan made the same assertions that the NZSF had made to the original Metro investigation but were discredited in that report.

“We are disappointed in the New Zealand Superannuation Fund’s decision to exclude Freeport-McMoRan from its portfolio based on claims of breaches of human rights abuses by PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), a Freeport-McMoRan subsidiary,” said Eric Kinneberg, the company’s external communications director.

“As specifically recognised by the fund, PTFI has improved its human rights policies and procedures.”

The statement said Freeport-McMoRan had cooperated with the Indonesian government in its role of maintaining public order, upholding the rule of law, and protecting company personnel and property.

“The police are assigned via a presidential decree to protect the Grasberg mine site, which has been categorised as a national vital asset,” Kinneberg said.

“Where invited by the police, the Indonesian military also may be deployed to provide additional security.”

Karen Abplanalp is an Auckland photographer, writer and contributor to Pacific Scoop.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Welcome revival for Wansolwara's international credentials

SO WANSOLWARA finally has its own new-look Facebook page (three days old), with a revival of its online edition coming along soon (promised for a good while now). Excellent move. The original Pacific Journalism Online website student team at USP scooped the pool in the Journalism Education Association (JEA) awards that year and were treated to a standing ovation  at Moolaabaa, Queensland, for their coverage of the George Speight putsch in May 2000. International journalism standards? Yes, they started way back - far more than a decade ago. Pity the USP journalism website slipped into disuse in March 2007. But good to see an online version of Wansolwara finally returning alongside its newspaper edition, printed by the Fiji Sun. Congratulations Sherita and Sheenal Sharma and their team.

Wansolwara has been publishing for 17 years now. Has any other Pacific (or NZ) journalism school matched that? Never. (I notice the newspaper has recently dropped the list of international awards it has won - too much "global" evidence for some?) Radio Pasifik has a strong history too and great to see the revival there with Semi Francis and his team.

It is also great to see the USP Journalism students and graduates bag prizes in the Development Asia Environment Awards. Well done - and especially Fiji TV team leader Anish Chand! (Even though this belated praise actually refers to awards in 2010).

A story about a frothy debate over the state of journalism education at USP compiled by the Pacific Media Centre team while recently in Suva for the Media and Democracy in the Pacific conference seems to have stirred some region-wide interest. It was picked up by other media, including the Fiji Sun. Here it is for those who missed out:

Pacific media educators call for industry incentives for young journalists

By Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Alex Perrottet in Suva

JOURNALISM educators in the Pacific have called for more and better industry incentives and collaboration with journalism schools as a way of improving reporting standards.

A robust debate at the University of the South Pacific among experienced journalism educators revealed that improving the quality of education was an ongoing task.

But it could be helped if journalists had some motivation to stay in the job, instead of moving to higher paid global NGOs.

Lack of experience
A former head of journalism at USP and current PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, Shailendra Singh, said he observed a “plethora of writing” and a “diversity of views” in the Australian media that was lacking in Fiji.

“In Australia, there are bald-headed and pot-bellied journalists. Fiji doesn’t see that due to a high turnover of staff,” he said.

Radio Pasifik's new look studio
with presenter Kirry Veikoso.
Photo: David Robie
USP's Radio Pasifik manager Semi Francis confirmed that media organisations in Fiji employed students straight from school, overlooking university graduates.

Lecturer Misa Vicky Lepou from the National University of Samoa, and a onetime graduate from USP, said it was the same in Samoa.

She confirmed there were many schoolleavers in journalism competing with graduates, and their "substandard work" was noticeable. She said the industry still criticised the journalism school for the poor level of journalism among young reporters.

Improving standards
Dr Marc Edge, current head of journalism at USP, said he was there to “increase the standard of journalism not just in Fiji, but across the Pacific”.

“It needs to improve. Grammar, subject-verb agreement, style, little things like this need to improve considerably,” he said, adding that he too was still learning about the region, having arrived from Canada fairly recently.

He said low staffing at USP in recent years had not helped.

However, Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie responded that the journalism schools at USP and at the University of Papua New Guinea had achieved a lot on the international stage, particularly with USP’s success with the award-winning newspaper Wansolwara.

“At that stage in the 1990s, no New Zealand journalism course had a regular newspaper. We [at AUT University] do have today Te Waha Nui, which I started with a colleague after I came from USP, on the basis of the experience at USP.

“So I think it is hats off to USP - and UPNG in the past - and so on. Wansolwara has received quite a lot of awards. This paper [he waved a copy of Te Waha Nui] has also been an award-winning paper, but it hasn’t won nearly as many awards as Wansolwara.”

Commercial reality
Dr Robie also pointed out that Wansolwara integrated the "commercial reality" of producing a paper, unlike most other journalism schools, which were typically funded by the university or school.

“So students don’t get that broader picture of the economic reality and the difficulties producing a newspaper but Wansolwara does.”

Singh was also concerned to point out that there was much hard work done on the paper in previous years, which had continued under the work of former Fiji Times journalist Irene Manueli.

“The person working day and night on Wansolwara is Irene Manueli. Is she here, has she been acknowledged?”

A resounding round of applause broke out.

Dr Edge remained optimistic about the quality of future USP graduates.

“The first-year students we have this year are incredibly bright. They are as bright as any students I have taught anywhere in the world,” he said.

“And I believe with the kind of training and education they are going to get in the next three years we’ll soon be graduating students of great passion and depth.”

But Singh reminded Dr Edge that there had been great achievements in the past.

“It is not year zero, and you need to understand the local context ... If you come with the wrong attitude you put a lot of people off, and then it’s a very bad start.”

Room for improvement
Professor Robie also said Australia and New Zealand could learn from USP, as its internship period was six weeks, while AUT internships were only two weeks and far too short.

He said journalism schools needed to train students in an ever-increasing range of complex skills.

“One of the things we like to look for in graduates is the range of skills and the capability, because the media industry is changing at such a pace… they have to be incredibly flexible.”

He spoke about giving students practice in real reporting of "live" events against deadline pressure such as AUT's Pacific Media Centre has done with the Pacific Scoop coverage of the Pacific Islands Forum in the last three years.

“It surprises me that no other journalism school anywhere in the region covers the forum, because you’ve got an opportunity there of such a range of issues and the politicians in one place, the NGOs and so on - so it’s an enormously beneficial training environment for any journalism school.”

He said AUT was focusing on producing “well-rounded graduates with critical thinking skills, strong exposure to business, economics, environment, government, history, politics, human rights and culture.

“And education is so vitally important in that process, just simply being trained in a newsroom is not enough. It’s a combination of the industry and journalism schools.”

In the Fijian context, Singh said there was a need to distinguish between responsible journalism and self-censorship, which was of growing concern in Fiji.

“More cautious, more responsible and more circumspect, doesn’t mean self-censorship,” he said.

Dr Edge said USP was looking to begin a postgraduate diploma in digital journalism in the near future, as well as an option to undertake a master’s degree.

In past years, USP had a postgraduate journalism programme and there have been graduates but this was dropped two years ago because of USP funding cuts.

Alex Perrottet is contributing editor of Pacific Media Watch. He was at the USP symposium as both a a reporter and as a research paper presenter.
 

Papers presented at the conference
USP Journalism bags top environmental journalism awards
Media and democracy in the South Pacific - PMC photo gallery
Frontline Reporters - 2000 USP Journalism video (part 1 of 2)

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