Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Crocodile tears over Suharto's death - brutality in the Pacific

Amid the crocodile tears over Suharto's death and the glossing over the appalling crimes carried out under his dictatorship, it is refreshing to read accounts calling like it was. The little Marlborough Express in NZ was scathing about Suharto's "corruption franchise" and the regime's brutality against aspirations for independence in East Timor and West Papua:

The death of former Indonesian president Suharto brings into focus again the fate of East Timor and the role of Australia and, to a lesser extent, New Zealand in that country's life.
Not that it has really been away with half a million people still displaced and sporadic unrest in that fledgling nation. It also brings to the forefront the continuing struggles in places such as West Papua which are still fighting to rid themselves of Indonesian control.
The newspaper's editorial was rather dismissive of Suharto and the bank balances of the Indonesian elite.
And as the Suharto regime, which came in on the back of a failed coup and stayed on as an illegitimate military government, exploited the country's wealth to the utmost, civil liberties were the victim.
It is thought up half a million people lost their lives during the Suharto years. And in the middle of this brutal regime was East Timor.
As the world looked on with seeming indifference in 1975 the borders of Indonesia were enlarged to include the eastern half of the island of Timor.
Jakarta felt threatened by the setting up of an independent leftist state and moved to stop it. In the next 20 years East Timor lost 200,000 people under the Indonesian fist.
It is a period which brings shame to stronger Pacific countries, notably Australia and New Zealand.
A Crickey! piece by Jeff Sparrow exposed the West's media hypocrisy over Suharto and contrasted coverage with Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile, AUT Journalism has a couple of student journos on the ground in Indonesia filing actuality. Dylan Quinnell reported on how Suharto's death split opinions and the media. Read his story and see his pix - a street scene outside Suharto's house.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Farewell to The Bulletin!

So The Bulletin current affairs magazine - racist, radical and later probing in its time as an icon in Oz publishing - has been axed by its foreign equity masters. Another corporate nail in the coffin of independent journalism. The Australian, in an editorial, mused:
Surviving 128 years from provocative newspaper to colour magazine, the publication served generations of readers well, from its initial sell-out appearance in Sydney on January 31, 1880, onwards. The announcement of its demise made yesterday a sad day.
John Lyons, writing in The Australian's Media section had this to say:
An American chief executive working for a Scottish boss who represents a Hong Kong private equity fund yesterday closed an Australian institution with a 128-year-old publishing history.
Welcome to the brave, but soulless, new world.
When The Bulletin's death was announced at a 10am meeting in Sydney yesterday, it ended a tradition begun with the likes of Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and Miles Franklin, survived through literary greats such as Donald Horne and given a new lease of life in recent years with the likes of Les Carlyon and Laurie Oakes.
Its last edition, which went on sale two days ago, features lengthy articles by Thomas Keneally, Frank Moorhouse and Richard Flanagan.
Having worked full time on The Bulletin in the late 1990s and continuing to write for it until last year, I gained a sense of what the magazine meant for both the Australian public and the Packer family. It says everything about who now controls what used to be the Packer empire - a private equity company called CVC Asia Pacific - that the matriarch of the family, Ros Packer, was not even given the courtesy of a phone call to tell her that the magazine that had been at the centre of her family's media empire had been closed. She found out, by accident, when she turned on her television at 2pm.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

In defence of Samoa's public radio 2AP

Jason Brown, writing in an editorial on his stirring Avaiki website, makes an impassioned plea against the sale of Samoa's public radio 2AP. Responding to the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi - who says the sale decision has been in the pipeline for years and "there is nothing to worry about", Brown says:
"Listeners next door in the Cook Islands might disagree.
"For years, for example, residents on the atoll of Pukapuka have tuned into 2AP not just because the language is closer to their own but because the signal from their supposed capital, Rarotonga, has been too weak to pick up.
"That's because the station was privatised in the mid-1990s by an acting broadcasting minister and friend of the current owners, while the real broadcasting minister was out of the country.
"Among other things, like cutting news bulletins, the new owners dialed down the broadcast strength to save power, i.e. money.
"This had tragic consequences for the northern atoll of Manihiki.
"Fatally unaware of looming hysteria in Rarotonga over cyclone warnings of an approaching cyclone, 19 people died in Manihiki on the first day of the cyclone season, 1st November 1997.
"Not everyone could be reached by phone, local Manihiki police did not have time to travel the large lagoon warning everyone, not everyone took the warnings seriously....

"No commission of inquiry was ever held despite it being the worst loss of life in the country's history ..."

Listen to Mailbox on RNZI tomorrow (Monday, January 21) when David Ricquish of the Radio Heritage Foundation is due to explore some of the public radio issues. Visit for shortwave frequencies and times.

Jesson critical journalism award gets revamp

New Zealand's only award for critical journalism is being revamped to link in with a growing movement for more democratic local media.
The Bruce Jesson Foundation, set up after the death of journalist-politician Bruce Jesson in 1999, has provided up to $3000 a year since 2004 for “critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism or writing which will contribute to public debate in New Zealand on an important issue or issues”. A review after its first four years has concluded that the award should continue, with a slight change in the criteria to cover publishing, as well as producing, critical journalism.
Foundation chair Professor Jane Kelsey says experience to date shows that the barrier to good journalism is not always in the actual production of the work, but in finding an outlet in our commercialised market that is willing to publish it:
"For example, freelance journalist Jon Stephenson, who won our award in 2005 for a two-part report from Iraq for Metro magazine, is so dedicated that he would have found a way to get to Iraq somehow. You might argue that Metro, as the publisher, should have paid his full costs for his trip there. But the reality of our commercial marketplace is that neither Metro nor any other New Zealand news outlet was willing to pay Stephenson's full costs for stories of marginal commercial value, so by part-funding his trip we effectively subsidised his publisher because we believed in the social value of the stories he planned to write."
Kelsey says the award is now part of a growing recognition that the commercial imperatives of our largely foreign-owned media, increasingly focused on celebrities and consumerism, need to be balanced by a deliberate community-based effort to provide journalism on public issues – issues that affect us as citizens and workers as well as consumers.
The union representing most journalists, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), is organising a public review of NZ journalism this year, seeking submissions on issues such as media ownership and commercial pressures.
A Movement for Democratic Media is also being formed to bring together journalists and other citizens who want to produce and promote public issue journalism.
Kelsey says: "Our award is more important than ever now. We hope we can support some of the other initiatives to produce more public issue journalism, and we hope that the growing recognition of this gap in our society will spur more journalists and citizens to apply for our
The award covers living costs and direct costs such as phone calls and travel to enable New Zealanders to investigate and report on issues in depth. Applications for the 2008 award close on 30 June.
Past winners, criteria and applications. More information:
  • Chair: Prof Jane Kelsey, 09 373 7599 x 88006 or 021 765 055
  • Senior lecturer Joe Atkinson, 09 373 7599 x 88094
  • Simon Collins, 09 483 5911 or 021 612 423
  • Rebecca Jesson, 09 521 8118 or 0274 714 690
  • A/Prof David Robie (joined 2007), 09 921 9999 x 7834 or 021 112 2079
  • Jon Stephenson (joined 2007), 09 368 4689
Pictured: Dylan Horrocks cartoon for Bruce Jesson's To Build a Nation. His political cartooning web page is

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kiwi journo team in Jakarta on the ball

Good to hear from the Kiwi journo team on a Jakarta practicum this week - Aroha and Dylan (AUT) and Will (Massey). They've finished the course part and now move into the internships next week - Aroha is going to Metro TV, Dylan joins TVRI and Will gets his start with Reuters. They are on the programme along with 20-plus Oz journo students or graduates.
We should get a feed of stories from them - look for these at the Pacific Media Centre. Aroha's piece on ex-president Suharto's desperately clinging to life is here. And Dylan has a few bloggy bits here. Dylan was blown away by a national soccer semifinal between a Jakarta team and one from colonised Papua. Here are his thoughts on the experience:
The soccer semifinal was crazy, riot police everywhere and when the Jakarta supporters realised they were going to lose 3-2 things got nasty. A group who were sitting above the Papuan supporters started ripping up the bench seats and chucking them at the people below. Riot police charged up and restored order but after that plastic water filled bottles were flying and most of the Papuans broke through a fence at the bottom and milled beside the field flanked by police.
After the game, most were put of buses and escorted from the stadium to stop more fights. Two guys were set upon with metal pipes outside our hotel but got away with minor injuries, not a nice situation. My photo shows one of the Papuans celebrating on the field with some of the ever present police behind. I would hazard a guess that political tensions increased the tension as there seemed to be no love lost. A second group of supporters waiting for a later game also started bottling the Papauan, who charged up into their section with sticks forcing them to flee into ours, before I headed onto the field.
I am currently thinking of staying on for a while afterwards and working here to do a few independent stories.

I hope all is well in NZ...


Friday, January 11, 2008

News media ownership in NZ - updates

An update from Bill Rosenberg about his media ownership in New Zealand monitoring file (cartoon by Malcolm Evans from a previous PJR cover):
A revised version of my paper "News media ownership in New Zealand" is now available, which includes updates to the 15 October 2007 version, including some suggestions from readers (many thanks). The changes are outlined below.
It is available either by clicking the above link or going to the
CAFCA web site. I am unlikely to release another update for at least 2-3 months. If you do not wish to be notified of future updates, please reply to this message and I will remove you from my list (with no offence taken!).
The changes from the 15 October version:

For those needing the URL, it is as follows. As I release updates, I
will simply replace the document under the same name as the latest
version -
mediaown.pdf - so links do not need to be updated.

Comments are, as always, welcome.
Bill Rosenberg

Bill Rosenberg's evolving media ownership file at CAFCA

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Reinado video allegations target Xanana

A leaked videotape featuring fugitive rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, a former military police major and something of a cult figure with some reactionaries, blaming prime minister Xanana Gusmão as the person responsible for the crisis that engulfed East Timor in 2006. It has featured in the media and now Fretilin has called a media conference to discuss the contents of the tape. A statement by Francisco Guterres LuOlo, president of Fretilin, on 8 January 2008 said:

FRETILIN has called this press conference today to make public to the People of Timor-Leste, the Maubere people, that on the 31st of December 2007, we wrote to the President of the Republic and other institutions of our State regarding the allegations made by Mr Alfredo Reinado in a video recording that came into our possession last week, which has serious ramifications for our nation's stability and peace, and which will impact on our public institutions.
In that video recording that has been widely distributed by unidentified persons, Mr Alfredo Reinado accuses Mr Xanana Gusmão as the person responsible for the crisis that engulfed our nation in 2006. I am sure that all of us here today have heard or seen the said video recording, or have perhaps read about it in a newspaper.
When we viewed a copy of this recording that we obtained from the media, FRETILIN became extremely concerned with the impact that it would have on peace and stability in our country, as the statements made by Mr Alfredo Reinado may well lead to further public panic amongst our people already traumatized by similar statements from last year's crisis, and there may well be a surge in the number of currently internally displaced persons. We are concerned that the statements by Mr Reinado are aimed at continuing to divide our people and create further serious instability in our country.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy Chabal new year - and a Pacbook out soon!

Hepi niu yia for 2008 and, before we get into things Pasifika again, I'd like to share one of my highlights of 2007 - Le Caveman versus the AB Haka on YouTube. And this was just the start of the downfall of Les Noirs at the hands of Les Bleus. I had my rugby money on Chabal and the French! A pity they didn't knock out the Poms as well the following weekend after downing England twice in warm-up matches on the eve of the World Cup in France.

For a line-up of Sebastien Chabal's greatest hits, check out The Times Online.

Caricature by Guillaume

Now, back to the Pacific. Keep an eye out for the new book on development communication and the Pacific media being published by AMIC in Singapore due early in 2008. Co-authors Evangelia Papoutsaki and Usha Sundar Harris. Plus many contributors - among them Ron Crocombe, Kalafi Moala, Robert Iroga, Som Prakash, Shailendra Singh, Mark Hayes, Helen Molnar ... and me, of course. Definitely a worthwhile read and some touches of controversy too. It can be ordered via New Zealand's Pacific Media Centre.

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