Thursday, December 29, 2011

Oscar Temaru: A New Year message for survival of a free Pacific press

The struggle for justice for Tahiti journalist Jean-Pascal Couraud - "JPK".

LATELY Café Pacific has devoted a lot of attention to the media blackout on the genocide and corporate resources rape of West Papua. This struggle has been on the margins of media consciousness in the region. This open letter by Jason Brown to Tahitian Territorial President Oscar Temaru spotlights an equally marginalised media issue that will hopefully win more exposure in the media in 2012 as our vaka crosses further into the second decade of the millennium. Reasons to keep Māohi media alive and strong:

An open letter to the President of French Polynesia, Oscar Manutahi Temaru

Kia orana M. President,

Fourteen years ago today [15 December 2011], a journalist named JPK disappeared from the island of Tahiti.

To this day, top secret documents remain on file, linked with this journalist, but denied to investigatory judges by a national security commission.

Similar documents also link JPK with a separate investigation into Clearstream, the world's largest bank, a bank for banks. At no time since the era of nuclear testing have people in French Polynesia come closer to the raw power of the French state, a savage mafia "melieu" involving intelligence services, judiciary and diplomacy.

Disappearance of Jean-Pascal Couraud on 15 December 1997 saw the loss of an opportunity to expose hidden back-channels of global finance.

A "secret, and secondary, banking system" as it was described next door in the Cook Islands, by a former prime minister, Sir Geoffrey Henry, during the 1995 Letters of Guarantee scandal. No one believed him then. Few believed JPK later.

A third person met with disbelief is Denis Robert, a man who exposed Clearstream as rotten to the core, reporting on "false assets" of some USD $1.5 trillion.

In famous year
That was in 2001, a year now famous not for that expose, but for the New York start of a so-called War On Terror.

Over the years, at the same time as children, women and men were dying in Afghanistan and Iraq, Clearstream bank kept its legal department busy, filing more than 30 different defamation claims against Denis Robert, serving him with more 600 writs alleging malicious wrongdoing.

Robert kept busy too, writing and releasing The Black Box, and, when that was also pulled from shelves by nervous publishers, retreating to the sanctuary of the arts, writing text for a graphic novel titled The Affair of Affairs.

All three books are of enormous significance to Tahiti because the resulting court cases were only cleared this year, a full decade after the first book of Robert was published. Significant because your Supreme Court stared down the world's biggest bank, telling Clearstream that regardless of the veracity of claims contained in the Robert books, all that concerned the court was whether he had, as an investigative journalist, acted with ethics and according to generally accepted practice.

They found that he had. All 30+ defamation cases, and 600 writs, dismissed. As Robert said, it was:

" A victory for journalism. "

But the victory was much, much bigger than just journalism, and here lays the true significance for Tahiti Nui.

Victory for democracy
Bigger by far is the victory for democracy, and its reinforcement of recognition for the functions and role of the Fourth Estate. This year also sees the 50th anniversary for the mostly well-regarded Colombia Journalism Review. Their anniversary slogan:

" Strong Press . Strong Democracy ."

This slogan might seem a bit ... rich ... coming from a nation that gave us the Global Financial Crisis, for which your country is paying dearly. That hosts secret finance centres so vast Time magazine reports the United States as the most corrupt country in the entire world. A country seeking extradition of Julian Assange, with presidential candidates publicly calling for prosecution or assassination of the Wikileaks founder. Perhaps a more accurate anniversary slogan for CJR might be:

"Weak Press. Weak Democracy."

Therein lies the point of this open letter. I am writing this as an open letter, not to show off a la Anglais. But to report having failed since 1998 to open up links between Tahiti news media workers and their colleagues across the independent Pacific. I did try to present a few proposals, that get occasional official and private interest, but still, after six years, no progress. I am writing an open letter because I did try and be diplomatic and make suggestions to people close with you, and other leaders ... but failed.

And now this, these [Tahitian media] closures.

As leader of French Polynesia, M. President, your party has clearly and transparently stated aspirations towards self-governance, perhaps on the Cook Islands model, but more likely full independence.

Cutting costs
Anyone can understand your administration wanting to cut costs and would, if in your position, understand also the frustration of dealing with a biased press, even losing patience. Just as has happened among governments in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, with news media.

Yet, your administration is stripping itself of an institution that the Supreme Court of France has just recently confirmed as of strategic importance, rightfully beyond the powers of even the biggest multinational threat.

Murdoch may rightfully have his troubles with politicians globally, but it does not mean that BBC News should be in danger of shutting down. Nor is the PBS in the US facing closure. In Australia, the government slammed the door in Murdoch's face, hard, awarding the contract for Australia's world service, the ABN, back to their own state broadcaster, ABC, "permanently."

So seeing Murdoch named and shamed, and the News of the World forced to close its doors ... it might seem like a good idea for French Polynesia too - let's close down Tahiti Nui Television and Agence Tahiti Presse as well! Especially the latter, for its historic bias against Tavini Huiraatira, remember? Back in the bad old days of Systeme Flosse?

Those days are over now, M. President.

I remember my disbelief when it was reported that 20,000 people protested through the streets of Pape'ete, possibly the biggest per capita demonstration across all of our islands. I remember Walter Zweiffel, from ever trustworthy RNZI, showing me shots on his digital, including a shot taken afterwards, among the detrius, of a discarded banner, hand penned, reading :

" La justice française = 4 parpaing ''

French Justice = 4 concrete blocks.

Mafia-style hit
A mafia-style hit. Just like in the movie theatres. Common knowledge that amazing day in French Polynesia was news that JPK had not killed himself, but been killed by local GIP thugs acting under orders from some other thugs, from France, recently "retired" from the DGSE.

A nexus of DGSE heritage centres on Corsica, well known as the birthplace of the French mafia. Just like was shown in the well known movie, The French Connection, and its depiction of the grimy streets of a fave Corsican hang-out since the Second World War, Marseille.

But, wait, of course there is more, is there not M. President?

Corse is, also, home island for a curiously large number of judges and prosecutors on the colonial circuit, courtesy of the world renown Systeme Chirac. Not so much a confetti empire, as a spaghetti melieu. The kind of prosecutor who rings the commissioner of police and tells them to "close the file on JPK. Accept no more evidence."

I remember the delerium of the night of "Taui", when the people of Tahiti Nui confirmed you as their leader, not long after that huge, huge protest. To walk away, now, from that kind of journalist heritage risks insulting that memory. Of Jean-Pascal Couraud, and all his colleagues who worked alongside him, fighting word-for-word with the entire panalopy of the French state, sometimes, literally, hand-to-hand.

Reporters like Reimuna Tufariua, for example.

JPK lost a fight, 14 years ago today, a professional battle turned deadly personal, but, like Reimana knew before, he, too, lost his battle, there was still a news war to be waged, media freedom campaigns to be won. Yet your own municipality broadcaster Te Reo Tefana is a sad shadow of its former self, stripped of resources, long lost as a global influencer.

Dislike for journalists
Among our mutual friends and associates, M. President, your personal dislike for journalists is well known, viewing the task akin to feeding vultures, or so I hear. Thus, you risk falling victim to that most effete of French colonialisms, intellectual snobbery.

Factoid from the US : Four out of five "new" media sites online, like Facebook pages and Twitter profiles, point to "old" media sites like those provided, mostly free, by newspapers, radio and television. No doubt similar ratios apply in French Polynesia.

Fact is, like it or not, mainstream mass media remain the main source of current affairs and governance information among ordinary French Polynesians, as they do, everywhere.

In working towards a newly independent nation, Te Ao Maohi Ou, your presidency must urgently reconsider its reasons for closing down two pillars of your country's Fourth Estate. Days like this I remember the old cliche, "Don't get into Journalism if you want to stay Friends with anyone", but as a journalist I must ask this question, it's my job, sorry about it.

My question to you as President is this:

" If you do not trust the Fourth Estate, and do not trust your own people to run state broadcasting as an integral and fundamental part of an independent democracy, then why should your people trust you ?"

Fear not, M. President, you are far from alone in the world facing this kind of question. In our already independent parts of the Pacific, all of us, politicians, press, pundits, an "arm-chair critic" like me, all of us, one big glorious mess, debating and grappling daily with issues surrounding news media, democracy, and all that stuff about freedoms and human rights.

State broadcasting cuts
I've seen the results of state broadcasting shut down in our own homeland of Avaiki, the Cook Islands. And Samoa. Cutbacks in Papua New Guinea.

An alleged tourism success story, the Cook Islands is slowly polluting itself out of the market, an already unimpressive affair relying heavily on penny-pinching Kiwis and pissed-up Kangaroos. News media based in Rarotonga went from being the most trusted institution in the country in 1998 to least trusted by 2008, thanks to the machinations of former bikie fraudster turned preacher man, George Pitt.

A political hit-man now working his magic in Samoa, his actual homeland, Pitt used multiple conflicts of interest in his favour, and to win repeatedly against competitors.He got an exclusive 10-year broadcasting licence, signed, coincidentially enough, by an acting broadcasting minister, a close mate, while the real minister was out of the country. The Pitt family still run papers, TV and a radio station, but Pitt split from his young wife, and moved to Samoa.

In his absence, PMG has thankfully eased up on a daily diet of slimy innuendo and outright lies.

Samoa sacked its state journalists, and now enjoys less scrutiny around all sorts of legislative misgovernance. Like the land title registration act, one that stripped thousands of matai landowners of all their rights, unilaterally reasssigning those rights to a much smaller group of head matai, by no other mandate or consultation than parliamentary fiat.

Papua New Guinea is paying the price for its ignorance, after spending years listening to Australia rave on about free markets, and forcing the state broadcaster, NBC, to adopt corporate policies, effecting not quite closure, but certainly endless cutbacks to their ability to expose corruption surrounding the resource curse of mineral wealth. A logging company owns one of the two main daily newspapers, while the other is part of the global Murdoch empire, both well known as proponents for extractive industries, and kind of soft on environmental issues.

Australia only woke up in recent years to the wisdom of leaving news media to those kind of players. Around 2005, aid agency AusAID started pouring millions into PNG state broadcasting, to start repairing decades of neglect. Decades of desperation, however, draw their ethical expense.

Funding scandal
The current PNG Media Council is mired in a not-so secret scandal, joining widespread concern, across an island region with a news media in seriously failing health, along with metropolitan partners in New Zealand and Australia.

There is of course a complete media blackout in West Papua, our furtherest Melanesian cousin, mired for decades now in a dystopian genocide.

I've seen cutbacks to state broadcasters right across all our Pacific Islands, on official advice from neo-liberal fundamentalists in New Zealand and Australia, still today pushing a regional trade agenda, that, if passed will strip all our independent islands of social, political and economic autonomy, forever, in favour of transnationals.

It is of no coincidence, Sir, that the first official post held by Roger Douglas, of Rogernomics fame, was as acting Broadcasting Minister in 1972. Cue 1984, and radical changes were made by an allegedly Labour government that remain to this day, including to the state broadcaster, TVNZ, a corporate poodle required to dance for profit, whoever is government of the day.

Today, it's allegedly a National Party government, and they're so hot right now on the TPPA. Possibly means "French" Polynesia going independent, just in time to swap one form of serfdom for another.

Instead of French domination ... try English. Maybe call it Colonialism 2.0 ... an offer you can't refuse !

So yes, cut back on state broadcasting and help starve the people of the very thing they need most to survive endless machinations of the multinationals - independent, investigative information. I strongly suggest considering an alternative.

Watchdogs, not lapdogs
Watchdogs, not lapdogs, of the Press. Attack dogs of the Fourth Estate, if need be. Ever alert.

M. President, you and your people are nuclear veterans.

Survivors, victims of an era of mutually assured destruction, a time of superpowers, and presidential admonishments against the influence, sought or unsought, of the military industrial complex.

In an original draft of that famous speech, M. President, Eisenhower considered adding mainstream news to that mix, referring to a military-industrial-media complex, but went with the shorter version instead.

I remember as a teen feeling disgust, reading the slogan for the 24/7 nuclear air cover that America operated, around the clock, for decades, under the Strategic Air Command.

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

Still sounds so macho, so corny.

So imperialistic.

Bitter truth
As an adult, sadly, I now know the bitter truth of that slogan, and how it applies across all facets of any putative democracy. In aspiring to greater freedoms, Tavini must accept greater responsibility with guardians of those freedoms, starting, not ending, with the Fourth Estate.

We see erosion of those freedoms under the English system, with a toxic media empire under Murdoch, and, indeed, with French journalism, going hand-in-hand with arms dealing.

A desire by Eisenhower to warn against a military-industrial-media complex seems as relevant today as it did then, if not more so. In an allegedly post-nuclear era among independent states, separate and vastly unequal, the only institution that can effectively and efficiently offer that kind of vigil, for all the people, M. President, is a strong, proud and free, homegrown press.

It is your inalienable right right now, M. President, as a French citizen, to demand fair treatment from any news source. It also within your current authority, and power, M. President to empower and promote free, fair and independent information. To help, nay insist, indigenous professionals and practitioners of local news enshrine their own codes of conduct and ethics, and demand local media accountability systems as the only condition, the only quid pro quo.

I've heard arguments about the state keeping hands off the media, that funding news media may even be unconstitutional. This is colonialistic nonsense put about by vested interests. In fact, the constitution of France not only endorses freedoms of the Press, it calls for its plurality. In closing down TNTV and ATN, M. President, you risk offending the spirit if not the letter of that constitutional guarantee.

Don't make the same mistakes we've already made in the independent Pacific. Learn from ours. That's how mistakes are supposed to work.

Don't help people trying to tear down Māohi journalism, help us build up an independent "industry" whose only job is to warn you and your people against all threats, local or foreign.

JPK may be gone. But, as his brother once said, in a funny kind of way, JPK is still doing his job today. Help his colleagues keep doing theirs.

Jason Brown
Avaiki Nius

Friday, December 23, 2011

Correcting the West Papuan media blackout

CURIOUS how much of our media privileges the elite sources, yet attempts to marginalise independent media groups that are providing critical news and analysis on the stories left out of the mainstream news agenda. Take West Papua, for example. While the world’s media grasped the “people’s freedom" digital media with enthusiasm during the Arab Spring in the Middle East, other groups comprising journalists providing far more thorough media coverage and resources in our own Pacific backyard are treated as “activists”. This open letter from the Australian-based West Papua Media editor Nick Chesterfield, written after coverage of the allegations of 17 Papuans being killed by Indonesian security forces in the Paniai area, is a good insight into the media struggle to get West Papua above the radar.

For the record - open letter from West Papua Media

Description of both West Papua Media, and that of independent human rights monitors Elsham as "pro-independence groups" , is both inaccurate, misleading, discrediting, and is highly dangerous to the safety for both our journalists and also for Elsham's human rights investigators.

I cannot speak for Elsham, but like us, they are not pro-independence. They are mandated exclusively to conduct scientific research and analysis of human rights violations in West Papua according to internationally recognised methodologies, and have received significant scientific training internationally to carry out this. They are not part of the pro-independence movement.
West Papua Media is an independent media outlet, focused on bypassing the media blackout of West Papua by reporting factual, verifiable, and real time content and providing it to the world's media. We are all journalists, both professional and traditionally trained, and also from a new generation of citizen journalists.

We provide a clear training programme for our journalists on reporting under repressive contexts, and have long and established relationships with many news organisations globally - including Fairfax. We are both a media agency in the traditional sense, and an outlet in our own right. West Papua Media is overseen by a team of six editors internationally - three of whom are journalists, several sub-editors who also work for major newswires and two human rights workers - and we have an extensive network averaging 10 stringers in sixteen locations in Papua.

Each location is overseen by at least one qualified journalist, all members of the Indonesian Alliance for Independent Journalists, and all of our stringers have been providing consistent, credible and verifiable coverage after training in our Safe Witness Journalism units. Our journalists outside the country are all members of our national journalists' union (AJA/MEAA for myself) and everyone of us holds IFJ membership.

What West Papua Media is not, is "pro-independence". We are journalists, whose sole mandate is to report the news from West Papua, including items that are critical of pro-independence forces, tactics, and policies: a principled position that has occasionally cost us access and relationships to certain sectors of Papuan resistance. Telling the truth of what is happening, by adhering to tried and trusted journalistic methodology , and exposing the truth, is not being "pro-independence". It is doing what journalism used to be about - Giving voice to the voiceless.

While we attempt to seek comment from the killers and plunderers in Papua, they generally do not wish to comment to us. That is their silence, that does not lessen our work as journalists.

By labeling us as pro-independence, which we are not, you are putting our people on the ground at great risk of arrest, torture and murder, and charges of subversion, something which should concern you given the amount of journalists, including our stringers, who were murdered or threatened in West Papua over recent years.

Nick Chesterfield
Papua Media

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2012 to all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

RSF's 10 most dangerous media places - West Papua sidelined

IT'S OFFICIAL. Well, at least that is the implication of the new "10 most dangerous places for media" list published by Reporters Sans Frontieres - the Pacific is actually one of the safest places in the world for journalists. Yet many donors seem to think that a relatively safe region is more deserving for media freedom support than others in the real global hot seat. Even West Papua, which is by far the most dangerous place for journalists in the Pacific, doesn't get close to making the most risky hit list.

The 10 most dangerous places for journalists

2011 in figures: 66 journalists killed (16 percent more than in 2010)
1,044 journalists arrested
1,959 journalists physically attacked or threatened
499 media censored

71 journalists kidnapped

73 journalists fled their country

5 netizens killed

199 bloggers and netizens arrested

62 bloggers and netizens physically attacked

68 countries subject to internet censorship

Reporters Without Borders has this year, for the first time, compiled a list of the world’s 10 most dangerous places for the media – the 10 cities, districts, squares, provinces or regions where journalists and netizens were particularly exposed to violence and where freedom of information was flouted.

Overall, 2011 took a heavy toll on media freedom. The Arab Spring was at the centre of the news. Of the total of 66 journalists killed in 2011, 20 were killed in the Middle East (twice as many as in 2010). A similar number were killed in Latin America, which is very exposed to the threat of criminal violence. For the second year running, Pakistan was the single deadliest country with a total of 10 journalists killed, most of them murdered. China, Iran and Eritrea continue to be the world’s biggest prisons for the media.

The Arab Spring, the protest movements it inspired in nearby countries such as Sudan and Azerbaijan, and the street protests in other countries such as Greece, Belarus, Uganda, Chile and the United States were responsible for the dramatic surge in the number of arrests, from 535 in 2010 to 1,044 in 2011. There were many cases of journalists being physically obstructed in the course of their work (by being detained for short periods or being summoned for interrogation), and for the most part they represented attempts by governments to suppress information they found threatening.

The 43 percent increase in physical attacks on journalists and the 31 percent increase in arrests of netizens – who are leading targets when they provide information about street demonstrations during media blackouts – were also significant developments in a year of protest. Five netizens were killed in 2011, three of them in Mexico alone.

From Cairo’s Tahrir Square to Khuzdar in southwestern Pakistan, from Mogadishu to the cities of the Philippines, the risks of working as a journalist at times of political instability were highlighted more than ever in 2011. The street was where danger was to be found in 2011, often during demonstrations that led to violent clashes with the security forces or degenerated into open conflict. The 10 places listed by Reporters Without Borders represent extreme cases of censorship of the media and violence against those who tried to provide freely and independently reported news and information.

(Listed by alphabetical order of country. Full details on the RSF website)
1. Manama, Bahrain
The Bahraini authorities did everything possible to prevent international coverage of the pro-democracy demonstrations in the capital, Manama, denying entry to some foreign reporters, and threatening or attacking other foreign reporters or their local contacts. Bahraini journalists, especially photographers, were detained for periods ranging from several hours to several weeks. Many were tried before military tribunals until the state of emergency imposed on 15 March was lifted. After months of demonstrations, order was finally restored thanks to systematic repression. A blogger jailed by a military court is still in prison and no civilian court ever reviewed his conviction. Bahrain is an example of news censorship that succeeded with the complicity of the international community, which said nothing. A newspaper executive and a netizen paid for this censorship with their lives.

2. Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
Abobo, Adjamé, Plateau, Koumassi, Cocody, Yopougon ... all of these Abidjan neighbourhoods were dangerous places for the media at one stage or another during the first half of 2011. Journalists were stopped at checkpoints, subjected to heavy-handed interrogation or physically attacked. The headquarters of the national TV station, RTI, was the target of airstrikes. A newspaper employee was beaten and hacked to death at the end of February. A Radio Yopougon presenter was the victim of an execution-style killing by members of the Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) in May. The post-election crisis that led to open war between the supporters of the rival presidential contenders, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, had a dramatic impact on the safety of journalists. During the Battle of Abidjan, the country’s business capital, at the start of April, it was completely impossible for journalists to move about the city.

3. Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Egypt
The pro-democracy demonstrations that finally forced Hosni Mubarak to stand down as president on 20 February began at the end of January in Tahrir Square, now the emblem of the Arab Spring uprisings. Foreign journalists were systematically attacked during the incredibly violent first week of February, when an all-out hate campaign was waged against the international media from 2 to 5 February. More than 200 violations were reported. Local journalists were also targeted. The scenario was similar six months later – from 19 to 28 November, in the run-up to parliamentary elections, and during the weekend of 17-18 December – during the crackdown on new demonstrations to demand the departure of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

4. Misrata, Libya
After liberating Benghazi, the anti-Gaddafi rebels took Misrata, Libya’s third largest city and a strategic point for launching an offensive on Tripoli. But the regular army staged a counter-offensive and laid siege to the city, cutting it off from the rest of the world and imposing a news and information blockade lasting many weeks, during which its main road, Tripoli Street, was repeatedly the scene of particularly intense fighting. The Battle of Misrata highlighted the risks that reporters take in war zones. Two of the five journalists killed in Libya in 2011 lost their lives in this city.

5. Veracruz state, Mexico
Located on the Gulf of Mexico and long dominated by the cartel of the same name, Veracruz state is a hub of all kinds of criminal trade, from drug trafficking to contraband in petroleum products. In 2011, it became the new epicentre of the federal offensive against the cartels and three journalists were killed there in the course of the year. Around 10 others fled the state as a result of the growing threats to freedom of information and because of the inaction or complicity of the authorities in the face of this threat.

6. Khuzdar, Pakistan
The many cases of journalists who have been threatened or murdered in Khuzdar district, in the southwestern province of Balochistan, is typical of the extreme violence that prevails in this part of Pakistan. The province’s media are caught in the crossfire between the security forces and armed separatists. The murder of Javed Naseer Rind, a former assistant editor of the Daily Tawar newspaper, was the latest example. His body was found on 5 November, nearly three months after he was abducted. An anti-separatist group calling itself the Baloch Musallah Defa Army issued a hit-list at the end of November naming four journalists as earmarked for assassination.

7. The Manila, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro metropolitan areas on the islands of Luzon and Mindanao, Philippines
Most of the murders and physical attacks on journalists in the Philippines take place in these three metropolitan areas. The paramilitary groups and private militias responsible were classified as “Predators of Press Freedom” in 2011. The government that took office in July has still not come up with a satisfactory response, so these groups continue to enjoy a total impunity that is the result of corruption, links between certain politicians and organized crime, and an insufficiently independent judicial system.

8. Mogadishu, Somalia
Mogadishu is a deadly capital where journalists are exposed to terrible dangers, including being killed by a bomb or a stray bullet or being deliberately targeted by militias hostile to the news media. Although the Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabaab withdrew from the capital, fighting continues and makes reporting very dangerous. Three Somali journalists were killed in Mogadishu this year, in August, October and December. And a visiting Malaysian cameraman sustained a fatal gunshot injury to the chest in September while accompanying a Malaysian NGO as it was delivering humanitarian assistance.

9. Deraa, Homs and Damascus, Syria
Deraa and Homs, the two epicentres of the protests against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, have been completely isolated. They and Damascus were especially dangerous for journalists in 2011. The regime has imposed a complete media blackout, refusing to grant visas to foreign reporters and deporting those already in the country. The occasional video footage of the pro-democracy demonstrations that began in March has been filmed by ordinary citizens, who risk their lives to do so. Many have been the victims of arrest, abduction, beatings and torture for transmitting video footage or information about the repression. The mukhabarat (intelligence services), shabihas (militias) and their cyber-army have been used by the regime to identify and harass journalists. Physical violence is very common. Many bloggers and journalists have fled the country. Around 30 journalists are currently believed to be detained.

10. Sanaa’s Change Square, Yemen
Change Square in Sanaa was the centre of the protests against President Ali Abdallah Saleh and it is there that much of the violence and abuses against journalists took place. Covering the demonstrations and the many bloody clashes with the security forces was dangerous for the media, which were directly targeted by a regime bent on crushing the pro-democracy movement and suppressing coverage of it. Two journalists were killed while covering these demonstrations. Pro-government militiamen known as baltajiyas also carried out punitive raids on the media. Physical violence, destruction of equipment, kidnappings, seizure and destruction of newspapers, and attacks on media offices were all used as part of a policy of systematic violence against media personnel.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Press freedom - as seen by Double Standards

THIS WEEK Double Standards was hoping to talk about awards for the best journalism of the past year - and it turned out to be the team's strangest interview so far.

As the European economic catastrophe continues, austerity in Greece seems to have turned the clock back thousands of years.

Also the president of the UK's Foreign Press Association tells us about his institution's award and much more.

Thanks Flyhalf for an entertaining tip.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

NZ media 'blind spot' over West Papuan repression

Papuan demonstrators erupt in a short-lived celebration as they raise the banned Morning Star flag on a bamboo pole in Timika in Indonesian-ruled Papua province. Indonesian police and troops opened fire to break up the protest. Photo: Tjahjono Eranius / Photoblog

From Pacific Media Watch: 7761

A media academic specialising in Asia-Pacific affairs condemned New Zealand news coverage on West Papua and other Melanesian issues at a journalism education conference in Australia this week.

Professor David Robie, director of AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre presented a paper called "Creative Commons and a Pacific media 'hub’" in which he offered four recent case studies, including a scathing criticism of NZ media coverage about the Freeport mine strike and brutal crushing of a peaceful Papuan People’s Congress by Indonesian security forces with the loss of up to six lives in October.

“The barriers to free reporting are perhaps a contributing factor to the almost negligible reporting in New Zealand news media of West Papuan issues, apart from occasional snippets about the Freeport mine,” he said at the annual Journalism Education Association of Australia (JEAA) conference in Adelaide.

“A major exception has been Radio New Zealand International, which with very limited resources compared with its Radio Australia cousins, doggedly provides coverage on the legacy of armed struggle in West Papua and Bougainville.

“A major problem is that for the international community the issue of West Papua is ‘settled’ and it is accepted as being an internal problem for the Indonesian authorities rather than an issue of ‘decolonisation’.

Although the so-called 1969 Act of Free Choice had been a “stage-managed sham” by Indonesia after it had invaded the former Netherlands colony bordering Papua New Guinea and was widely condemned as the “Act of No Choice”, most media in Australia, NZ and the Pacific currently virtually ignored the issue, he said.

It was left to international news media agencies to report on developments in West Papua – often from at a distance and their reports failed to gain much traction in the media of the region.

'Shameful' reporting
“It is shameful that the NZ and regional news media fail to cover the ongoing human rights atrocities and disturbances with the seriousness they deserve," he said

“The ongoing West Papua crisis is a greater threat to Pacific security than the Fiji issue.”

In a content analysis of a two-week period between the start of the military crackdown on October 19 until November 2, 2011, it was found that Pacific Scoop published 66 percent of the total of 99 news stories carried by main NZ news media websites about the West Papua crisis.

Pacific Journalism Review published a media freedom report by Dr Robie and Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Alex Perrottet in the October edition which strongly covered West Papuan media issues.

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