Sunday, March 31, 2013

John Miller, an icon and a treasure for Aotearoa, Pacific political protest

Pacific Media Watch's Daniel Drageset and Karen MacKenzie interview
photographer John Miller at the AUT seminar. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
JOHN MILLER is an extraordinary icon in New Zealand activist and social justice circles. Not only has he as a photographer captured in striking images many of the most critical social movements in Aotearoa, from the Nga Tamatoa struggles from 1971 and the hikoi to the 1981 anti-apartheid Springbok tour protests that polarised the nation to the 1980-90s Nuclear-Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) movement, he is also something of a walking encylopaedia who can tell an intriguing story about almost every individual in his pictures. He has a prodigious memory.

Whina Cooper, Eva Rickard and Titiwhai Harawira at Waitangi, February, 1985. Photo: © John Miller:
Café Pacific was fortunate to be at his recent seminar at AUT University about the NFIP through a reflection around his images. Inspiring stuff.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

PACMAS media report dodges the aid elephant in the room

Members of an executive meeting of the Media Association of the
Solomon Islands (MASI) discuss issues. Photo: PACMAS
A RECENT PACMAS report is a constructive diagnosis for the ailing state of the region’s media associations, and a prescription for how things can get better. But it manages to dodge the elephant in the room – accountability.

For months, social media outlets and journalists have been asking about the fate of the Media Council of PNG, once one of the strongest in the region and an example to the rest. But it has been dogged in recent years because of allegations of fraud.

AusAID funding and the executive director, Nimo Kama, was suspended pending an inquiry. But the outcome of this has been kept very quiet. AusAID reportedly funded the PNG Media Council to the tune of $500,000 in 2010.

In a Radio Australia Correspondents' Report (the last time a sensible item was published or broadcast about the issue apart from this Pacific Scoop update), Liam Fox said in an interview with Emily Bourke:
[A] recent audit found some of the money "had not been managed in accordance with procurement guidelines" and there was "anecdotal evidence of fraud".

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Digital media building a milestone for NZ’s AUT University

The $98 million Sir Paul Reeves building at AUT University ... a digital
media boost for the journalism school. Photo: Del Abcede/PMC
By Nicholas Jones

ONE OF New Zealand's major universities has opened a new digital media age building which has transformed its campus and significantly altered Auckland city's learning quarter.

Auckland University of Technology's new $98 million precinct, the Sir Paul Reeves building, was officially opened by Prime Minister John Key on Friday.

Vice-chancellor Derek McCormack, speaking as he gave the New Zealand Herald a tour of the new building, which was named after a former AUT Chancellor, the late Sir Paul Reeves, said it was a huge moment in the development of the campus.

"AUT has been the fastest growing university in the country. There have been big challenges. And we are only on the way, this is a milestone in a long process."

The $98 million building is the latest in a line of major building projects since AUT gained university status in 2000. Many of those projects, such as the business building, completed in 2005, had suffered from being slightly isolated.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

'Melanesia isn't free until West Papua is free'

In the face of state repression and international indifference by Indonesian authorities, West Papuan
activists have been locked in a life or death struggle for independence.
Al Jazeera's People & Power reports on one of the most forgotten conflicts in the world.

Airi Ingram and Jason MacLeod trace the upsurge in regional Pacific support for the free West Papua movement. They conclude that even if politicians have traditionally been slow to respond, "ordinary people in this part of the Pacific are painfully aware that the West Papuan people continue to live under the gun". And the good news is that even politicians are now starting to wake up and support the cause, especially in neighbouring Papua New Guinea.

MELANESIAN support for a free West Papua has always been high. Travel throughout Papua New Guinea and you will often hear people say that West Papua and Papua New Guinea is "wanpela graun" – one land – and that West Papuans on the other side of the border are family and kin.

In the Solomon Islands, Kanaky, Fiji and especially Vanuatu, people will tell you that “Melanesia is not free until West Papua is free”. This was the promise that the late Father Walter Lini, Vanuatu’s first prime minister, made.

Ordinary people in this part of the Pacific are painfully aware that the West Papuan people continue to live under the gun. It is the politicians in Melanesia who have been slow to take up the cause.

But that may be changing.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Papuans Behind Bars - a new support initiative for political prisoners

Buchtar Tabuni (right in the sunglasses) with KNPB's Victor Yeimo.
Photo: Andrew Suripatty/Tempo Politik/Antara
PAPUANS BEHIND BARS is a new project about political prisoners in West Papua. The group aims  to provide accurate and transparent data, published in English and Indonesian, to facilitate direct support for prisoners and promote wider debate and campaigning in support of free expression in West Papua.

Papuans Behind Bars is a collective project initiated by Papuan civil society groups working together as the Civil Society Coalition to Uphold Law and Human Rights in Papua.

It is a grassroots initiative and represents a broad collaboration between lawyers, human rights groups, adat groups, activists, journalists and individuals in West Papua, Jakarta-based NGOs and international solidarity groups.

The project holds records of over 200 current and former political prisoners and the website - - will go live sometime later this month.

The group pledges to publish monthly Updates, providing alerts on political arrests and a round-up of latest developments affecting Papuan political prisoners. The recent Update is the first in the series.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fiji prisoner beating: 'They treated my son like an animal'

A tearful Viriseini Sanawa tells of the trauma she endured while watching the online video.
Picture: Jone Luvenitoga/Fiji Times
By Nanise Loanakadavu of The Fiji Times

"ISA na luvequ! Oilei turaga! Sa mosi dina na yaloqu, na cava beka e leqa
(Oh my son! Oh Lord! My heart is in pain, what is the problem)."

These were words of 42-year-old Viriseini Sanawa, the mother of one of the two handcuffed men being brutalised by a group of men - identified as security forces - in an online video that went viral on Monday night. It is now being investigated by Fiji police.

It was after midday on Wednesday when Sanawa's neighbour called her to watch what they believed was her son being brutalised by the group in the tray of a truck. She said the family did not mention anything about the video until she watched it and confirmed it was her son, Iowane Benedito.

"Isa, koya saraga qo na luvequ. Isa, Iowane na luvequ (That's my son ... Iowane, my son).

'Neo-liberalism a lie a thousand times over' - tribute to Chávez

"WE ARE all Chávez" ... those were the chants from his supporters following the death of Venezuela's president. Losing his two-year battle with cancer, Hugo Chávez died on Tuesday at the age of 58 and Venezuela has declared seven days of mourning.

Always a controversial figure, reports Al Jazeera, Chávez rose from the ranks of the military to become the leader of one of Latin America's largest economies. And he divided opinion throughout his presidency.
But loved or loathed, Chávez always made an impression. One of the most colourful figures on the world stage, he styled himself as a leader of global anti-imperialism which was reflected in his international allies.
In 2002, Venezuela was supposed to be the first post-911 CIA coup. It worked - until it didn't.

A documentary film crew from Ireland's national broadcaster RTÉ "accidentally" captured the whole story - a story that the US news media conveniently forgets as it reflects on Chávez.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Viral 'horror' torture video prompts Fiji Times editorial

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has called for an independent and transparent investigation into the Fiji assault of two prisoners by apparent plainclothes security forces as a public outcry climbed over brutal torture scenes portrayed in a leaked video.

The global human rights organisation said torture was unacceptable under any circumstances and those responsible for the shocking scenes on the video should be brought to justice.

Police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri said in a press conference in Suva yesterday that the force was disturbed to see the video of what appeared to be the abuse of two men understood to be recaptured prisoners. But added that they were not the fugitives who escaped from Naboro Prison last year.

Fiji Times EDITORIAL by Fred Wesley
Wednesday, March 6, 2013

AS police investigate the circumstances surrounding a video that shows a group of men brutally assaulting two handcuffed men, a lot of questions will emerge.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

From Philippines guerrilla ‘posting’ to hospital life, Vanessa’s journey of courage

Former New People's Army guerrilla Vanessa Delos Reyes talks to the author,
Cameron Walker, in hospital. Image: Cameron Walker/PMC
AT FIRST it was difficult to adapt to life as a guerrilla. Living in the mountains brings its own set of challenges. New recruits must get used to building temporary shelter, known as "postings". Now Vanessa Delos Reyes is grappling with life in support of detainees after a crippling spinal wound.

By Cameron Walker

At the Southern Medical Centre of the Philippines in Davao City, I visited Vanessa Delos Reyes, a 27-year-old former guerrilla of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Vanessa is undergoing physical therapy to restore movement to her lower body after suffering a bullet wound to the spine while carrying an injured colleague to safety during an attack by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Scout Rangers in 2011.

She had been a member of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, since 2006.

Before arriving at the hospital, I had been told to expect to be searched by armed guards.  Instead, I was greeted with warm smiles and handshakes by Vanessa’s parents and a Catholic nun who is in charge of the hospital ward.

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