Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Powerful documentary on NZ military in Afghanistan poses tough questions

AWARD-WINNING filmmakers Annie Goldson (Brother Number One, An Island Calling), and Kay Ellmers (Canvassing the Treaty, Polynesian Panthers) present the feature version of He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan.

It will be screened - full-length - for the first time at the New Zealand International Film Festival on Sunday.

Originally airing in a broadcast version on Māori Television, the film has been extended adding substantial more content.

Following non-embedded journalist Jon Stephenson into Afghanistan, the documentary discusses the role and legacy New Zealand troops have played in that beautiful war-torn country.

Revelations have surfaced that Stephenson was spied upon by US agencies while he was working in Afghanistan, and that as an investigative journalist, he was called a "subversive" by New Zealand's own Defence Force gives the film a currency - even urgency - begging the question of what the role of the media is within our democracy.

Using a range of Kiwi and Afghan voices, He Toki Huna asks why New Zealand became involved in the war, why it stayed so long, and why the public have learned so little.

He Toki Huna challenges the rosy picture presented by most media reports, which have side-stepped the realities of combat and death in a conflict that has dragged on for 10 years.

Jake Bryant's footage captures the extraordinary landscapes of Afghanistan.

Monday, July 29, 2013

NZ Defence Force’s paranoia about journalism 'subversives'

Cartoon source: Bryce Edwards blog
By Gordon Campbell on Scoop

IF THE thousands of people who marched on the weekend against New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bill (GCSB Bill) wanted further justification for their concerns, the Defence Force has just provided it with bells on.

The mindset that treats journalists as being threats to security on a par with foreign hostiles, activist groups, criminal hackers and dishonest staff is an excellent illustration of why the surveillance powers bestowed by the Bill are so dangerous.

A Defence Force that treats the normal querying of the status quo by the Fourth Estate as being essentially treasonous in nature, has gone off the reservation, and is out of control.

Give it the power to do so, and such an organisation will readily use the surveillance powers in the GCSB Bill to substantiate its persecution complex.

It is already doing so. This isn’t just a theoretical danger, glimmering somewhere off in the future.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

French nuclear tests 'showered vast area of Polynesia with radioactivity'

The French Licorne thermonuclear test at Moruroa Atoll on 3 July 1970. Photo: CTBTO
Flashback to a story earlier this month: Declassified papers show extent of plutonium fall-out from South Pacific tests of 60s and 70s was kept hidden, reports French paper

By Angelique Chrisafis in Paris for The Guardian

FRENCH nuclear tests in the South Pacific in the 1960s and 1970s were far more toxic than has been previously acknowledged and hit a vast swath of Polynesia with radioactive fallout, according to newly declassified Ministry of Defence documents which have angered veterans and civilians' groups.

The papers, seen by the French paper Le Parisien, reportedly reveal that plutonium fallout hit the whole of French Polynesia, a much broader area than France had previously admitted. Tahiti, above, the most populated island, was exposed to 500 times the maximum accepted levels of radiation. The impact spread as far as the tourist island, Bora Bora.

Thousands of veterans, families and civilians still fighting for compensation over health issues have insisted France now reveals the full truth about the notorious tests whose impact was kept secret for decades.

From 1960 to 1996, France carried out 210 nuclear tests, 17 in the Algerian Sahara and 193 in French Polynesia in the South Pacific, symbolised by the images of a mushroom cloud over the Moruroa atoll.

Friday, July 26, 2013

NZ protesters condemn GCSB ‘spy bill’ and spooks centre with Pacific targets

A young mother with a ‘nothing to hide’ placard during the ‘spy bill’
protest in Auckland today. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
Thanks to the Pacific Media Centre's report on Pacific Scoop

THOUSANDS of protesters took to the streets in New Zealand today to demonstrate against a government communications agency accused of spying on Pacific nations, including Fiji, and proposed law giving it greater powers to spy on NZ citizens.

More than 1000 people protested in central Auckland outside the Town Hall, including internet millionaire Kim Dotcom who is a vocal opponent of NZ's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

Big crowds gathered in protest staged in 11 other cities and downs against Prime Minister John Key's proposed "spy bill", which would give extra powers to the GCSB.

The legislation is likely to be passed in Parliament after United Future's Peter Dunne confirmed earlier this week that he would back the controversial bill after changes that have been widely condemned as "window-dressing".

Once passed into law, the bill would extend the powers of the GCSB to allow it to provide information for the New Zealand Police, Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The horrors of PNG's Manus Island - by a whistleblower

TONIGHT'S SBS Dateline programme has an exclusive insight - Manus Whistleblower - into the horrors of life within Australia’s refugee centre at Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Reporter Mark Davis speaks to a detention centre whistleblower, who has explosive allegations of detainees being sexually abused and tortured by other asylum seekers.

With no facilities to segregate or remove the abusers, Mark hears of the desperation for those continually being abused while waiting months for their asylum applications to be processed … attempted suicides and self-harming are said to be an "almost daily" occurrence.

The allegations come as the Australian government announces all asylum seekers arriving by boat will be processed and resettled in Papua New Guinea, with the Manus centre to be expanded.

Dateline's whistleblower interview follows Mark’s disturbing story two months ago about life at Manus Island, when Australian officials at the detention centre went to great lengths to stop him filming.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A ‘dirty war’, NZ military cover-up and the vindication of a journalist

 Trailer for the Jeremy Scahill film Dirty Wars about the hidden truth over America's covert wars.

INDEPENDENT investigative journalist Jon Stephenson called it a “moral victory”. The Herald on Sunday described it as a “vindication” in an editorial.

And for many New Zealand journalists it was a humiliation of the military even before the defamation case was over.

Although the jury couldn’t make up its mind on whether it was defamation, the NZ Defence Force chief, Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones, had already conceded the factual issues, the smear webpage against Stephenson had been removed and the military had pledged to make public statement accepting the journalist’s version of events in his reports of New Zealand’s role in the “dirty war” in Afghanistan.

An independent journalist had taken on the might of the Defence Force with its battery of lawyers and legal resources – and won.

Jon Stephenson’s credibility was intact, the Defence Force’s credibility in tatters. But at what price?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Is Australia's new Asia-Pacific asylum policy the harshest in its history?

Australian protesters rail against the new Rudd asylum-seekers policy outside the
Sydney Town Hall today. Photo: Peter Boyle/Socialist Action
FOLLOWING Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's announcement, asylum seekers who arrive in Australian waters by boat will no longer have the chance to be settled in Australia.

Instead, asylum seekers arriving by boat will be held in an expanded facility at Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and those who are found to be genuine refugees will be settled in PNG under a surprise agreement with the Peter O'Neill government in Port Moresby.

Announcing the changes yesterday, Rudd admitted it was "a very hardline decision".

 Protests in Sydney greeted the new policy.

The Conversation spoke to three policy analysts for their response to Rudd's announcement:

ALISON GERARD, senior lecturer in justice studies at Charles Sturt University, Bathurst: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's "Pacific Solution #3" is irreconcilable with our international refugee obligations. Like other proposals put forward by this government, it is likely to be robustly contested in court as a breach of basic human rights.

Rugby - sorry, football's - Le Choc match more than crunch charity winner

Toulon's Pierrick Gunther tackles Olympique Marseille's Mathieu Valbuena
in the hybrid football/rugby charity match. Photo: AFP
SURELY this could only happen in France. And with the balmy Mediterranean air massaging the brain. Olympique Marseille, one of France's top football teams, has defeated European rugby champions Toulon in a a hybrid rugby/football charity match by - yes, one point.

And then as a side-piece of entertainment, co-referee Eric Cantona showed why he is "still the king" by lobbing over a trick rugby penalty goal that scraped the crossbar.

The other co-referee was former France coach Marx Lievremontwho almost steered Les Bleus to a shock World Rugby Cup win over the host New Zealand All Blacks in 2011.

This mad entertainment at Toulon's Stade Felix Mayol last Thursday was billed "Le Choc".

Thanks to Chris Wright of Who Ate All the Pies website for the report:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rainbow Warrior, state terrorism and 'paranoid' French politicians

 Total Recall interview with David Robie by programme host Sam Bloore.

Thanks to Pacific Media Watch:

PACIFIC MEDIA CENTRE director Professor David Robie has spoken out about the 1985 Rainbow Warrior state terror attack in a recent interview on the Newstalk ZB programme Total Recall.

July 10 marked the 28th anniversary of the French attack, which Professor Robie wrote about in his 1986 book Eyes of Fire and also Blood on their Banner on Pacific independence struggles in 1989.

"The whole attack was outrageous in the first instance. It's just inconceivable that an attack like that could have been launched against a major nation in the world, a peaceful nation," Dr Robie said.

"It's bad enough that they did that, but then the French government at the time also blackmailed New Zealand over trade."

Dr Robie was on the Rainbow Warrior voyage more more than two months as a journalist, but had left the ship three nights before it was bombed in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pacific climate change, ‘failed states’ and media muddles

David Robie being interviewed by Litia Ava on Fiji National University's Radio FM88.6
on "open day". Also pictured are Jessica Gounder and Wati Talebula.
Photo: Varanisese Nasilasila (FNU)
WHAT is it with the Fiji media? Or at least with many of on-the-job reporters? Bylines on slightly rehashed press releases, regularly misquoted subjects and "direct quotes" from people when the reporter isn’t even present to hear them … the list goes on.

Café Pacific publisher David Robie has just experienced more of the same with his latest conference presentations at the University of the South Pacific. At USP for a “conference within a conference” with the theme “Islands and Nations: ‘Failed states’ and the environment" at the Pacific Science Inter-congress last week.

Last time it was The Fiji Times at fault. Now it is the Fiji Sun. Reporter Rinu Shyyam correctly reported the call for a new “media morality” (without explaining the context) but the rest of her story was a garbled parody of what Robie actually said.

And it seems the reporter wasn't actually at the presentation at all – she has simply rehashed a University of the South Pacific press release.

The problem is that reporter Shyyam has simply uplifted paraphrased comments from the media release and then reintroduced them into her story as direct quotes and made nonsense of the statements.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Media moguls, new media and ethics

The Melia Purosani Hotel ... venue for the AMIC 2013 media conference,
Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Photo: David Robie
IRONICALLY, while the major annual Asia-Pacific media research conference was unfolding in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta - with a final day focused on "new ethics for old media" - the national press was highlighting corporate control by media moguls.

Election  organisers and Indonesia's broadcast commission have embarked on imposing tougher rules as media tycoons signal their plans to enter the presidential elections next year.

At the four-day 22nd Asian Media Information and Communication (AMIC) conference at Yogyakarta, University of Queensland head of journalism Dr Rhonda Breit, herself a qualified lawyer, criticised the ethical "invisibility" of large sections of the media.

She called on media schools to broaden journalism education and refocus on the "morality" of media, not just journalism as a profession.

Media Asia editor Dr Cherian George also called for a broader view of ethics, beyond professional codes, encompassing the responsibility of all citizens to treat journalism as a public good.

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