Friday, September 27, 2013

Spotlight Vanuatu: Ben Bohane, Black Islands: Spirit and War in Melanesia

West Papua: An OPM guerrilla with cassowary headdress during an independence flag-raising ceremony
in the Highlands, 1995. © Ben Bohane

Thank you Pacific Media Centre and IPA

Australian photographer/writer Ben Bohane’s new monograph Black Islands: Spirit and War in Melanesia is the manifestation of his vision to document the culture, wars and islands beyond the borders of Australia. The book is the culmination of Bohane’s dedication to photograph under-reported Pacific issues and history. By Tamara Voninski of IPA.

PROFILE: From your perspective as an Australian photographer and writer based in Vanuatu, is Australia a continent island or part of the Pacific Islands? Why?

I have always been slightly troubled by this notion that Australia is a continent, as if we are removed from our immediate geography. The reality is, if we choose to see it the way earlier generations of Australians did – that Australia is just a big Pacific island, forever connected by the blood and song lines of our indigenous people and our long relationship with our immediate Melanesian neighbours. Modern multicultural Australia has forgotten the importance of the Pacific islands and our shared identity and destiny with it. Just look at the map. Australians have become so globalised that they have forgotten their own backyard, yet for a photojournalist like myself, there are incredible stories here that need to be told to Australians, instead of our news constantly dominated by the wars of the Middle East and the “boom” of Asia.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Activist charged with illegally screening No Fire Zone doco about Sri Lanka's 'Killing Fields'

Callum Macrae, filmmaker and journalist, has been at the forefront of a campaign to bring the government of Rajapaksa to the International Court of Justice for crime against humanity. spoke to Macrae about his film.

 From The Nation in Kuala Lumpur
A HUMAN rights activist has been charged at the magistrate's court in Kuala Lumpur with the screening of a controversial documentary, which was not cleared by the Film Censorship Board, on the alleged atrocities by the Sri Lankan army during the country's civil war.

An excerpt from the documentary was shown at AUT University in Auckland last week with the launching of the Asia-Pacific Human Rights Coalition (APHRC) in association with the Pacific Media Centre.

An Amnesty International spokesperson and other activists spoke at the Auckland meeting.

Lena Hendry, 28, a Komas programme coordinator, claimed trial to screening the film No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Jalan Maharajalela, at 9pm on July 3, 2013.

She was charged under the Film Censorship Act 2002 and is liable to a maximum fine of RM30,000 (about NZ$11,000) or three years jail, upon conviction.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

US military's 'Asia Pivot' strategy condemned at Philippines summit

The Real News video on the controversial "US Pivot" policy.

 From The Real News

ACTIVISTS holding a key international conference in the Philippines this month opposing greater planned United States military presence in Asia, have accused the US of being responsible for rapes, killings and environmental destruction that go unpunished.

Dyan Ruiz, a co-producer of a Real News programme about the conference, has warned of the impact of a new wave of US militarisation in Asia.

The International Conference on the "US Pivot" to Asia-Pacific: US Militarism, Intervention and War was attended by nearly 60 delegates from 13 countries, including Australia, Japan, the Philippnes and South Korea.

Renato Reyes Jr, secretary general of Bayan, a Philippine progressive political organisation and a lead organiser of the conference, said: "It's high time that the people in Asia [should] be allowed to determine their own course and to chart own direction and their own foreign policy free from any dictates of the United States.

Producer Ruiz said: "Despite the support of their own respective governments, the delegates see US military intervention as a violation of their countries' sovereignty.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tribute to the ‘female Pied Piper’ of Pacific nuclear justice

Darlene Keju's groundbreaking 1983 address to the World Council of Churches in Vancouver, Canada.

Darlene Keju: Pacific health pioneer, champion for nuclear survivors
By Giff Johnson, 2013.
USA, Charleston, SC: Book link.

By Celine Kearney for the Pacific Media Centre

Don’t Ever Whisper is Giff Johnson’s biography of his wife Darlene Keju-Johnson, a Marshallese woman who reached out to a global audience about the health effects of US nuclear tests on her people, including cancers and birth deformities. At the same time, the book documents Marshallese politics and the duplicity of US administrations that allowed the Marshall Islands and the people to be used for nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s, conducting studies out of sight of mainstream media.

US government policy was that Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap and Utrick were the only radiation affected atolls, but this deliberately covered up fallout dangers.

Don’t Ever Whisper is also a case study of how a fiercely committed, energetic and optimistic young woman developed a group of youth health workers, Youth to Youth in Health (YTYIH), part of the Ministry of Health’s health promotion programme, working as peer educators on inner and outer islands.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Indonesian police fire teargas on peaceful West Papua rally, arrest 21

Police fire teargas on protesters in Jayapura. Photo: Jubi/Arnold Belau
From Tabloid Jubi in Jayapura (translated from Bahasa)

POLICE have fired teargas on dozens of West Papuan peaceful demonstrators marking International Democracy Day at Waena in the capital of Jayapura.

Tabloid Jumi said 21 people were arrested at the rally, organised by the local chapter of the West Papua National Committeee (KNPB)

"We gave a five-minute warning for the KNPB to disband because this demo did not not permission from us," said Wakapolresta Jayapura Kiki Kurnia to Wim Rocky Medlama, a KNPB spokesperson.

When the protesters did not retreat, Jayapura police seized the demonstration command car and this triggered chaos.

The police fired tear gas over the demonstrators’ heads.

Friday, September 13, 2013

West Papua supporters hail 'sacred mission' as success

WEST PAPUA Freedom Flotilla supporters have uploaded a video of their secret ceremonial "sacred mission" in Papuan coastal waters earlier today on YouTube. A SBS report cited activists hailing the mission as a success. Here it is.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Indigenous leaders from Australia, West Papua meet in secret at sea

Photo: West Papua Freedom Flotilla

From the West Papua Freedom Flotilla

EVADING the Indonesian navy, two tiny boats met near the Australia-Indonesia border to ceremonially reconnect the indigenous peoples of Australia and West Papua.

The ceremony was the pinnacle of a 5000km journey beginning in Lake Eyre, in which sacred water and ashes were carried and presented to West Papuan leaders.

While the Freedom Flotilla’s flagship, The Pog, sailed towards West Papua, the world watched its progress via a live satellite tracker onboard the vessel, providing a much needed distraction for the clandestine ceremony to take place in an undisclosed location off the south coast of Papua.

The cultural exchange of Indigenous elders was held in secret, due to threats made by Indonesian government ministers and military officials who had stated that the navy and air-force would “take measures” against the peaceful protest, and had not ruled out the use of lethal force.

Soon to be Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had also stated that Indonesia may do “whatever it wishes” to stop the peaceful protest.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Say fromage! AFP 'self-censorship row' highlights thin-skinned politicians

A visitor takes a picture of the artwork entitled "Travesty" depicting Valdimir Putin
and Dmitry Medvedev at an exhibition in St Petersburg, 15 August 2013. Photo: IOC/R
By Milana Knezevic of Index on Censorship/IFEX

FRENCH news agency AFP has been caught up in a self-censorship row after attempting to retract a photo of President Francois Hollande flashing a gormless smile. The whole debacle has gone viral, forcing AFP to make a statement denying they had caved to government pressure.

Rather, they cited internal editorial guidelines "not to transmit images that gratuitously ridicule people". However, politicians are not strangers to banning (or trying to ban!) images that make them look a bit silly.

You'd think that Vladimir Putin, used to being in the public eye, captured in completely random and non-staged situations like this, wouldn't mind being the inspiration for some fine art.

That turned out not to be the case when a St Petersburg gallery exhibited a painting of Putin and PM Dmitry Medvedev - the former sporting a fetching pink negligee, the latter a black lace push-up bra.

Russian police raided the gallery and removed the picture in question, as well as three others depicting Russian political leaders. The reason given was that the images 'violate existing legislation'.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Damning indictment of nuclear testing in the Pacific

Nuclear Exodus - Rongelap Islanders on board the Rainbow Warrior. Photo/video: David Robie


The legacy from US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands has provided a media backdrop to last week's 44th Pacific Islands Forum in Majuro. Here is a short documentary made by David Robie and his Aroha Productions team and broadcast by Television New Zealand.

The item was published in the New Zealand Listener as a documentary preview on 2 May 1987 before the film was screened on TVNZ's Tagata Pasifika:

By Pamela Stirling, editor of the NZ Listener

The Rongelap Islanders of Micronesia have been described as the first victims of World War Three.

Many of them remember March 1, 1954, as the day it "snowed" on their atoll, as deadly fallout dusted down from a 15 megaton thermonuclear test, codenamed Bravo, held on Bikini Atoll.

Since then Rongelap people have suffered leukaemia deaths, cancers, thyroid tumours, miscarriages, deformed children and births described as "jellyfish" babies.

A noted American researcher has predicted that everyone who was aged under 10 when the contamination occurred will die of cancer.

This award-winning, 12-minute film tells the story of their contamination, and of their evacuation three decades later by the peace ship Rainbow Warrior to Mejato Island, 150 km away. Scripted and co-produced by Pacific affairs writer David Robie, Nuclear Exodus is a damning indictment of the nuclear machine.

Monday, September 9, 2013

French rugby success gives hope to the marginalised

Mourad Boudjellal  ... the 'rugby emperor' of Toulon, champion of European rugby
and of the French marginalised. Photo:

By COLIN RANDALL of The Nation

On the morning after the French rugby club Toulon won Europe's Heineken cup final in May, the club's owner, Mourad Boudjellal, depicted the victory as a source of pride for people, like him, of immigrant

Aiming his remarks at Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far right, anti-immigrant Front National, Boudjellal, the son of an Algerian father and Armenian mother, said: "Let's hope Marine takes note.

"When access to culture and knowledge is given to the children of immigrants and they are trusted, they get to do a few things for their country and city," he told the French television channel BFMTV.

"When you do not hold them back, they can do good things."

As François Hollande launches his initiative to alleviate unemployment, poverty, poor housing and crime in the shabby suburbs where much of the immigrant community lives, he arguably needs such role models to show success in life, from modest beginnings, is possible.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fossil fuel industry 'needs to back down - not the Pacific' on climate change

Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Daniel Drageset interviews Marshall Islands Journal editor
Giff Johnson in Majuro.

By Michael Sergel of Pacific Scoop and the AUT journalism programe

CLIMATE CHANGE is top of the agenda in Majuro as the Pacific Islands Forum meets for the 44th time.

The Marshall Islands is calling for strong committed action on preventing and responding to climate change, as it welcomes delegates from 16 member states (minus suspended Fiji) to the renewable village that will play host to the next four days of talks.

Marshall Islands Forum Minister Phillip Muller said the Majuro Declaration was about “tangible action” rather than a “you-go-first” approach to climate policy.

“In the Pacific, we cannot afford to wait. We want the Forum to set the stage for a new, bolder approach,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in June.

“We call on not just governments but also intergovernmental organisations, the private sector and civil society to sign on to our declaration with their own measurable commitments aimed at averting a climate catastrophe.”

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