Thursday, February 19, 2015

Improving Pacific media freedom record … but let’s get real

Pacific press freedom ... maybe not as bloody as elsewhere in the world, but vigilance still needed. Image: AFP/RSF
IT’S GREAT to get some bouquets on media freedom issues instead of brickbacks in the Pacific for a change. But let’s not get carried away. Instead of all the backslapping, what is needed is more vigilance because really it is all about more than watching this space.

Tonga did best in the latest Reporters Sans Frontières World Press Freedom Index, climbing some 19 places to 44th (yes, actually above the United States, but still below the best-paced Pacific island Samoa at 40th).

You would expect a healthy climb during the year, especially with former school teacher and public broadcaster (not to mention publisher of the pro-democracy Koe Kele’a) ‘Akilisi Pohiva finally becoming prime minister of Tonga.

This was an encouraging result in the November 2014 election following the first “democratic” election in 2010.

And it was expected that Fiji would also improve in the rankings after the “return to democracy” election in September – first since the 2006 military coup – flawed though that might be.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Samoa's 'Rochelais monster' adds beef to the French Roosters

Profile (in French) on La Rochelle captain Uino Atonio. Source: Pierre Ammiche

FORMER Samoan and New Zealand prop Uini Atonio - the man they call the "Rochelais monster" - looks set for his Six Nations debut, making the 23-man French squad for this Saturday's assignment in Paris which his coach predicts will be an emotional moment in the wake of the country's recent terrorism attacks.

The 24-year-old, born in Timaru and a former Samoan under-20 international, gained his residency eligibility last year after joining French club La Rochelle in 2011 and made his debut against Fiji in November.

Unio Atonio
He made three appearances for France in that international window and has held his favour with coach Philippe Saint-André.

He's unofficially the biggest man to pull on a French jersey. So big in fact, that they had to get a special jersey made to accommodate his 1.97-metre and 146-kilogram frame.

For comparison's sake that makes Atonio shorter than the Wallabies' Will Skelton (2.03m tall, weighing 135kg), lighter than former Wellington and Fiji prop Bill Cavubati (1.89m tall, weighing 165kg), but all-around bigger than All Blacks loosie Jerome Kaino (1.96m tall, weighing 113kg).

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