Tuesday, December 22, 2020

'Empowerment is really important. Journalism isn't just about writing a good story ... but empowering people with information in a democracy'

As well as playing a role in critical moments of history as a journalist in the region,
Professor David Robie's students have also covered landmark events
that helped shape some Pacific nations. Image: AUT Pasifika
By Laurens Ikinia

A JOURNALIST who sailed on board the bombed environmental ship Rainbow Warrior, was arrested at gunpoint in New Caledonia while investigating French military garrisons in pro-independence Kanak villages, and reported on social justice issues across the Pacific has stepped down as founding director of the Pacific Media Centre.

Professor David Robie, 75, an author, academic, independent journalist and journalism professor at Auckland University of Technology, retired last week after more than 18 years at the institution.

He has been working as a journalist for more than 46 years and as an academic for more than 27 years.

As well as playing a role in critical moments of history as a journalist in the region, his students have also covered landmark events that helped shape some Pacific nations, especially in Melanesia – such as the 1997 Sandline mercenary crisis in Papua New Guinea and the George Speight coup in Fiji in May 2000.

But a journalism or academic career were not always clearcut pathways for Dr Robie. During his studies in high school, he was heavily involved in outdoor pursuits and he became a Queen’s Scout.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Pacific journalism, media and diversity researchers tackle challenges - and David is taking on a new role


Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie with PJR designer Del Abcede
and MC John Pulu of Tagata Pasifika ... how a Pacific 'reset'
can benefit the centre's future evolution. Image: PMC

PACIFIC journalism and media researchers have gathered “live” in Auckland and “virtually” from Australia, Indonesia, and the region to showcase their projects and initiatives – and they spoke of the key challenges ahead.

Presentations at the AUT Pacific Media Centre-organised event yesterday included cross-cultural documentaries, an industry panel on “transition”, Pasifika “brown table” initiatives, a forthcoming Asia-Pacific conference, and an Internews project on climate and coronavirus reportage.

Organisers also revealed that PMC founding director Professor David Robie was retiring from the role and stepping down as editor of Pacific Journalism Review research journal, which he started in Papua New Guinea, to concentrate on his own writing and creative projects.

The showcase, hosted by MC John Pulu of Tagata Pasifika, also launched the latest edition of PJR, which is themed on a range of climate crisis and pandemic papers.

The recent new fields of research (FoR) classifications adopted by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC) were described by Sydney journalism professor and author Dr Chris Nash as “a huge victory”.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Victory in defeat for Kanak independence movement in latest referendum


A display of Kanaky independence flags on referendum day.
Image: Al Jazeera/PMC screenshot

By David Robie

WHILE pro-independence Kanak supporters rued another defeat in the second referendum on independence for New Caledonia at the weekend, it was even narrower than the loss two years ago. Now there is a real prospect of a win in 2022.

“The path to independence and sovereignty is inevitable,” pledges the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) – the umbrella group of the pro-independence parties and the struggle will go on.

Roch Wamytan, president of New Caledonia’s parliamentary Congress and a key leader of the FLNKS’ Union Calédonienne, vows the independence lobbying will press for the third referendum in two years’ time – and even later if needed.

If there is a third defeat, “we’ll talk, and we’ll figure something out”.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Facebook censorship on West Papua – then deafening silence

Facebook censorship on West Papua ... a "cruel irony". Image: RSF/PMC

By David Robie

THE SILENCE from Facebook is deafening and disturbing.

At first, when I lodged my protests earlier this month to Facebook over the immediate removal of a West Papua news item from the International Federation of Journalists shared with three social media outlets, including West Papua Media Alerts and The Pacific Newsroom, I thought it was rogue algorithms gone haywire.

The “breach of community standards” warning I also received on my FB page was unacceptable, but surely a mistake?

However, with subsequent protests by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) media freedom watchdog and the Sydney office of the Asia-Pacific branch of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the world’s largest journalist organisation with more than 600,000 members in 187 countries, falling on deaf ears, I started wondering about the political implications of this censorship.

READ MORE: Melanesia: Facebook algorithms censor article about press freedom in West Papua

We had all complained separately to the FB director of policy for Australia and New Zealand, Mia Garlick, and were ignored.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

75 plus 35 years – the Hiroshima and Rainbow Warrior nuclear rewinds

The Hiroshima devastation 75 years ago today. Image: iCAN

By David Robie

While the globe struggles to cope with the deadly onslaught of the covid-19 pandemic, communicators, historians, journalists and activists have been deploying innovative ways of marking three nuclear-related anniversaries in barely a month.

Over the next few days, the devastating destruction, cruel loss of life and survivors' stories from the world's first and only deployment of nuclear weapons are being remembered in Japan and around the world.

The United States dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima 75 years ago on 6 August 1945 and then on Nagasaki three days later left two utterly destroyed cities and more than 215,000 people dead. Thousands more lives were lost in the following years from leukemia, cancer and other diseases caused by the radiation from the weapons.

READ MORE: Another Hiroshima is coming - unless we stop it now

With the third anniversary, 10 July 1985, although only one life was lost - there could easily have been more - the repercussions for New Zealand and throughout the Pacific have also been shattering.

One outrage was a wartime atrocity, claimed falsely that it was carried out to shorten the Pacific war, and the other was a peacetime atrocity.

Friday, July 10, 2020

From nuclear refugees to climate justice – the Rainbow Warrior legacy

Rongelap islanders with their belongings approach the Rainbow Warrior in May 1985.
Image: (c) David Robie
SPECIAL REPORT: By David Robie, who sailed on the original Rainbow Warrior to Rongelap atoll and is author of the book Eyes of Fire.

Thirty five years ago today the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was bombed in Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour by French secret agents in a blatant act of state terrorism, killing a photojournalist.

People’s campaigns have moved on since then from nuclear tests and refugees to climate justice – and future Pacific refugees.

The environmental campaign flagship was bombed on 10 July 1985 just weeks after it had been in the Marshall Islands carrying out four humanitarian voyages to rescue more than 320 Rongelap atoll villagers from the ravages of US nuclear tests and take them to a new home, Mejato island on Kwajalein atoll.

READ MORE: Eyes of Fire – Thirty Years On
LISTEN: David Robie reflects on the Rainbow Warrior on RNZ’s Crimes NZ programme

They were nuclear refugees seeking justice, relief and a healthy life far from the dangerous legacy left from 105 tests on Bikini and nearby atolls.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Toxic US politics, a brutal killing and the messengers become the target

CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez ... arrested in a First Amendment violation, then released
with a police apology. Image: Al Jazeera screenshot/David Robie
Three cartoonists had especially poignant takes on the tragic and toxic political aftermath of martyr George Floyd’s brutal killing under the knee of a white American policeman in Minneapolis last week.

The Boston Globe’s Christopher Weyant featured a split frame contrasting a red-capped “Make America Great Again” and a Covid Is A Hoax tee-short dangling his face mask while declaring: “You’re violating my freedom – I can’t breathe”.

On the other side of the frame is the accused policeman with his knee on Floyd’s neck as he gasps: “You’re violating my freedom … I … can’t breathe!”

READ MORE: US press freedom tracker records more than 300 incidents against journalists in the George Floyd protests

An unnamed Greek cartoonist shared by Elena Akrita showed the Statue of Liberty bearing the flame of freedom while extinguishing a life with a jackboot.

At the other end of the globe, in the South Pacific, New Zealand Herald’s Rod Emmerson depicted President Trump holding aloft a petrol can in his right hand instead of the Bible. In the background is the legend: In God We Trust: In Trump We Just Shake Our Heads.

Friday, May 22, 2020

West Papua’s highway of blood – a case of destruction not development

A Papuan with a face painting of the banned Papuan independence flag Morning Star. Image: The Road
REVIEW: By David Robie

The 4300-km Trans-Papua Highway costing some US$1.4 billion was supposed to bring “wealth, development and prosperity” to the isolated regions of West Papua.

At least, that’s how the planners and politicians envisaged the highway far away in their Jakarta offices.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is so enthusiastic about the project as a cornerstone for his infrastructure strategies that he had publicity photographs taken of him on his Kawasaki trail motorbike on the highway.

But that isn’t how West Papuans see “The Road”.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Jailing of Jakarta Six fuels virus fears over Papuan political prisoners

A past protest in London demanding the release of Papuan political prisoners. Image: Survival International
PACIFIC PANDEMIC DIARY: By David Robie, convenor of Pacific Media Watch

THE JAILING of the Jakarta Six – five Papuans and the first Indonesian to be convicted for a Papuan protest – in Indonesia last month has focused global attention on the plight of political prisoners in the face of a failing struggle against the coronavirus pandemic.

Already several analysts are warning that both Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are at risk of becoming coronavirus “failed states” and this will be of concern to Australia and New Zealand.

While Papua New Guinea has had only eight confirmed covid-19 cases so far – a spike is expected this month in spite of the state of emergency, Indonesia already has 10,843 cases with 831 deaths and the real toll is feared to be higher and climbing.

READ MORE: Tough coronavirus controls threaten Pacific, global media freedom


Friday, April 24, 2020

Tough coronavirus controls threaten Pacific, global media freedom

Reporters Without Borders has just published its annual World Press Freedom Index ranking
countries over censorship. Video: Hannah Cleaver/DW


Against a backdrop of many governments using tough controls under cover of fighting the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic to strengthen “creeping authoritarianism”, a global media freedom watchdog has signalled draconian virus reactions as a major threat.

From Papua New Guinea where media briefings have been curtailed with a lockdown of the national information and operations “nerve centre” at Morauta Haus, to Fiji where media personalities have been arrested, to the Philippines where state troll armies “weaponise” disinformation on social media, and to Indonesia where street artists have stepped in fill an information void, the signs are really worrying for defenders for media freedom.

The pandemic is “highlighting and amplifying the many crises”, already casting a shadow on press freedom, says the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders watchdog, which released its annual World Media Freedom Index this week.

READ MORE: The Reporters Without Borders 2020 World Press Freedom Index

While China and Iran have been singled out for strong criticism for suppressing details of the coronavirus outbreak early in the crisis, several countries traditionally strong on media freedom in the Asia-Pacific region have slipped down in the rankings – including Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Friday, April 17, 2020

How the ‘chief covidiot’ has blocked world health unity with WHO freeze

President Donald Trump ... deflecting the blame for the US coronavirus pandemic crisis onto WHO.
Image: Al Jazeera screenshot


Donald Trump’s sabre-rattling freeze on funding for the World Health Organisation at a time when many countries are pulling together for a global response to the coronavirus pandemic has surely earned him the epithet of the “world’s chief covidiot”.

The US President’s efforts at deflecting the blame for his country’s national public health crisis by pointing the finger at WHO and announcing that Washington would pull funding as the largest donor has shocked the world, triggering widespread condemnation from leaders and public health experts.

The impact of this shock decision is bound to be felt in the Pacific region with some countries and territories clinging precariously to their Covid-19-free status, while others – such as the US territory Guam, New Caledonia and French Polynesia – have already become hotspots.

American funding to WHO provided more than 15 percent of the international body’s 2018-19 budget of $4.4 billion.

While Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal, denounced Trump’s decision as “a crime against humanity” and an “appalling betrayal” of every scientist, health worker and citizen – and of global solidarity, the second largest WHO donor, Microsoft’s Bill Gates of the Gates Foundation, described the move “as dangerous as it sounds”.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Police Minister Bryan Kramer blasts two journalists in virus reporting row

PNG's Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey (left) ... in the middle of a furore between two senior journalists,
Gorethy Kenneth and Freddy Mou, and Police Minister Bryan Kramer over media ethics.
Image: Kramer Report
By Pacific Media Watch

PAPUA New Guinea’s Police Minister Bryan Kramer has published an extraordinary attack on two leading journalists over their reporting of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, accusing them of “misrepresenting” a financial update this week and suggesting they ought to be sacked.

He claimed in an Easter weekend posting on his Kramer Report – a Facebook publication dedicated to being the “inside story through in-depth investigative reporting and critical analysis” with more than 127,000 followers – that Loop PNG political and business editor Freddy Mou and senior PNG Post-Courier journalist Gorethy Kenneth “can’t be trusted”.

“Both journalists have close ties to the former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. Both have also been accused of publishing biased and misleading reports,” Kramer alleged.

The commentary was headlined: “Who got it wrong? PNG Loop or the Treasurer?”

 READ MORE: RSF criticises minister's sacking call

Kramer accused Mou of misrepresenting a one-on-one interview with Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey in alleging that the bulk of the 23 million kina (almost NZ$11 million) released by the government for Covid-19 operations was being used to hire cars and media consultants.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Creeping authoritarianism in Pacific not the answer to virus pandemic

The USS Theodore Roosevelt docked in Guam ... local critics unhappy about a "dangerous" gamble
with coronavirus. Image: US Navy screenshot
PACIFIC PANDEMIC DIARY: By David Robie, self-isolating in Auckland under New Zealand’s Covid-19 lockdown as part of a Pacific Media Watch series.

A RATHER beautiful Guåhan legend is rather poignant in these stressed pandemic times. It is one about survival and cooperation.

In ancient times, goes the story, a giant fish was eating great chunks out of this western Pacific island. The men used muscle and might with spears and slings to try to catch it.

This didn’t work. So, the women from many villages got together while washing their hair in a river. They wove their locks into a super strong net, caught the fish and saved the island.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

How Ardern’s coronavirus kindness theme can become contagious

Shelf-Isolation. Cartoon: ©Malcolm Evans/The Daily Blog
PACIFIC PANDEMIC DIARY: By David Robie, self-isolating in Auckland under New Zealand’s Covid-19 lockdown as part of a new Pacific Media Watch series.

A South African celebrity jingle that has gone viral at the end of this week could easily have been a theme song for New Zealand when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared a lockdown on Monday for midnight on Wednesday.

Several of South Africa’s most popular artists, such as Madjozi, Zolani Mahola and Francois van Coke, teamed up with the national groceries retailer Pick n Save to produce the rollicking “Don’t Panic Buy” in a bid to prevent stockpiling.

The lyrics urge shoppers to only buy what they really need and save the rest for fellow consumers, who may need it far more.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Activists give Indonesian leader details of Papuan deaths, political prisoners

Morning Star flag graphic: The Wire
From Pacific Media Watch

Pacific human rights activists have personally handed Indonesian President Joko Widodo a protest letter which includes a list of deaths and political prisoners in West Papua.

Written by West Papuan activists and signed by Greens leader Adam Bandt and Senator Richard Di Natale, the letter listed the names of 57 political prisoners charged with treason and held behind bars in seven cities across Indonesia, reports the community and indigenous radio The Wire.

The letter also included the names and ages of 243 civilians who have died during the Nduga military operation since December 2018, 110 of them children.

LISTEN TO THE WIRE: Letter given to President Widodo outlines West Papuan deaths

“These revelations ask the question of why President Widodo and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison would discuss economic ties and climate change, when human rights are at risk?”, The Wire asked.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Rappler challenges Duterte’s ‘media powers’ in democracy fight back

President Rodrigo Duterte with the press ... his powers to ban Rappler for two years challenged
in court. Image: Freeze frame/David Robie
By David Robie in Manila
, the innovative online publisher that has been at the media freedom frontline in the Philippines for the past three years, has challenged President Rodrigo Duterte by taking the executive to the Supreme Court.

The news website has called on the court to rule on whether President Duterte – or the state executive branch – has the power to control the media.

It has asked the court to lift a nearly two-year coverage ban against Rappler for covering events involving President Duterte wherever he is in the Philippines or abroad.

READ MORE: The state of the Philippine media under Duterte – PCIJ
In a remarkable media freedom test case, Rappler has asked justices to clarify: Could the President pick and choose who is “legitimate media” and who is not?

It has also asked could Duterte restrict access to public events?

Thursday, January 16, 2020

'Monsters Inc' - Ampatuan massacre justice aftermath with more fear of warlords, corruption

                 The Rappler video feed on the Ampatuan convictions last month.

For decades, the feared Ampatuan clan held sway in the impoverished province of Maguindanao in Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Through a ruthless private army and a reported “propensity for beheadings”, the clan cultivated a culture of impunity. Now, however, reports David Robie, a courageous judge has challenged the horror by jailing the masterminds of the 2009 Ampatuan massacre for life.

SPECIAL REPORT: By David Robie in Manila

The families of the 58 victims – 32 of them journalists or media workers – had waited for 10 years for justice in the Philippines.

After so long, what is another couple of hours?

The Ampatuan massacre in Maguindanao on 22 November 2009 was the world’s worst single attack on journalists and the worst elections-related violence in a country notorious for electoral mayhem.

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