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.

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