Sunday, January 18, 2009
A truck pulled up with angry officers allegedly under the influence of alcohol working with Correctional Services at the prison. They stormed into the office and accused Neil- Jones of causing the dismissal of Joshua Bong as Acting Director of Correctional Services and demanding to know who was going to look after the prisoners now. A shaken Neil-Jones advised police:
“One of them was well built, strong and with a belly wearing shorts and a singlet punched me in the eye and nose and hit me four or five times.
“I was kicked a number of times when I was on the ground. The two others with him threatened to kill me because I hadn’t got their side of the story on the problems with the prison. One threatened me with a knife and said he would cut my neck and another threatened to shoot me with a gun. They said they were going to take me to the prison to look after the prisoners. It was not a pleasant experience."
Marc Neil-Jones, 51, is a Vanuatu citizen and an insulin dependent diabetic. He has been a strong campaigner for media freedom and has been assaulted on previous occasions. The Daily Post said he had suffered from high blood pressure since being illegally thrown in the prison by police after he had demanded the suspension of a police officer for assaulting his sports journalist in a rugby game between police and USP a few years ago.
After being freed, Marc wrote about human rights violations against prisoners. In 2000, he was deported by then Prime Minister Barak Sope for publishing "state secrets"- including "the news that eventually got Sope convicted in court".
Commander South Superintendent John Taleo says police are "investigating". Pictures: Vanuatu Daily Post
Pacific Beat audio: Vanuatu alleges bashing by prison guards
Pacific Media Watch condemned the "cowardly" assault, Media Asosiesen Blong Vanuatu (MAV) deplored it while also criticising "biased reporting" and the Pacific Freedom Forum denounced the "outrage". But not all media groups in Vanuatu are so supportive. A response to PMW blamed the "trial by media" style of Daily Post reporting as a source of some problems in Vanuatu. DP editor Kiery Manassah penned this "caught in the crossroads" commentary about the affair. Marc later called for a review of Australian and NZ aid to Vanuatu - especially NZ which is funding a revamp of Vanautu Correctional Services and "should be worried about how its money is spent" if officers are abusing their power.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
PROTESTS in New Zealand over the massacre in Gaza kept up the pressure in the hours before Israel unilaterally declared a ceasefire. In Auckland, red paint bombs - signifying the Gaza bloodshed - and shoes were hurled at Rakon Industries, a company alleged to manufacture crystal oscillators for bombs used by the Israeli military. Nearly 1200 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli offensive began on December 27. Thirteen Israelis have died. Rakon protest photos by Del Abcede.
Incidentally, Gaza was among the topics in James Murray's new blog this week at TV3 - Views on the news. He isn't too keen on the lame name, but he plans to stir up the ethical minefields. All power to you, James.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Meanwhile, he has had a spot of bother with his Kiwi branch of the Taimi 'o Tonga publishing operation. Last weekend's Sunday Star-Times reported the closure of its local publishing company, the Lali Media Group - liquidated because of an unpaid tax bill. Moala blames it on a management communications problem. As he is now based back in Nuku'alofa after his stint publishing in exile in Auckland, he had less of a close oversight of the Auckland operation than in the past. But the newspaper, now run by Tonga-based Taimi Media Network, is still going from strength to strength. Another registered company, Taimi Ltd, is now the New Zealand branch. Picture: TNews
GOOD to see the political correctness over Fiji's military regime in Australia and New Zealand has given way to humanitarian principles - at least for the moment. Canberra has upped its aid to A$3 million and Wellington to NZ$600,000. Bula vinaka! According to ABC News, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says $1 million will be spent on emergency food, water and sanitation, including $150,000 that has already gone to the Red Cross. The rest is an immediate contribution for recovery and reconstruction. ABC says Smith rejected suggestions Australia had not done enough soon enough, and said he stood ready to do more.
Auckland-based columnist Ranjit Singh, a frequent critic of New Zealand government policies and hypocrisy over post-coup Fiji, praised Wellington for "having a heart" and directing aid through the Fiji Red Cross. He added in his Fiji Times piece "Will disaster heal rift?":
Congratulations to the National Government for rising above petty-points-scoring and thinking of the suffering of poor people of Fiji, despite its difference with Bainimarama's regime. I hope this feeling will snowball to an extent where, in addition to increased disaster aid, the cooler and moderate heads will get together to engage Fiji in fruitful dialogues that will redeem New Zealand as a caring elder brother and not be branded and perceived as a heartless bigger and richer bully.
And a word of praise from Café Pacific for the efforts of Rotary. Felicity Anderson, in a media "labour of love", has dished out some "photographic evidence to show practical aid is getting through NOW". Pictured is the delivery of emergency boxes. Another $180,000 worth of aid was being despatched today in a deal with NZAID and Air Pacific.
For those keen on donating to help Fiji through Rotary in New Zealand, cheques can be made payable to Rotary NZWCS Ltd Project Account and posted to RNZWCS Ltd, PO Box 20309, Christchurch 8543, or e-banking donations can be made to Westpac Bank A/C 03 1702 0192208 01.
Monday, January 12, 2009
I’m not an avid supporter of the Fiji 2006 military takeover or the far-from-democratic regime it displaced. I’m even less a supporter of New Zealand politicians, diplomats and journalists who wittingly or unwittingly continue to misrepresent the Fiji situation. My credentials? Fifty years of study, research and writing; 16 years of work and residence in the Pacific, eight of them in Fiji.
The current diplomatic crisis should cause us to ask what our Government still hopes to achieve, two years after the military takeover, by the indiscriminate application of its travel ban? The young goalkeeper whose fiancé was the daughter an army officer was not closely linked to the regime. Neither is the daughter of the former Permanent Secretary of Health, or the son of the Permanent Secretary to the President. No one questions the President’s legitimacy and his secretary is a career public servant appointed in 2004, two years before the military takeover.
The Fiji Interim Government was not asking that the travel ban be removed, as the New Zealand public has been informed; only that it not be applied indiscriminately. Our High Commissioner was expelled for more than the travel bans: Wellington allowed her to engage freely with the regime opponents but not in any meaningful way with the Interim Government. Similar reasons explain TV reporter Barbara Dreaver’s expulsion. Her Fiji interviews have been very one-sided. And TV’s continuing use of two-year-old film footage of armed soldiers patrolling Suva’s streets is a little more than innocently deceptive.
It is the responsibility of the media to be informed and fair-minded. They should report that the Interim Government intends to end widespread corruption, check extreme Fijian nationalism and religious fundamentalism, counter laws and practices which discriminate against non-Fijians, check alleged election irregularities, and devise an election system which guarantees these undemocratic practices will not be repeated. And we should be told what its opponents say about these claims. It is reported that the Interim Government has taken no steps towards parliamentary elections. This is not true. We should be informed of these steps, and left to decide for ourselves whether they are genuine or not.
More of the same will not help resolve the Fiji crisis. Fiji is a deeply fractured society with “goodies” and “baddies” in each of its many camps. Its leaders must resolve the situation in the Pacific way, by dialogue and, hopefully, consensus. We can assist this process by adopting a critical but even-handed manner, and demonstrate that we do indeed have some idea of Pacific ways, or we can continue to demonstrate what some see as arrogance and others as an abysmal ignorance of Pacific mores.
I would urge the new government to discard our former PM’s ideological blinkers, and take a new look at what we can do to assist Fiji along the path towards a more inclusive democracy.
University of the South Pacific
We do indeed need a fairer and more balanced media coverage of Fiji - and far more rigorous criticism of the NZ Government's handling of policies.
- Croz Walsh's new blog Fiji: The Way It Was, Is and Can Be
Sunday, January 11, 2009
RANDOM images from the international protest against the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday. Speakers included Green MP and foreign affairs spokesman Keith Locke. Photos: David Robie and Del Abcede
Saturday, January 10, 2009
It's time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.
In July 2005, a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on "people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era." The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions - BDS
for short - was born.
Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause, and talk of ceasefires is doing little to slow the momentum. Support is even emerging among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel. It calls for "the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions" and draws a clear parallel with the anti-apartheid struggle. "The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves.... This international backing must stop."
Pictured: Palestinian women and their large national flag carried at Saturday's Auckland city protest. Note Israel-apartheid links in posters. Photo: David Robie
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Condemn Israeli attacks
There can be no excuse for the totally disproportionate Israeli attacks, which should be condemned by every Western Government without hesitation. The Nazis tended to take 10 French lives for every German killed. This ratio in Gaza is 280 to one. That is the true measure of the appalling nature of what is happening and the tacit support by the US is shameful.
Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli airstrikes. Israeli spokesman Avi Benayahu says this is just the beginning. While he claims the targets are the (official) police force of the (democratically elected) Hamas Government, the reality is that the victims have been a cross-section of the population already weakened by the illegal siege, which has starved them of food and medical supplies.
The international community must demand that Israel stops the bombing ends the siege, removes Israelis from the illegal settlements and abides by UN resolutions.
Bob van Ruyssevelt
Te Atatu South
Rule of law
Israel's merciless military assault on Gaza is a war against the rule of international law, human rights and the Geneva Conventions. The violence continues to be framed as a conflict between warring peoples with equal power. But Israel is a version of an apartheid state, based on racist ideology and a colonial occupying force with one of the most advanced militaries in the world.
The multiple forms of collective punishment currently being inflicted on the Palestinians in Gaza reflect Israel's 60 plus year history of ethnic cleansing: blockades of fuel, food and medicine, and endless brutal attacks promoted as acts of self-defence.
For human rights of the Palestinians to be advanced, Israel must be isolated like apartheid South Africa was in the 1970s and 1980s.
I wonder why our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, has refrained from condemnation of the Israeli military action against the people of Gaza. It is true that the events are saddening, but this calls for public condemnation.
Israel's actions are hugely disproportionate to the dangers posed by the homemade rockets some Gazans launch. Mr McCully's assertion that it is pointless to debate proportionate versus disproportionate use of force is disconcerting and lacking context.
Some 1.5 million Gazans have been effectively starved since June 2007 by Israel blockade of the coastal city.
If I am denied food, water, medicine, fuel, sewage treatment for one and a half years, I would get pretty angry. Yet the rulers of Gaza have honoured a ceasefire for the past six months but saw no lifting of the blockade in return.
When Israel bombed Gaza's elected Hamas Government, university and mosques and killed more than 300 citizens, I sent emails to ten leaders in Israel and New Zealand. Only one of them was not delivered.
The letter addressed to Prime Minister Key was returned with the message:
Undeliverable: (Contains Potentially Offensive Language).
My polite letter contained no word that would embarrass any sensitive person. I was raising questions of policy about which a Prime Minister might welcome comments from citizens he was elected to serve.
I told him that I believe God made and loves all human beings. Hence the Israeli Government's atrocities are comparable to those committed by the Nazis.
By years of brutal occupation, starving and impoverishing 1.5 million people and psychologically damaging half a million children, Israel actually provokes the people of Gaza to retaliate.
Rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza cannot be justified - I said - but if our government does not act to stop this holocaust we will be guilty, like those who did not speak out to stop the massacre of Jews in an earlier one.
Pictured: The bloody hand of Israel - from Electronic Intifada (Greek protest against an earlier Israeli assault in 2006).
A statement by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) called on President-elect Obama to reconsider the nomination, and "make a break from past policies that have undermined human rights worldwide". John M. Miller, national coordinator of ETAN and a key monitor of Indonesia and Timorese media, says:
During his years as Pacific Commander, Blair downplayed human rights concerns. He actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties with Indonesia's military despite its ongoing rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity.
The statement quoted Ed McWilliams, a senior US Embassy official in Jakarta at the time, as saying:
Admiral Blair undermined US policy in the months preceding the U.S.-supported and UN-sponsored referendum in East Timor in 1999. While senior State Department officials were pressing the Indonesian military to end the escalating violence and its support for militia intimidation of voters, Blair took a distinctly different line with his military counterparts.
As Pacific Commander, his influence could have caused the military to rein in its militias. Instead, his virtual silence on the issue in meetings with the Indonesian generals led them and their militias to escalate their attacks on the Timorese.
The extraordinarily brutal Indonesian retaliation against the East Timorese and the UN teams in East Timor following the Timorese vote for independence from Indonesia transpired in part because of Blair's failure to press US Government concerns in meetings with the Indonesian general.
Miller says: "Blair's actions in 1999 demonstrated the failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military's behavior; his actions helped to reinforce impunity for senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day."
According to the ETAN statement, in April 1999 - just days after Indonesian security forces and their militia proxies carried out a brutal churchyard massacre - Blair delivered a message of 'business-as-usual' to Indonesian General Wiranto, then Commander of the Indonesian armed forces. Following East Timor's pro-independence vote, Blair sought the quickest possible restoration of military assistance, despite Indonesia's highly destructive exit from the territory.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
The law gives the Kenyan authorities the power to raid media offices, tap phones and control broadcast content on grounds of national security. Kibaki said he had carefully considered the journalists' concerns but added press freedom must go hand in hand with responsibility. He said the bill was crucial for Kenya's economic development.
In a statement, Kibaki added that regulating the electronic media would promote and "safeguard our culture, moral values and nationhood". The Kenyan Communications Amendment Bill gives the state power to raid media houses and control broadcast content.
Pictured: Kenyan journos protest against the new media law - Daily Nation.
The Fiji Media Council has called for public submissions on the future of the council and its self-regulatory procedures. The deadline is January 16. Café Pacific hopes that this belated, long overdue review will add a constructive and level-headed dimension not too late to have some sobering influence on the regime's planned "catch all" state regulatory framework. One of three people named to conduct the review - Transparency International Fiji chair Suliana Siwatibau - has called for an urgent national feedom of information law in response to a proposed crackdown on state whistleblowers. Write to: Public Submissions, PO Box 11852, Suva, Fiji. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Weapons of Mass Delusions Award for media exposes: The disturbing yet highly entertaining book Flat Earth News by Guardian investigative journalist Nick Davies. Not much on the Oceania region (New Zealand, for example, rates merely a page – with a section in the distorted news-from-nowhere basket), but the insights into “churnalism” are global and examples are rampant throughout the Pacific media.
Transparency Pacific Award for media freedom: Fiji’s military backed regime wins this category virtually uncontested for deporting the country’s two most influential publishers on “security” pretexts – Evan Hannah of the Fiji Times in May and the Fiji Sun’s Russell Hunter in February. As the FT summed it up in its review of the year:
“Not only were they denied their rights, they were stolen in the night and deported despite court orders issued that they be produced in court.
“In fact, so desperate were the state officials to rid Australian nationals before being directly served the orders that Mr Hannah was deported to South Korea, where he had no links at all; neither family or friends.
“And, on the same day Mr Hunter – who was the first to be meted this unsavoury fate, was deported, the Immigration Act was amended to bar any court appeals against the Immigration Minister’s decision to deport.”
George Orwell Award for media insights: Dr Jim Anthony and the Fiji Human Rights Commission for a so-called Fiji media review ironically dubbed in newspeak “Freedom and Independence of the Media in Fiji”. It had been widely known in media circles for some time that some sort of overhaul of the Fiji media self-regulatory mechanisms was long overdue. (If for no other reason than to head off the inevitable government clampdown using the law "promulgation"). A sort of updated Thomson Report (1996 - commissioned by the post-Rabuka coups government) has been needed. But the racist invective and malice directed at the media plus the lack of rigorous methodology in the Anthony report made a mockery of this process. The 2007 NZ Press Council review is an example of how such an exercise can be conducted constructively. Hopefully, the recently announced Fiji Media Council review can produce some answers.
Pseudo Events Award for regional j-school publications: Te Waha Nui student newspaper for its Ossie award for best regular publication. This should be something to really celebrate, but as a co-founder of this paper (in 2004 - and I am no longer involved), I cannot truly share the bubbly. Too many flaws for my liking. The recent website revamp isn’t a patch on its newcomer rival NewsWire at Whitireia Journalism School. (An example of this was NewsWire’s vigorous coverage of the NZ general election – TWN started off well and then abandoned coverage two weeks before the actual poll). And recent reflections on gatekeeping at the paper are rather revealing. Incidentally, Pacific uni j-school papers – such as Liklik Diwai, Uni Tavur (deceased) and Wansolwara – have done remarkably well in the Ossies over recent years.
Waigani Ostrich Award for media relations and investigation: Sir Michael Somare’s government for the inept handling of the cash-for-recognition Taiwan affair and stonewalling of the media. The PNG media has an enviable track record for media investigations into corruption and did a fair job in digging over this scandal. But the media-political climate has still had a ticking off from global integrity groups and the industry failed to live up to its achievements with an ugly end-of-year brawl.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The expulsion order on McDonald followed further accusations by the regime of Australian and NZ diplomats meddling in Fiji politics and spying. One of the interesting stories in the lead-up to the twin expulsions, was Vernon Small's account of NZ Foreign Minister Murray McCully's staged leak with selected journos. "McCulliavelli's" ploy backfired when TVNZ's Barbara Dreaver was detained last week and sent packing back to New Zealand. Pictured: Fiji Times image taken outside McDonald's home in Suva.
Like the case with Michael Green [expelled last year], the interim government gave no reason for the expulsion, especially when the decision came a day after interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum called for reconciliation and better dialogue with Fiji's neighbours — Australia and New Zealand.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum denied that the expulsion had anything to do with the travel ban imposed on members of the interim government, the military and their family members.
In the last few weeks, the interim government has attacked New Zealand for refusing to allow three people –– the children of military officers and interim government appointees –– to enter the country on sports and study leave.
One of the victims was George Nacewa, son of Rupeni Nacewa, the secretary to the President.
Meanwhile, back to the festive season. Café Pacific wishes readers and followers a Hepi Krismas and fruitful 2009! Check out Pacific Media Centre during the break.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Undoubtedly, this Fiji panel will come up with a far more robust report and recommendations than the discredited Jim Anthony report. But its limited brief is unlikely to satisfy those civil society groups and commentators who are highly critical of the Fiji media, nor is it likely to quell the regime's frustration with what it sees as a one-sided news media industry.
The muted terms for reference for the Fiji media review include looking into:
- how the Fiji Media Council has carried out its responsibilities as provided for under the constitution
- the complaints process
- the relationship with the government
- its responsibilities to the public
- the administration of the council and the role and remuneration of the chairman and secretary
- the funding of the council
Probably the most insightful commentary about what ought to be done with the Fiji Media Council was presented last month by Fiji Times associate editor Sophie Foster at the University of the South Pacific journalism awards.