Hard-hitting documentary explores Tongan ‘deportee dumping’ lives

In Gangsters in Paradise – Deportees of Tonga, Vice embeds with four Tongan nationals who have been sent back to where they were born after serving prison time in New Zealand and the United States. Video: Vice Zealandia

By Philip Cass

“It’s like crabs being stuck in a bucket scratching each other to get out.”

“It’s like rubbish dumping.”

Those are two views about the crisis facing Tonga as countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand deport criminals to the kingdom.

The first comes from a deportee who talks about how it feels being sent back to struggle for a living in a country with which he and other former prisoners are often barely familiar.

The other is from Tonga’s former Commissioner of Prisons, who wants Western countries to take more responsibility for the people they deport and stop treating Tonga – along with Samoa and Fiji – as dumping grounds for people they regard as “rubbish”.

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READ MORE: Responses to Gangsters in Paradise

They are, he reminds us, human beings.

The two views come from a hard-hitting documentary, Gangsters in Paradise – The Deportees of Tonga. A regular contributor to Kaniva Tonga news, photographer Todd Henry, acted as associate producer for the Vice Zealandia documentary.

Talia’uli Prescott … permanently banned from NZ – “I loved being a bad guy, but now I want to be a good guy,” Image: Vice/Kaniva News

Statistics show that the United States deported 700 criminals to Tonga between 1992 and January 2016, an average of 29 criminals a year. However, police figures show that up to 40 percent of the criminals deported to Tonga have come from New Zealand.

Most of the deportees are men between 25-35 years and have usually done time for assault, robbery, burglary, theft and drug offences.

20 years absences
Most have lived outside Tonga for 20 years.

Last year former Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said about 400 Tongans had been deported from the US, Australia and New Zealand since 2012.

More than half had partners or children living overseas.

Gangsters in Paradise is not comfortable viewing. It begins with an interview with a deportee who admits to having been jailed when he was barely out of childhood for shooting another boy four times in the stomach.

Violence played a big part in his upbringing, as it did in the lives of other deportees. For others, migration and re-migration provided a disturbed and unstable childhood.

Talia’uli Prescott talks about joining the King Cobras in New Zealand. They were aiga he tells the camera, explaining that it is a Samoan word for family.

“When you don’t have a family, they give you one,” he explains.

Permanently banned
He is permanently banned from New Zealand.

“That’s the only world I know,” he says.

“It’s very sad.”

By good fortune he has a job at Queen Salote wharf and says that he doesn’t want his legacy to be as somebody who was deported to Tonga.

“I loved being a bad guy, but now I want to be a good guy,” he says.

Other deportees have had a harder time fitting in.

As American deportee Sione Ngaue says: “We’re judged before they even get to know us. We have a red ‘X’ against us.”

Family land
Some deportees, like Ngaue, have staked a claim to family land. He works 6 hectares after a dispute with his uncles.

While some of the interviewees regard their time in prison as a chance to rethink their lives and gain a different perspective, others have brought nothing but trouble to Tonga.

Tonga is in the midst of a methamphetamine crisis and some deportees have gone back into the drugs trade.

One scene in the film shows a dealer preparing methamphetamine for sale, boasting that he can make TP$5000 (NZ$3200) from his Sunday night trading.

And sympathetic as he might be to their plight, Prisons Commissioner Sione Falemanu says deportees have brought more crime to the kingdom and sparked a wave of robberies.

With the Tongan diaspora spread between Sydney and Salt Lake City, this issue is clearly not going to go away. After a public screening of the documentary in Auckland last week, members of the audience who spoke during a talanoa, were sympathetic, but others warned that the deporting countries would also have to take note of what was happening.

“In all honesty, this is an ongoing issue, and believe it or not, it won’t be resolved in the near future. We’re going to have a lot of deportees. And to be honest, we need to start removing the [negative] perception around deportees,” one audience member said.

However, another warned: “If New Zealand does not actually pay attention to what we are seeing, it’s going to backfire on New Zealand. We’re already seeing it.”

Dr Philip Cass is an editorial adviser for Kaniva Tonga.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Papuans plan to boycott Indonesian elections, say independence activists

Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua spokesperson Surya Anta (centre) speaking at LBH Jakarta last week. Image: CNN Indonesia

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

West Papuan people will not take part in Indonesia’s 2019 presidential and legislative elections, say the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) and the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP).

This is because they accuse the Indonesian government of illegal political practices in Papua, of failing to uphold the rights of the Papuan people and because both presidential candidates have a bad track record on Papua.

“Indonesia is a state which since the declaration of the Trikora operation on December 19, 1961, has conducted illegal political activities in the territory”, said FRI-WP spokesperson Surya Anta at the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) offices in Central Jakarta last week.

READ MORE: Surprise at no mention of Papua in presidential hopefuls’ speeches

“Because of this we are taking a position and declaring that we will not take part in the 2019 presidential or legislative elections,” he said.

Anta explained that what they mean by the territory of West Papua was an area extending from Numbai to Merauke, Raja Ampat to Baliem and Biak Island to Adi Island.

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The groups also believe that the contestants in the 2019 election on April 17 are the same as those in previous elections where candidates are only interested in gathering votes from the Papuan people.

However, there has been no effort by the legislative, presidential or vice-presidential candidates to uphold the rights of the West Papuan people, they say.

Maintaining colonialism
Speaking in the same vein, Student Struggle Center for National Liberation (Pembebasan) national collective secretary-general Samsi Mahmud said that the Papuan people were not interested in the 2019 elections.

Aside from Indonesia’s illegal political activities, according to Mahmud none of the political parties are articulating the wishes of the Papuan people and the elections are only aimed at maintaining the practice of colonialism.

“[The elections] are a tool for the colonial government to put local power holders in place to safeguard their interests”, said Mahmud.

AMP member Erepul Sama said there was no difference between the two presidential candidates, incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Prabowo Subianto, particularly in their handling of human rights violations.

“Prabowo himself has a bad track record in Papua such as the Mapenduma incident. But this doesn’t mean that Jokowi is any better”, said Sama.

“Jokowi has allowed human rights violations to occur again and again, for example in the bloody Paniai case which has still not been resolved”, he added.

Aside from declaring that they will not take part in the 2019 elections, the FRP-WP and the AMP made three other demands:

  • West Papuans be given the right to self-determination,
  • All organic and non-organic troops be withdrawn from Papua, and
  • Journalists be given free access to Papua.

Background
Operation Trikora was declared by Indonesian founding President Sukarno in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta on December 19, 1961.

It was an Indonesian military operation aimed at harassing and forcing the Dutch out of Netherlands New Guinea in 1961-62 rather than one intended to suppress a nascent independence movement.

The Mapenduma operation was a botched rescue operation in the remote Mapenduma area of West Papua led by then Kopassus commander Prabowo Subianto in 1996 to secure the release of World Wildlife Fund researches taken hostage by the Free Papua Movement.

The attempt ended in a military attack on Geselema village resulting in the death of up to eight civilians.

On December 8, 2014, barely two months after Widodo was sworn in as president, five students were killed and 17 others seriously injured when police and military opened fire on a group of protesters and local residents in the town of Enarotali, Paniai regency.

Shortly after the incident, Widodo personally pledged to resolve the case but four years into his presidency no one has been held accountable for the shootings.

Translated by James Balowski for the Indo-Left News Service. The original title of the article was “Golput, Aktivis West Papua Tuding Jokowi Prabowo Sama Saja”.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Indonesian smear campaigns target Jokowi ahead of presidential election

By Ainur Rohmah in Jakarta

Fake news and hate speech are inundating Indonesia on and offline with the country’s general election just two months away and with presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto and incumbent Joko Widodo locked in a contest for the top spot.

Jokowi, as the president is known, remains clearly in the lead with as much as 20 percent of the voters picking him despite his being the target of torrents of fake news, according to several recent surveys.

The Prabowo team claims the race is closer based on internal surveys – which they decline to share.

READ MORE: Meet the fake news trolls who influenced the US and Indonesian polls for money

A survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) shows Jokowi and his partner, Islamic leader Ma’ruf Amin, with voter approval at 54.8 percent, while Prabowo and his running mate, businessman Sandiaga Uno, are well behind at 31.0 percent.

But in an example of the depth of misleading advertising, survey results of the Indonesian Telematics Society (Mastel) say nearly 45 percent of 1,116 respondents surveyed said they receive fake news and hoaxes every day.

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Unfortunately, 30.3 percent of respondents say they have difficulty checking the truth of such reports, with more than 75 percent of respondents agreeing that false news can disrupt community harmony.

Political issues dominate the fake news transmissions, according to the survey, followed by misleading reports on religion and health.

Chat applications
They can take the form of photos, videos, and narratives, and are mostly distributed via social media (Facebook and Twitter) and chat applications such as Whatsapp.

Among Indonesia’s 265.4 million population, fully half or 132.7 million are internet users, based on research conducted by We Are Social, with almost all of them – 130 million – active social media users.

At least 192 million voters will select the president and their representatives in parliament simultaneously across the country on April 17.

The latest research by the social media monitoring site PoliticaWave found that hoaxes mostly target Jokowi.

“From the presidential elections in 2014 to 2019, it appears that Jokowi is a victim of political hoaxes,” said executive director PoliticaWave Jose Rizal at a press conference in Jakarta.

PoliticaWave also found that the numbers of hoax issues have been rising. The 10 biggest hoax issues relating to the 2019 election include a fake attack on activist Ratna Sarumpaet, who first accused the Jokowi camp of being behind it.

She later switched her allegiance to the president. Others deal with reports of very large government debt; allegations that several containers filled with ballots had been discovered as already cast for Jokowi; toll electronic transactions associated with debt to China; and fake e-KTPs from China.

Many accusations
Jokowi has been accused of being a member of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), of being a closet Christian, of using foreign consultants and of having a fake high school certificate.

Others include that 10 million workers from China have entered Indonesia; and that vice presidential candidate Ma’ruf Amin will be replaced by the former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaya Purnama, who was arrested on trumped up blasphemy charges that played an integral role in his defeat.

“The ten biggest hoax issues are aimed at attacking Jokowi,” said Yose.

Claiming that he was fed up with accusations and hoaxes against him, Jokowi in recent speeches has sought to clarify the various negative allegations and to go after his political opponents.

In early February, he hinted – without mentioning specifically – a campaign team that carried out so-called “Russian propaganda,” a name that has gained increased currency with spectacular charges over Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

The term is construed as an accusation against Prabowo’s camp.

“The problem is that there is a campaign team that prepares Russian propaganda which is (marked) at any time to issue a blast of slander and hoax,” Jokowi said while addressing thousands of supporters in the city of Surabaya.

Foreign consultants
Jokowi accused the Prabowo camp of hiring foreign consultants, who he said were only oriented to victory without considering that their strategy could potentially divide society. He also criticised the opposition for often accusing him of being pro-foreigners even though they themselves used the services of foreigners.

“Their consultants are foreign consultants,” he said. “Then who is the foreign stooge? Do not let us be treated continuously by lies. Our people are smart, whether in the city or in the village,” he said.

Gerindra deputy chairman Fadli Zon denied the allegations.

“We do not use foreign consultants. We can’t afford to pay (foreign consultants),” he said.

Prabowo’s team responded by accusing Jokowi himself of using the services of a foreign consultant named Stanley Greenberg. The accusation was based on an article on a website stating that Stanley had been a consultant to Jokowi.

“A note for all these inquiries,” Greenberg responded publicly. “I have never worked for Mr Widodo in any way. The website you mention is not accurate nor affiliated with me in any capacity.

“Accurate information on our past clients is listed on my official website,” Greenberg wrote through his Twitter account @stangreenberg, attaching his official website.

‘Russian propaganda’
The controversy about “Russian propaganda” also provoked the Russian Embassy in Jakarta to comment.

“We underline that Russia’s principal position is not to intervene in domestic affairs and electoral processes in foreign countries, including Indonesia which is our close friend and important partner,” wrote the Russian Embassy through its official Twitter account @RusEmbJakarta.

But Jokowi’s special team of Cakra 19 said it was convinced that “Russian propaganda” was now being applied in Indonesia, by adopting what is known as “firehoses of falsehoods,” an operation used by Russian hackers between 2012-2017 in the Crimea crisis, the Ukrainian conflict and the civil war in Syria.

“In Russia, this modus operandi has emerged as long ago as the 1870s through the Narodniki movement. This movement was used to bring down the Russian Czar by continually raising negative issues,” said the chairperson of the Cakra 19 team, Andi Widjajanto in a written statement.

“Operation blast of slander aims to make lies defeat the truth. This operation wants to destroy public trust in political authorities, including the media,” said the former Cabinet Secretary and defense expert.

Prabowo’s campaign team, known as the National Winning Agency (BPN), has launched allegations that the Jokowi government has used legal means to get rid of political opponents ahead of the upcoming election.

“Now people who have the potential to gain votes in the BPN circle have begun to be crushed one by one,” Gerindra Party general secretary Ahmad Muzani said.

Hate speech
He charged that a musician-turned politician, Ahmad Dhani, and a cleric leading the Movement 212 – a group of conservative Muslims who held a series of demonstrations against former Jakarta governor Basuki – named Slamet Ma’arif had been the target of what he called “criminalisation”.

Dhani was sentenced to 18 months in prison at the end of January on a charge of hate speech. Ma’arif members are now suspected of a series of alleged campaign violations.

Several other names in Prabowo’s camp were also involved in legal cases or even jailed. Muzani claimed the police were quick to investigate cases involving Prabowo’s sympathizers but not with cases involving or suspected of involving Jokowi’s supporters.

“We have submitted many reports (to the police), but it seems that there is not enough evidence. Whereas when our party was reported, (it was said) there was enough evidence. This is no longer inequality, it is bias,” Muzani said.

Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko denied Muzani’s allegations, emphasizing that the government did not intervene in the legal process.

“That there are (BPN members) who are entangled in legal matters, look to yourselves. It may be something that is wrong (with themselves). So don’t always blame the government,” Said Moeldoko as quoted by kompas.com

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Timorese journalists protest outside Philippine embassy over Ressa arrest

Timor-Leste Press Union president Francisco Belo condemning the arrest and charge of “cyber libel” against Rappler publisher Maria Ressa. Image: Antonio Dasiparu/TLPU

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The Timor-Leste Press Union has protested in front of the Philippine Embassy in the capital Dili in solidarity with indicted Journalist Maria Ressa over her “persecution” and in defence of freedom of the press.

Rappler CEO and editor Maria Ressa is known and respected for her work as a journalist in bringing the plight of the suffering people of Timor-Leste under a quarter century of Indonesian occupation prior to renewed independence in 1999.

The Timorese journalist protest was broadcast by the public broadcaster RTTL.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer, one of the leading Philippine national dailies, reported today that Ressa had accused President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration of acting like a dictatorship and using the law as a weapon to muzzle dissent.

READ MORE: Rappler’s Maria Ressa sees threat to democracy

“What we’re seeing … is a level of impunity that I frankly haven’t seen, and I’ve been a journalist for more than 30 some odd years,” Ressa said after posting bail in a Manila court on Thursday.

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Ressa, who was selected by Time magazine as one of its Persons of the Year last year, is the head of Rappler Inc., which has aggressively covered Duterte’s administration.

Rappler publisher Maria Ressa speaking at a media conference after her release on bail in Manila. Image: Philippine Daily Inquirer

She was arrested Wednesday over a libel complaint from a businessman. Duterte’s government claimed the arrest was a normal step in response to the complaint and had nothing to do with press freedom.

Universities condemn arrest
University leaders and student groups in the Philippines have also condemned the arrest of Ressa, saying schools must defend the truth and press freedom, reports Rappler.

Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) president Father Ramon Jose Villarin and De La Salle Philippines president Brother Armin Luistro urged the universities’ communities to speak out and defend democracy.

“The university shares Maria’s challenge to shine the light on power and be brave in witnessing to the truth. Veritas liberabit vos (The truth will set you free),” Villarin said.

“Lies and false promises of unbridled power, when met with silence, will only make us a nation of slaves,” he added.

Luistro urged Lasallians to “vote with their feet” in the upcoming 2019 elections and make their voices heard to defend press freedom.

Ressa was arrested in connection with a cyber libel case filed by the Justice Department.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Student Council and ADMU publication The Guidon denounced the arrest, saying students would continue to hold the line with Ressa and Rappler.

‘Make our voices heard’
Here are the statements of support from various schools:

Brother Armin Luistro FSC, president of De La Salle Philippines:

“Let’s give our all out support as Lasallians to Rappler. Let’s defend press freedom. Let’s make our voices heard. Let’s vote with our feet and stand with Maria Ressa!”

Father Jose Ramon Villarin SJ, president of Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU):

“In my statement of 13 October 2017, I had occasion to ‘call on everyone in the community to defend our democratic institutions” and to state that “[t]his call to defend our democratic institutions is not even a matter of political partisanship or persuasion. It is a call that is borne out of our conviction about what is right and just and truly democratic.’

“While such pronouncements then pertained to government institutions in particular, the same should be said with regard to freedom of speech, of expression and of the press. No less than the Philippine Constitution recognises ‘the vital role of communication and information in nation-building’ (Constitution, Art. II. Sec. 24) and ‘the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press’ (Constitution, Art. III, Sec. 4).

“There are several rights and freedoms necessary for a democratic society to function. The right to life, the right to due process, the sweet freedoms of speech and of the press – all of these were once considered sacred, inviolable. But as of late these have been called into question; mocked, attacked, degraded.

Rappler, and its brave leader Maria Ressa, have consistently held the line against the erosion of these liberties. It is journalists like her who keep us all informed about the state of our nation, covering different areas of our national life, contributing immeasurably to the wealth and value of our country.

“Too often these days, it is they who wage daily battles against fake news, expose corruption and bring to light illegal practices and wrongdoing by those who lead us.”

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Don’t be silent,’ says defiant Maria Ressa in fight for press freedom

Rappler publisher condemns Duterte government’s “abuse of power”. Video: ABS-CBN

By Iris Gonzales in Manila

The Philippine press has seen many dark days but Maria Ressa’s arrest this week is among the worst.

It signals dangerous times for our country’s democracy, 33 years since it was restored in 1986.

Ressa is a veteran journalist who founded the news website Rappler – and a thorn in the side of President Rodrigo Duterte.

READ MORE: Journalist’s arrest in Philippines sparks demonstrations, fears of a wider crackdown

The feisty journalist, hailed as Time Person of the Year for 2018, was arrested around 5 pm on Wednesday, February 13, by officers of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Maria Ressa … “You have to be outraged like what I’m doing now.” Image: Maria Ressa FB

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The arrest warrant was issued by a local court the day before in connection with a “cyber-libel” case filed by the Philippine Department of Justice against Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr.

The case relates to a story published in May 2012. However, the cyber libel law the story allegedly violated was enacted in September 2012 – some four months later.

The Justice Department filed the case following a complaint lodged by business person Wilfredo Keng, whom Rappler identified in an article as having alleged links to illegal drugs and human trafficking, based on intelligence reports.

‘Abuse of power’
Ressa described her indictment and arrest this week as an “abuse of power” and “weaponisation of the law” against a citizen. She had to spend a night at the NBI office because her warrant was served at 5 pm – a time when government offices were already closed, making it impossible for Ressa to post bail.

The following day she was granted temporary liberty, after posting a P100,000 (US$1900) bail bond at a Manila court.

“These legal acrobatics show how far the government will go to silence journalists, including the pettiness of forcing me to spend the night in jail,” she said.

While Keng had every right to seek redress in the courts, Ressa’s arrest indicates a readiness of government officials to use their power and weaponise the law to go after individuals they perceive as enemies or threats.

Every journalist or critic of the administration is vulnerable. Every action which the government may not like may be put under scrutiny and brought to court.

Let us not forget that President Duterte’s critic, Senator Leila de Lima, is still in jail because of trumped up drug-related charges.

This time, it’s Ressa who is being harassed by the government. But she won’t take it sitting down.

‘Be outraged’
“I’m saying and I’m appealing to you not to be silent, especially if you’re next. You have to be outraged like what I’m doing now,” she said minutes after posting bail.

In a statement, Rappler warned: “No one is safe.”

Apart from cyber-libel, Ressa and Rappler are facing five tax cases. In December 2018, Ressa posted bail twice over alleged violation of the Tax Code. Rappler has also faced revocation of its corporate registration papers by the Securities and Exchange Commission

But, headed by some of the country’s best investigative journalists, Rappler said it would not be cowed by attempts at intimidation and vowed to continue its journalistic duties. ‘We will continue to tell the truth and report what we see and hear. We are first and foremost journalists.’

Ressa’s case will come up in March but her lawyer JJ Disini said they would file a motion to quash and question the information regarding the cyber libel case filed against his client.

The Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, a group of journalists, bloggers and other cause-oriented individuals, has condemned what happened and strongly denounced the continuing harassment of Ressa.

“Her arrest,” it said, “is a betrayal of the guarantees of press freedom and freedom of expressed enshrined in the Constitution. More, its callous execution is an indictment of a weakened justice system; its devious grounds a dangerous fabrication that affects not just journalists, but everyone.”

The international Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have also denounced Ressa’s arrest as “an outrage”.

What happened to Ressa can happen to anyone in my country. Every freedom-loving Filipino must realize this and should stand up against any action that will curtail our freedom as individuals.

As Rappler says, we must all hold the line.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Philippine website editor Maria Ressa held on ‘cyber libel’ charge

Award-winning journalist, publisher and editor Maria Ressa (left) being arrested in Rappler’s newsroom yesterday. She was being kept in detention last night. Image: Maria Tan/AFP/RSF

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The Paris-based global media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned yesterday’s arrest of Maria Ressa, editor of the independent Manila-based news website Rappler, on a “cyber libel” (defamation) charge.

It is referring the Philippine government’s “repeated persecution” of this journalist and her website to the United Nations Secretary-General.

Chosen as one of Time Magazine’s “persons of the year” in 2018, Ressa was spending last night in detention after being arrested at Rappler headquarters by agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) armed with an arrest warrant issued on the basis of online defamation case filed last week.

READ MORE: Rappler CEO Maria Ressa arrested for ‘cyber libel’

“It seems that her arrest was left until the end of the afternoon with the deliberate aim of keeping her in detention overnight,” RSF said.

According to her colleagues, the judge said there was no time to handle the bail request until today.

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The Philippine Justice Department filed the case against Ressa and Rappler on February 6 over an article published in 2012 about alleged ties between a Philippine businessmen and the then president of the country’s Supreme Court.

The charges, which carry a possible 12-year jail sentence, were brought under a cyber crime law that had not yet taken effect when the article was published.

‘No place in prison’
“Maria Ressa has no place in prison and the judicial persecution to which she is being subjected is becoming increasingly unacceptable,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Digging up an old case that was dismissed in February 2018 is absolutely absurd and confirms that this is not justice but an attempt to gag a media outlet and editor recognised internationally for their professionalism and independence.”

Deloire added: “We are asking the UN secretary-general to intercede as quickly as possible to end this harassment. At the same time, we ask the court that handles this case to dismiss all the charges against Maria Ressa and Rappler.”

This is the sixth charge to be brought against Ressa in more than a year of systematic judicial harassment.

Four charges of tax evasion and failing to file income tax returns were brought against Rappler and Ressa last November. A fifth charge, described by RSF as “completely spurious”, was brought in December.

Ressa is one of the 25 members of an international panel created at RSF’s initiative last year that drafted an international Declaration on Information and Democracy.

On the basis of the declaration, the leaders of 12 democratic countries launched a political process on November 11 aimed at providing democratic guarantees for news and information and freedom of opinion.

Media freedom awards
As well as being one of Time Magazine’s “persons of the year,” Ressa also received the 2018 Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists and has become a symbol of the Philippine media’s fight against intimidation by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Philippines is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Press freedom groups around the world, including New Zealand’s Pacific Media Centre/Pacific Media Watch, condemned the persecution, with Pen America saying the arrest showed the Duterte government was “desperate” to silence critics.

“Maria Ressa, along with her colleagues at Rappler, has fearlessly exposed the abuses of the Duterte government, even in the face of relentless harassment,” Pen said.

“By arresting her on these absurd and baseless charges, concerning an article published 7 years ago and prior to the enactment of the very law under which she is being charged, the Philippines government has exposed how desperate it is to silence critics and stamp out independent journalism in the country.

“We call on the Duterte government to immediately drop these charges and release Ressa. Investigative journalism is not a crime.”

#Journalismisnotacrime

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

West Papua film exposes plight of ‘ignored’ local journalists

By RNZ Pacific

A short documentary which highlights the risks of being a journalist in Indonesian-ruled Papua region (West Papua) has won an international film award.

Aprila, directed by Rohan Radheya, took out the best short film award at the 16th Pacific FIFO Documentary Film Festival in French Polynesia.

The Dutch journalist and film-maker’s documentary tells the story of a young local journalist who stopped doing her job after receiving death threats.

READ MORE: FIFO 2019 – the winners

According to FIFO’s website, audience members in Tahiti expressed interest in the insight the film offered into a region and freedom struggle largely unknown to the world.

Radheya said while international attention on Papua often focused on restrictions that Jakarta placed on access for foreign journalists, the plight of local journalists was ignored.

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“What we endure as foreign journalists is nothing compared to what local indigenous journalists in Papua are facing,” he said.

Papuan journalist turned novelist Aprila Waya, the main character in the documentary, said on Facebook: “This is a new thing for me where the process of making this film (more than three years) has taken more energy than writing a novel.

“Anyway, this is not my victory – it’s the victory of all the Papua people.”

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

#journalismisnotacrime

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Jubilee Australia accuses Bougainville over ‘reckless land grab’ law changes

Panguna mine in operation … back in its heyday around 1971. Image: Robert Owen Winkler/Wikimedia Commons/PNG Mine Watch

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

The Autonomous Bougainville Government, led by president Dr John Momis, has been accused by a research and advocacy group of allowing a “reckless land grab” with its planned mining law changes.

The proposed amendments to the 2015 Bougainville Mining Act, along with accompanying legislation, will give the ABG the power to hand over mining leases to all parts of the island not under existing leases to Bougainville Advanced Mining, a new entity created for this purpose.

The ABG would have 60 percent ownership of Bougainville Advanced Mining, while 40 percent would be owned by a foreign partner.

READ MORE: Bougainville’s mining deal meets widespread opposition

Statements made President Momis last week suggested that Caballus mining, a Perth-based company headed by Jeff McGlinn, would be the foreign partner involved, said Jubilee Australia.

“These are radical changes and appear to be nothing more than a reckless land grab,” Jubilee Australia’s executive director Dr Luke Fletcher said in a statement.

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“First, this would hand over control of the majority of the island to the President and his foreign partner, Mr McGlinn.

“Second, the president would have the power to unilaterally distribute leases without any consultation or permission from landowners.

‘Cut out of process’
“As a result, landowners will be cut out of the process. These amendments undermine the principal of free, prior and informed consent,” said Dr Fletcher.

“Doing so is both anathema to Melanesian culture and vitally important in the Bougainville context.

“It is not clear to us that this legislation is even constitutional,” said Dr Fletcher.

“It is a startling and dangerous move. Given the disastrous history of the Panguna mine in Bougainville, which has caused irreparable environmental damage to the Jaba river and was the major cause of the Pacific region’s worst ever civil war, forcing through such enormous changes with very little consultation is a reckless and desperate ploy.”

President Momis told Radio New Zealand the move was justified to enable the Bougainville independence referendum taking place.

“The people of Bougainville are determined to have the referendum and they must find the money to fund the referendum,” the President reportedly.

“One way of doing it would be if we started our own company and generated the revenue to enable us to conduct the referendum. We cannot sit on our hands.

Dubious over plans
However, Dr Flectcher said: “As our recent study of the question demonstrates, we are highly dubious that mines like Panguna could ever raise enough revenue to satisfy both foreign investors and the people of Bougainville,’ said Dr Fletcher.

“It is certainly impossible that the mine will raise any revenue before the independence vote.

“It will take years for the building/repair of infrastructure, the completion of environmental studies and other importance processes that need to take place before the mine can generate revenue.”

The Panguna mine was one of the world’s biggest copper-gold mines until a 10-year civil war forced its closure in 1989.

The war cost up to 20,000 lives and displaced 10,000 people. The Panguna mine was a leading cause of the war and communities have not been offered redress for the damage.

Since 2009, there has been a push to re-open the mine, with proponents claiming that Bougainville needs the mine to be economically independent.

President Momis has been at the forefront of this fight, under the auspices of former operator Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), claiming that it would be the best and quickest option to generate revenue.

In December 2017, however, the president announced a moratorium of mining at Panguna and revoked BCL’s mining licence, after a meeting of landowner meetings voted against such an extension.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

UPNG registrar first ‘victim’ of drastic campus action over fees hike

University of Papua New Guinea … furore over fees. Image: UPNG

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

The University of Papua New Guinea registrar Dr Peter Petsul has become the first victim of the new university council, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

Dr Petsul was suspended on Monday on full pay for 14 days by new Chancellor Jeffery Kennedy at the country’s national university.

READ MORE: Unions slam ‘farcical’ appointment of chancellor, VC

In sidelining the registrar, Kennedy wrote:

“Dr Petsul has been suspended for 14 days starting on 11th February 2019.

“During this period, he is given an opportunity to show cause and respond to the council why drastic actions should not be taken against him.”

-Partners-

Dr Petsul was sidelined after failing to effect a council decision to rescind a decision by the former council to increase school tuition and boarding fees.

Kennedy has instructed the acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Kenneth Sumbuk to appoint an acting registrar to run the administration.

In early January, RNZ Pacific reported that most UPNG students faced a massive 29 percent hike in their fees this year.

Some degree courses, such as medicine and nursing, faced even bigger increases.

At the time, UPNG’s public relations director James Robins said other expenses, such as accommodation, were unchanged.

But Robins said this compulsory fee, along with the annual government budget allocation, was needed to cover basic costs so students can complete their programmes.

Last month, the PNG Trade Union Congress slammed the appointments of Jeffrey Kennedy as chancellor and Dr Sumbuk as vice-chancellor in an ongoing controversy over the university’s governance.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Mata’afa Keni Lesa: Samoan politics and criminal libel – stay tuned

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi … “a rare glimpse into his fears”. Image: Samoan government

By Mata’afa Keni Lesa, editor of the Samoa Observer

It’s all happening in Samoa today.

For such a small country, there really is no dull moment.

With the latest political maneuvering within the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), and the developments in the halls of law and justice during the past couple of days, things are certainly heating up.

READ MORE: Samoan police charge anti-government blogger

The worry is that there is no “atomic bomb” nearby – otherwise all these controversial developments could collectively trigger and cause something – we might regret later on. There is certainly a feeling of uneasiness in the air; that cannot be denied.

We say this because if as Christians we claim that there are no accidents in life, then we must pause and do some soul searching, to discover the true meaning to all these developments. What are they trying to tell us? What are the lessons we can take from it? And why are they happening?

-Partners-

There must be a method to thy madness. Folks, these things don’t just happen out of nowhere. There have been events building up to what we are seeing today, so that we get the feeling something has got to give, somewhere. And it’s not a question of whether it will happen; it’s rather of question of when and how it’s going to unfold.

As powerful as people say he is, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has given a rare glimpse into his fears this week, perhaps explaining a lot of the things he’s been doing and saying lately.

What fear?
What is that fear? Well he’s afraid of the possibility that the political machine called the H.R.P.P. could fall apart.

How do we know? Well he said it himself.

In justifying the party’s decision to forcefully remove long serving member, La’auilalemalietoa Leuatea Polata’iva, Prime Minister Tuilaepa indicated he wants to use the decision against La’auli as a warning to other potential rebellion party members.

“If we don’t do this now, this will be the beginning of the destruction of this party because others will say; well nothing has been done to him so I can try too,” Tuilaepa admitted this week.

The reality is that it’s hard to imagine such a well-oiled machine like the HRPP destructing. It’s even harder to see that happening with a lone member expressing different views, like La’auli has done.

But they say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. La’auli might be alone for now, but who is to say that this is not the beginning of the end?

Which is perhaps why Prime Minister Tuilaepa is hell bent on ensuring party members get the message that no one should dare test his authority. He has thrown everything including the book to make his case here.

Written agreement
“We have an agreement, a written agreement,” he said. “Before you become a member, we have an agreement where you pledge your allegiance to the party. That agreement is your commitment that you will not do anything to harm the party. So once you do something to harm the party, you have made a decision on yourself.”

He continued: “When matters pertaining to the Constitution are raised where amendments are needed, no one is allowed to [vote against the party’s position]. This is where this agreement comes into play.”

“This (HRPP) law applies to when the Constitution is the subject of discussions and amendments. It is why if you decide to vote against, that is you officially informing the party you want to leave and you don’t want to be involved anymore. Which is exactly what was done.”

Interesting, very interesting indeed. Where this episode will head to next we can only wait and see.

The trouble for the government – and Prime Minister Tuilaepa – is that it’s not just being attacked from within, there is a growing number of people – especially Samoans residing overseas – who have become so bold they are starting to stand up and speak their minds.

One of them went the extra mile and threw a pig’s head and dog food at the Prime Minister when he was speaking during a Samoa Airways launch in Brisbane recently. In Samoa this week, Talalelei Pauga was offered an opportunity to explain his actions and what he said was quite telling.

“My approach was on the political level and the reason why I used the pig’s head was because he called the people of my country stinking pigs,” he said. “He also called our people dogs and all that. If you don’t have respect for my people why should I have respect for him?”

‘No fear’
Pauga went on to say that he has “no fear, and I will die for my people.” Well that’s a bit extreme, isn’t it? But it perhaps shows the depth of feeling that exists when it comes to some of the latest political developments in Samoa today.

Speaking of extremes, another one unfolded on Friday when the police charged the man known as “King Faipopo” for allegedly making defamatory statements online against Prime Minister Tuilaepa.

Malele Paulo (his real name) had come to Samoa for his mother’s funeral when he was picked up by the police and charged on Friday night. He spent the night in police custody before he was finally let go yesterday, after surrendering his passport.

Paulo becomes the first person to be charged under the Criminal Libel Act, re-introduced by Prime Minister Tuilaepa himself, last year. This is going to be very, very, very interesting.

So stay tuned.

This editorial was published in the Sunday Samoan, the weekend edition of Samoa’s only daily newspaper, Samoa Observer. It is republished with permission.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media