NZ aid workers’ open letter condemns broadcaster for Pacific ‘leeches’ attack

By RNZ Pacific

OPINION: An open letter to broadcaster Heather du Plessis-Allan on behalf of New Zealanders who have worked, and those are who are still working, in development in Solomon Islands:

Heather du Plessis-Allan’s recent comments on [Newstalk ZB] that the Pacific are leeches on New Zealand is dangerously ignorant, insulting to Pacific Islanders working hard for their countries, and undermines New Zealand itself.

This open letter is supported by a group of New Zealanders who have worked and those are who are still working in development in the Solomon Islands and condemns Ms du Plessis-Allan’s remarks on Newstalk ZB as well as Newstalk ZB’s implicit support.

History has shown that the dehumanisation of a group of people by referring to them as a class of non-human animals liberates aggression and has far-reaching consequences in enabling one group of people to hurt the other group. Well-known examples of this have been shown in the calling of Tutsi people as “cockroaches”, Bosniaks and Croatians as “aliens”, and Jews as “rats and parasites”.

READ MORE: Tongan scholars lodge protests over broadcaster’s ‘leeches’ jibe

Journalism and broadcasting plays a crucial role in all countries as voices and opinions are distributed nationwide, and so the spread of hatred should have no place in this process. National broadcasters should know better.

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Here in the Solomon Islands, we work alongside many hardworking people. We work across a range of sectors, including governance, justice, climate change, health, education, youth, tourism, infrastructure, and journalism.

We work with people from the country leader level down to the staff out on the field. While of course no country is without bad people here and there, they are always outnumbered by the many good people who are dedicated to the development of the country.

It would not be surprising to find that Solomon Islanders are vastly dedicated to their own development, equally if not more so, than those in New Zealand. We have no doubt that the Solomon Islands are not unique in the Pacific in this aspect.

‘Hellholes’ insult
To paint entire countries and regions as hellholes and leeches is an insult to the good people working hard to make a change.

Finally, as there are many exemplary New Zealanders who have dedicated many years working across the Pacific Islands to help build capacity and strengthen institutions, it follows that the remarks belittle our efforts. To say that Pacific Islanders are leeching off us is a gross misunderstanding of the situation and undermines the credibility of the work of New Zealanders in the field.

Heather du Plessis-Allan … the open letter writers in Solomon Islands say “the fraction of money that the NZ government spends here is well worth the returns we receive.” Image: RNZ Pacific

Foreign aid exists not simply as a charity, but it is well understood that helping our neighbours helps us in return. In turn, we have more trade partners, better prevention of epidemics, better regional and national security, improved international relations, and of course a better reputation for New Zealand. To say that the Pacific Islands don’t matter shows a lack of understanding. The fraction of money that the New Zealand government spends here is well worth the returns we receive.

We understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We simply hope that the opinions are well-formed, evidence-based, and do not spread hatred due to gross generalisations and misinformation.

However, while her comments have certainly not gone unnoticed here in the Solomon Islands, the general reaction from Solomon Islanders indicates an understanding that the unfortunate actions of a few individuals do not represent an entire nation, let alone an entire region.

Solomon Islanders continue to hold New Zealand and New Zealanders in high regard and we New Zealanders working here are confident that this remains the case.

On behalf of:

Nid Satjipanon
Howard Lawry
Rosalind Lawry
Kate Haughey
Anna O’Keefe
Sophie Lewis-Smith
Elisabeth Degremont
Jack Thompson
Craig Hooper
Pip Stevenson
Catherine Hanson-Friend
Patrick Rose
Nicole Herron
Jackie Cronin

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

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Pacific Island leaders tightening the screws on press freedom, dissent

ANALYSIS: The three-hour “detention” of television New Zealand Pacific affairs reporter Barbara Dreaver for “breaking protocols” over interviewing refugees on Nauru. But Josef Benedict reports this is just part of the dismal media freedom scene in the Pacific.

At this week’s gathering of key Pacific Island leaders on the Micronesian island of Nauru, conspicuously missing were journalists from Australia’s public broadcaster.

This was because the South Pacific’s smallest nation has refused visas to journalists from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to enable them to attend and cover the four-day Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit.

And one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists, Television New Zealand’s Barbara Dreaver was detained for more than three hours yesterday after interviewing refugees from the notorious Australian-established detention centres on the island. The Nauru government claims she was not “detained”, merely “questioned’.

READ MORE: Self-immolation, hunger strikes and suicide: Children on Nauru want to die

The Nauru government’s ban on the ABC, it says, is in retaliation for the news organisation’s “blatant interference in Nauru’s domestic politics prior to the 2016 elections, harassment of and lack of respect towards our President and… continued biased and false reporting about our country.”

But some say ABC’s criticism of Nauru’s policies on notorious Australian-run refugee detention centre on the island – plagued by widespread reports of physical, psychological and sexual abuse, with at least five suicide deaths to date – may have more to do with it.

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Those controversial camps are not on the agenda and not likely to be a subject of much discussion within the forum which ended today.

And neither is the issue of free speech and media freedom, since efforts to repress critical reporting has become increasingly common among Pacific governments.

Climate change
It is not only climate change and rising sea levels that threaten the lives and wellbeing of Pacific Islanders. Rising levels of official intolerance of dissent and free speech across the region pose a threat to the wellbeing of their democracies.

Indeed, CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe, has found that these violations of freedom of expression appear to be systemic in the region.

In Fiji, attempts by the government to intimidate and silence free speech is creating a chilling effect ahead of upcoming national elections and before the date has even been set.

In February, Island Business magazine’s editor and two of its journalists were questioned under the Public Order Act over articles on the firing of a magistrate who had presided over a union dispute.

The 2016 sedition charges against The Fiji Times – widely regarded as the country’s last independent news outlet – saw its publisher, editor-in-chief and two others hauled through the courts over a reader’s letter to the editor that allegedly contained controversial views about Muslims.

Human rights groups believe the charges were politically motivated. The state has filed an appeal against their acquittal.

Journalists in Papua New Guinea often work in fear and many believe media freedom has been eroded. In February this year, PNG Post Courier reporter, Franky Kapin, was attacked and assaulted by staff from the Morobe Province Governor’s office for alleged biased reporting.

Journalists threatened
Journalists continue to be threatened and barred from covering the ongoing crisis at the Australian refugee detention center on Manus Island (after its closure) in the country’s north.

Senior Papua New Guinean journalist Titi Gabi says that increasing outside interference of the editorial process and the bribing and threatening of journalists has led to media freedom no longer being enjoyed in the country.

After a passenger ferry sank in Kiribati in February, leaving 93 people dead, authorities barred foreign journalists from entering the country to report on the disaster.

Meanwhile, the government of Samoa was criticised by a media freedom lobby group earlier this year for seeking to repress freedom of expression by reintroducing legislation on criminal libel without proper public consultation

Civil society groups in the regional power of Australia are extremely concerned about the impact that changes to security laws will have on fundamental freedoms. The National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 and the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017 were met with a storm of protest from media outlets and civil society organisations.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights has criticised the legislation, warning that the measures will have a “severely chilling effect upon academic research, free speech, and particularly constitutionally-protected free political speech”.

According to Amnesty International Australia, the draconian laws will make it a crime for charities to expose human rights violations, and to communicate with the United Nations about those violations.

Stifled free speech
So, why are governments in the region working to increasingly stifle free speech?

For one, they are coming under growing public scrutiny, led by journalists and civil society using social media, for abuse of power, lack of transparency and corruption at various government levels.

News stories exposing official human rights violations have received global attention, thanks to the efforts of international media and non-governmental organisations. Averse to the negative publicity, Pacific governments have responded with repressive action.

Also, civil society groups in the Pacific are increasingly raising not just national concerns but sensitive regional ones as well, such as rights abuses in West Papua, a region in Indonesia where there is an active pro-independence movement, and in refugee detention centres in Nauru and PNG’s Manus Island.

Asylum seekers stand behind a fence in Oscar compound at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea. This has now been closed but problems remain for the asylum seekers, “stranded’ against their will within the Manus community. Image: Eoin Blackwell/AFP/Asian Correspodent

Seeking to appease regional powerhouses Indonesia and Australia as they appeal for economic investment, governments of small island states have no qualms trying to silence those speaking out on these issues at home.

In turn, the “growing influence of China” has also been cited as a justification for Australia’s new security policies. But many believe another objective is to keep government dealings from the public.

This regional trend flies in the face of Pacific countries’ clear commitments to respect and protect freedom of expression.

Good governance
In 2000, governments signed the Biketawa Declaration committing themselves to democracy, good governance, protection of human rights and maintenance of the rule of law. At the meeting in Nauru, leaders are expected to sign a Biketawa Plus Declaration, building on the original document.

In recent years, island nations have also made commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels contained in Goal 16. Ensuring fundamental freedoms is pivotal to meeting this goal, as well as the other 16 SDGs.

Leaders at the gathering needed to reiterate their nations’ commitment to fundamental freedoms in its communique and demonstrate it – to create an enabling environment for both the media and civil society to work without fear of criminalisation, harassment and reprisals.

Failing to do so – and the detention of Barbara Dreaver yesterday – are clear signs that the forum is willing to undermine its international obligations and its commitment to democracy and the rule of law.

Josef Benedict is a civic space research officer with global civil society alliance Civicus and a contributor to Asian Correspondent. This article is republished from Asian Correspondent with the permission of the author.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Dan McGarry: Want to lead in the Pacific? Try listening first

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Dan McGarry: Want to lead in the Pacific? Try listening first

Cathy Wilcox’s Sydney Morning Herald cartoon is a showcase for everything that’s wrong with Australian foreign policy. Cartoon: Cathy Wilcox/SMH/VDP

By Dan McGarry in Port Vila

The average Australian’s conception of Pacific island nations is so limited it makes some of us wonder if they even want to understand. Our voices—and our reality—have been pointedly and repeatedly ignored in the media, and in the corridors of power.

An Australian news service breathlessly proclaims Chinese plans to build a military base only a short flight away from Brisbane, and the Canberra commentariat has kittens.

Vanuatu insiders say “it was never on the cards”.

“Yes, but it was discussed!” insist defence analysts.

“A base was never discussed and it would never happen,” says Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister.

“Yes, but a Chinese military presence is in the works!” insist the same analysts.

-Partners-

“Vanuatu would never agree to this and anyone who says otherwise is indulging in malicious speculation,” says Vanuatu’s Prime Minister.

“Cold warriors”
“Here’s the wharf where it’s going to happen!” announce Australian media, and a chorus of “cold warriors” claim that Australia is forsaking its God-given leadership role in the Pacific.

“We, uh, have our own leaders,” say Pacific islanders.

“Yes, but they’re drowning your countries in debt!” cry the politicos.

“Well, we’re not perfect, but there’s no crisis,” say our analysts. “Our debt to GDP ratio is less than half of Australia’s.”

“China is slyly using debt/equity swaps to take over your infrastructure!” Canberra cries.

“No, actually. Our loans don’t contain language that would allow that,” reply the islanders, who by this time are wondering why they even bother saying anything.

The Chinese Bases folderol is just the latest chorus in a litany of Australian indifference to Pacific voices. Every time some tendentious prat opens their mouth and starts telling the Pacific that what’s good for Australia is obviously good for us, the entire region sighs.

Collective eye roll
That jolt you just felt was a collective eye roll that nearly tipped the island.

Can we get something clear? If you want us to listen to you, you’ve got to listen to us.

It may have escaped your attention, but there was an earthquake in Papua New Guinea recently.

It affected over half a million people, killing 150 outright and leaving 270,000 in need of humanitarian assistance. The situation remains desperate, and the breakdown of law and order in some areas has made it impossible for aid organisations to work.

You can be forgiven for not knowing this. There were no Chinese warships involved.

As you read this, massive ash falls from an active volcano are forcing 11,000 Ni-Vanuatu to relocate for the second time in six months. Thousands may never return home. No Chinese warships were involved, so again, you might not have heard.

Make no mistake: When the Pacific is in need, Australia helps. It helps more than any other nation. But the overwhelming majority of Australians don’t seem to know or care that it does.

They don’t know
If they knew, they’d probably care. But they don’t know, so they have no reason to care.

This is the fault of the media. Specifically, it’s an editorial failure. Reporters are champing at the bit to share our stories, but producers and editors constantly baulk at the time and expense of reporting from and about the Pacific islands.

On the morning Vanuatu announced the evacuation of 11,000 people from the volcanic island of Ambae, the journos who broke the Chinese base story were still in Vanuatu. When told the news, they doubted that Fairfax would pay for them to go to Ambae to report on the exodus.

This is the same company that gladly paid a team to spend a week reporting on a defence analyst’s fever dreams, someone whom the team members themselves admitted might be paranoid.

The main difference between Beijing and Canberra is that Beijing listens. For better or for worse, Chinese diplomats listen to what Pacific leaders want. Often enough, they give it to them.

And more often than not, Australian pollies wait patiently for Pacific Islanders to finish speaking, then tell them what they need. There is a pervasive and deeply pernicious perception in the foreign policy establishment that Pacific voices don’t count.

Political cartoon
A recent political cartoon in the Sydney Morning Herald distils the attitude prettily.

An island with nothing but a grass shack and a few benighted dark people is deserted by its erstwhile benefactors, and left to the tender mercies of a shipload of Asian hucksters.

Without Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull and the gang, we’re left helplessly clutching our cowrie shells.

The image is so absurdly parochial it borders on outright racism.

Who benefits from these Chinese wharves? We do! The people of Vanuatu. You might have heard of us. We live here.

Beginning this week, that wharf will be the landing point for thousands of people displaced by natural disaster. Australian relief ships will no doubt be welcomed, too.

Let’s see how many headlines our devastated lives derive.

My guess is zero—unless we invite the Chinese navy to help.

Dan McGarry is media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post group. This article is republished with permission.

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Racist reporting still rife in Australian media, says new monitoring report

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Racist reporting still rife in Australian media, says new monitoring report

New research shows Muslims are more negatively portrayed in the media than other groups. Image: Lukas Coch/AAP/The Conversation

By Dr Christina Ho in Sydney

Half of all race-related opinion pieces in the Australian mainstream media are likely to contravene industry codes of conduct on racism.

In research released this week, the Who Watches the Media report found that of 124 race-related opinion pieces published between January and July this year, 62 were potentially in breach of one or more industry codes of conduct, because of racist content.

Despite multiple industry codes of conduct stipulating fair race-related reporting, racist reporting is a weekly phenomenon in Australia’s mainstream media.

We define racism as unjust covert or overt behaviour towards a person or a group on the basis of their racial background. This might be perpetrated by a person, a group, an organisation, or a system.

The research, conducted by not-for-profit group All Together Now and the University of Technology Sydney, focused on opinion-based pieces in the eight Australian newspapers and current affairs programmes with the largest audiences, as determined by ratings agencies.

We found that negative race-related reports were most commonly published in News Corp publications. The Daily Telegraph, The Australian and Herald Sun were responsible for the most negative pieces in the press. A Current Affair was the most negative among the broadcast media.

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Chart 1: Number of race-related stories by outlet and type of reporting. Source: Author

Muslims were mentioned in more than half of the opinion pieces, and more than twice as many times as any other single group mentioned (see chart 2).

Chart 2: Number of race-related stories by outlet and ethnic minority group. Source: Author

Portrayed more negatively
Muslims were portrayed more negatively than the other minority groups, with 63 percent of reports about Muslims framed negatively. These pieces often conflated Muslims with terrorism. For example, reports used terrorist attacks in the UK to question accepting Muslim refugees and immigrants to Australia.

This was a recurring theme in race-based opinion pieces over the study period. In contrast, there were more positive than negative stories about Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders.

Chart 3: Number of stories by ethnic minority group and type of reporting. Source: Author

Negative commentary about minority groups has lasting impacts in the community. An op-ed in The New York Times recently highlighted the impact that racism in the media has on individuals. It explained:

…racism doesn’t have to be experienced in person to affect our health — taking it in the form of news coverage is likely to have similar effects.

The noted effects include elevated blood pressure, long after television scenes are over. Racism is literally making us sick.

Note also that given the lack of cultural diversity among opinion-makers, particularly on television, social commentators are largely talking about groups to which they do not belong. According to the 2016-20 PwC Media Outlook report, the average media employee is 27, Caucasian and male, which does not reflect the current population diversity of Australia.

This creates a strong argument for increasing the cultural diversity of all media agencies to help minimise the number of individuals or groups being negatively depicted in race-related reports.

Our research echoes the findings of the UN expert panel on racial discrimination, which reported last week that racist media debate was on the rise in Australia. The UN recommended the Australian media “put an end to racist hate speech” in print and online, and adopt a “code of good conduct” with provisions to ban racism.

Urgent recommendations
Our report makes urgent recommendations to strengthen media regulations in relation to race-based reporting, to support journalists to discuss race sensitively, and to continue media monitoring.

While media regulations enable audiences to make complaints about racism in the media, under some codes, audiences have only 30 days to do so. The research report recommends that this deadline be removed to allow audiences to make complaints about racist media content at any time.

It also calls for the definition of racism be broadened in the codes of conduct to include covert forms of racism. Covert racism includes subtle stereotyping, such as the repeated depiction of Muslim women with dark veils, implying secrecy and provoking suspicion.

News agencies need to do more to help journalists address race issues responsibly. They can do this by providing training, recruiting more journalists of colour, and ensuring that their editorial policies are racially aware.

The media are meant to hold up a mirror to society. When it comes to race-related reporting, we need a more accurate portrayal of the successes of Australian multiculturalism.

Dr Christina Ho is senior lecturer and discipline coordinator in Social and Political Sciences, University of Technology Sydney. Priscilla Brice and Deliana Iacoban from All Together Now, a not-for-profit group working to combat racism, also contributed to this article. Republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence.

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