A protest action by the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) in Indonesia’s East Java provincial capital of Surabaya yesterday demanding self-determination for West Papua has been attacked by a group of ormas (social or mass organisations).
Police later raided Papuan student dormitories in the evening and detained 233 students in a day of human rights violations as Indonesian authorities cracked down on demonstrations marking December 1 – “independence day”, according to protesters.
The group, who came from a number of different ormas, including the Community Forum for Sons and Daughters of the Police and Armed Forces (FKPPI), the Association of Sons and Daughters of Army Families (Hipakad) and the Pancasila Youth (PP), were calling for the Papuan student demonstration to be forcibly broken up.
“This city is a city of [national] heroes. Please leave, the [state ideology of] Pancasila is non-negotiable, the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] is non-negotiable”, shouted one of the speakers from the PP.
However they were only able to get as far as the Surabaya Radio Republic Indonesia (RRI) building before they were intercepted by police from the Surabaya metropolitan district police (Polrestabes) and the East Java district police (Polda).
‘Independence’ day The AMP demonstration was held to mark December 1, 1961, as the day West Papua became “independent” from the Dutch. For the Papuan people, December 1 is an important date on the calendar in the Papuan struggle which is commemorated every year.
The historical moment in 1961 was when, for the first time, the West Papuan parliament, under the administration of the Dutch, flew the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag, symbolising the establishment of the state of West Papua.
Since then the Bintang Kejora was flown alongside the Dutch flag throughout West Papua until the Dutch handed administrative authority of West Papua over to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) on October 1, 1962, then to the Indonesian government on May 1, 1963.
The UNTEA was an international mechanism involving the UN to prepare a referendum on whether or not the Papuan people wanted to separate or integrate with Indonesia.
The referendum, referred to as the Act of Free Choice (Pepera), resulted in the Papuan people choosing to be integrated into Indonesia.
Since then, the administration of West Papua has been controlled by the Indonesian government and the flying of the Bintang Kejora illegal – as it is deemed an act of subversion (maker) – and have responded to protests with violence and arrests.
Police arrest 99 Papuan activists at pro-independence rally in Ternate Arnold Belau of Suara Papua reports from Jayapura that at least 96 activists from the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) were arrested by police in Ternate, North Maluku, after they forcibly broke up a rally in front of the Barito Market.
A Suara Papua source from Ternate said that the FRI-WP action was closed down by police and intel (intelligence) officers and the demonstrators forced into trucks as they were about to begin protesting in front of the Barito Market.
The source said that several activists were dragged and assaulted as they were forced into the truck. “Several comrades who were at the action were dragged and forced to get into a truck by police and intel in Ternate,” they said.
The source said that as many as 99 people were arrested, 12 of them from West Papua and the rest activists from FRI-WP. One of the protesters had to be rushed home because because of breathing difficulties.
“One of the people had difficulty breathing and was rushed home. Twelve people were from Papua and the rest from Ternate. Currently they are being taken to Polres [district police station]”, they said.
Ternate district police Tactical Police Unit head (kasat sabhara) Aninab was quoted by semarak.news.com as saying that the protesters would be taken to the Ternate district police station. ‘Given guidance’ “We will take them to Polres, question them. If in the process of delving into the matter it is discovered that they committed a violation then they will be charged, but we will bear in mind that are still young and [they should be] given guidance,” he said.
Earlier, the protesters sent a written notification of the action to the Ternate district police but it was rejected with police saying that the planned action was subversive (maker).
Upon arriving at the Ternate district police station they will be registered and those who originate from Papua will be separated from those from North Maluku.
FRI-WP is demanding that the Indonesian government must resolve human rights violations in Papua and that the Papuan people be given the freedom to hold a referendum to determine their own future. Background Although it is widely held that West Papua declared independence from Indonesia on December 1, 1961, this actually marks the date when the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag was first raised alongside the Dutch flag in an officially sanctioned ceremony in Jayapura, then called Hollandia.
The first declaration of independence actually took place on July 1, 1971 at the Victoria Headquarters in Waris Village, Jayapura.
Known as the “Act of Free Choice”, in 1969 a referendum was held to decide whether West Papua, a former Dutch colony annexed by Indonesia in 1963, would be become independent or join Indonesia.
The UN sanction plebiscite, in which 1,025 handpicked tribal leaders allegedly expressed their desire for integration, has been widely dismissed as a sham.
Critics claim that that the selected voters were coerced, threatened and closely scrutinised by the military to unanimously vote for integration.
David Robie, who reported from New Caledonia during the 1980s for Islands Business magazine, New Zealand Times and other media, returned to the French Pacific possession to observe last weekend’s historic referendum. He was also on board the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace environmental ship that was bombed by French secret agents during the height of “les évènements”. He reflects in the first of two articles.
By David Robie in Nouméa
Thirty four years ago, on 18 November 1984, Kanak pro-independence leader Éloi Machoro split a ballot box in half at Canala on the East Coast of New Caledonia. His supporters burned ballot papers in the opening salvo in an “active boycott” of French territorial elections.
I was there bearing witness and photos of the protest became symbolic around the world for the Kanak claim to self-determination and sovereignty.
The following month, on 5 December 1984, 10 unarmed Kanak activists were brutally murdered by mixed-race settlers in an ambush as they drove home through the forest from Hienghène to the village of Tiendanite. I was at the funeral, one of the most harrowing moments of my life.
The following year I was on board the Rainbow Warrior for more than 10 weeks on a humanitarian voyage to the Marshall Islands to help Rongelap islanders suffering from the legacy of nuclear testing. The ship was bombed by French secret agents on 10 July 1985, killing Portuguese-Dutch photojournalist Fernando Pereira.
Kanak “security” leader during the 1984 election active boycott. His action with the axe in splitting open a ballot box at Canala led to a series of events culminating in his assassination by French security forces in 1985. Image: David Robie/PMC
A cave siege followed with security forces storming the hideout on 5 May 1988 and killing all the hostage-takers in what is known as the Ouvéa massacre.
The peace negotiations after the Ouvéa tragedy led to the Matignon Accord signed by anti-independence leader Jacques Lafleur and Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) president Jean-Marie Tjibaou and the initial framework that led to the historic independence referendum in New Caledonia last Sunday.
January 1985 cover of Islands Business magazine (Fiji) after the Hienghène massacre. Cover images: David Robie/PMC
However, cultural philosopher and visionary Tjibaou and his deputy Yeiwene Yeiwene were in turn assassinated by Djubelly Wea in a further tragedy on 4 May 1989. I had shared a hotel room with the assassin at a conference in Manila just a few months earlier.
Slight unease Returning to New Caledonia for this historic vote virtually three decades later, my earlier experiences – outlined in two of my books Blood On Their Banner (1989) and Don’t Spoil My Beautiful Face (2014) – gave me slight feelings of unease.
There has been 3o years of relative peace and social justice has definitely improved during that time – even if nowhere enough for the indigenous Kanak people – and there has been significant progress in terms of self-government and economic development.
But what would happen if this vote proved negative and growing aspirations of the Kanaks for a new nation of Kanaky New Caledonia were again denied. On the face of it, it seemed impossible for independence to triumph given the demographic realities.
The rioting and the barricades on the main road near the tribal area of St Louis on the outskirts of Nouméa on Monday were a taste of what might have been with frustrated youth if it had spiralled out of control.
SBS Pacific reporter Stefan Armbruster (left) and SBS French executive producer Christophe Mallet preparing a live news feed from the Noumea’s Hotel de Ville. Video: David Robie/PMC
While some local journalists on the ground were cautious, saying the referendum was hard to call with probably a 50/50 or 60/40 outcome, some anti-independence leaders had been brazenly declaring the election a done deal with a 70/30 outcome.
The conservative politicians have ended up with egg on their face. The pro-independence FLNKS and its ally Palika-UNI did a superb job in mobilising their supporters, especially the young.
Final results confounded the pundits. The “no” slipped to a 56.4 percent vote while the “yes” vote wrested a credible 43.6 percent share of the vote with a record 80.6 percent turnout.
Interesting statistics Closer analysis of the figures produced some interesting statistics.
How they voted: Map showing the results and the breakdown of “yes” (shades of red) and “no” (blue) votes in the 35 communes of New Caledonia. Source: French High Commission/Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes
The cleavage of the territory into the “white” Southern” province and Nouméa, and the “brown” Northern and Loyalties provinces remained (see Part 2 tomorrow) but the stark divisions of the past appeared to be blurring in some places, reflecting an emerging common ground across ethnic divides.
The white South with the bulk of the European population and the core of the territory’s wealth polled a 73.7 percent no vote with 26.29 percent yes vote, a growing pro-independence movement.
Kanak voters in the “white” stronghold of Noumea vote at the Hotel de Ville – the city hall – polling centre. Image: David Robie/PMC
In contrast, in the North province where the FLNKS-ruled local government has consolidated its position. There was a 75.83 percent yes vote and 24.17 percent against.
In the Loyalty Islands, the vote was 82.18 percent yes and 17.82 percent no.
In Canala, where Machoro smashed open the ballot box, the vote was 94.27 percent yes and in Hienghène where the Tjibaou massacre happened (the leader lost two of his brothers in that ambush before he was assassinated) the yes was marginally higher at 94.75 percent.
However, the highest yes vote was in the tiny Belep islands off the northern tip of Grande Terre island. With barely 920 eligible voters, there was almost a 95 percent yes vote.
New Caledonian Independence Referendum Commission President Francis Lamy presenting the official result of the vote to media. Video: David Robie/PMC
‘Liberty, fraternity for all’ French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the vote by New Caledonians to remain French, pledging that the republic would ensure ‘liberty, equality and fraternity” for all.
“The only loser is the temptation of contempt, division, violence and fear; the only winner is the process of peace and the spirit of dialogue,” Macron said in a state television address from Paris.
French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe arriving at the High Commission in Noumea. Video: David Robie/PMC
French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe flew to Nouméa from Vietnam on Monday for a day of meetings with political leaders, customary chiefs and voting commission officials to take stock of the referendum.
After meeting a range of leaders during the day and flying to Koné to meet President Paul Néaoutyine of the pro-independence stronghold Northern province, Philippe made a televised address from Premiere (the local affiliate of France TV) to the territory on Monday night.
Praising the people of New Caledonia for the peaceful conduct of the referendum, he called for a “meeting of the signatories” next month to consider the next step.
Prime Minister Philippe indicated that a fresh approach was now needed with a greater emphasis on social and economic development than political structures and to address “inequalities”.
The prime minister had lunch with students at the University of New Caledonia. Following his TV address and an evening “pool” interview with media, he flew back to Paris on Monday night.
‘Listening to us’ “Édouard Philippe was here to listen to us,” said FLNKS president Roch Wamytan. “Despite the opposition crowing that they were going to dominate 70/30, we have spoken of dialogue and negotiation.”
Anti-independence Rassemblement leader Pierre Frogier said the referendum result “anchors New Caledonia in France” and there was no need for further votes.
SBS French executive producer Christophe Mallet (left) and Pacific reporter Stefan Armbruster interview voters at Noumea’s Hotel de Ville. Image: David Robie/PMC
On referendum day, I travelled around with the SBS crew from Australia, reporter Stefan Armbruster and executive producer Christophe Mallet of SBS French radio. I was keen to get a sense of the reportage and I have the utmost respect for Armbruster’s reporting, particularly from a “diversity” perspective.
They endeavoured to get a “balanced” view of the voting mood by starting off at Nouméa’s Hotel de Ville in the heartland of “white” New Caledonia. They interviewed the first voter and also spoke to a range of voters with different stories to tell.
I was also impressed with their live crosses for both television and radio absorbing a sense of atmosphere and colour.
Leaving the town hall, we visited a new “decentralised” polling station for the Loyalty Island voters with a remarkably long queue for Lifou voters.
Law change A law change was required in France earlier this year to enable the Nouméa -based islanders to vote without having to pay expensive airfares to get to their home islands.
“This is an incredible privilege for us to be here,” said French-born Mallet, who has lived in Australia for 16 years.
A voter, Boris Ajapuhnya, told Mallet in an SBS French interview this was their golden chance, for the Kanak people to express their wish in an historic vote.
“The moment is right now,” he said.
While the indépendantistes might have lost this vote, they did much better than expected. With up to two more referendums to come in 2012 and 2022, they are in a healthy negotiating position with a chance to win independence in the end.
Fiji Sun managing editor business Maraia Vula (middle) flanked by USP Journalism coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh (left), joint winners Koroi Tadulala and Elizabeth Osifelo and Professor David Robie (right). Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
Keynote address by Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie at The University of the South Pacific Journalism Awards,19 October 2018, celebrating 50 years of the university’s existence.
Kia Ora Tatou and Ni Sa Bula
For many of you millennials, you’re graduating and entering a Brave New World of Journalism … Embarking on a professional journalism career that is changing technologies at the speed of light, and facing a future full of treacherous quicksands like never before.
When I started in journalism, as a fresh 18-year-old in 1964 it was the year after President Kennedy was assassinated and I naively thought my hopeful world had ended, Beatlemania was in overdrive and New Zealand had been sucked into the Vietnam War.
And my journalism career actually started four years before the University of the South Pacific was founded in 1968.
Being a journalist was much simpler back then – as a young cadet on the capital city Wellington’s Dominion daily newspaper, I found the choices were straight forward. Did we want to be a print, radio or television journalist?
The internet was unheard of then – it took a further 15 years before the rudimentary “network of networks” emerged, and then another seven before computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web and complicated journalism.
The first rule for interviewing, aspiring journalists were told in newsrooms – and also in a 1965 book called The Journalist’s Craft that I rediscovered on my bookshelves the other day – was to pick the right source. Rely on sources who were trustworthy and well-informed.
This was long before Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post made “deep throat’ famous in their Watergate investigation in 1972.
The second rule was: make sure you get the truth, the whole truth and nothing but… We were told that we really needed to get a sense of when a woman or a man is telling the truth.
This, of course, fed into the third rule, which was: talk to the interviewee face to face. Drummed into us was accuracy, speed, fairness and balance.
Many of my days were spent on the wharves of Wellington Harbour painstakingly taking the details of the shipping news, or reporting accidents.
The whole idea was accuracy, accuracy, accuracy. And what a drumming we experienced from a crusty news editor calling us out when we made the slightest mistake.
If we survived this grueling baptism of fire, then we were bumped up from a cadet to a real journalist. There were few risks to journalists in those days – a few nasty complaints here and there, lack of cooperation from the public, and a possible defamation case if we didn’t know our media law.
It wasn’t until I went to South Africa in 1970 – the then white-minority ruled country that jailed one of the great leaders of our times, Nelson Mandela – that I personally learned how risky it could be being a journalist.
Jailings, assaults and banning orders were commonplace. One of my colleagues on the Rand Daily Mail, banned then exiled Peter Magubane, a brilliant photographer, was one of my earlier influences with his courage and dedication.
However, today the world is a very different place. It is basically really hostile against journalists in many countries and it continues to get worse.
Today assassinations, murders – especially the killing of those involved in investigating corruption – kidnappings, hostage taking are increasingly the norm. And being targeted by vicious trolls, often with death threats, is a media fact of life these days.
In its 2018 World Press Freedom Index annual report, the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without borders (RSF), declared that journalists faced more hatred this year than last year, not only in authoritarian countries but also increasingly in countries with democratically elected leaders.
RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement:
“The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies.
“Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility because they undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda.
“To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire.”
Fifty seven journalists have been killed so far in 2018, plus 10 citizen journalists for a total of 67; 155 journalists have been imprisoned, with a further 142 citizen journalists jailed – a total of 297.
Professor David Robie (centre) with media freedom defenders at the 2018 Asia-Pacific RSF strategic summit in Paris. Image: RSF
In July, it was my privilege to be in Paris for a strategic consultation of Asia-Pacific media freedom advocates in my capacity as Pacific Media Centre director and Pacific Media Watch freedom project convenor.
Much of the blame for this “press hatred” was heaped at that summit on some of today’s political leaders. We all know about US President Trump’s “media-phobia” and how he has graduated from branding mainstream media and much of what they publish or broadcast as “fake news” to declaring them “enemies of the people” – a term once used by Joseph Stalin.
#FIGHTFAKENEWS VIDEO INSERT
Source: Reporters Without Borders
However, there are many leaders in so-called democracies with an even worse record of toying with “press hatred”.
Take for example, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who is merely two years into his five-year term of office and he has unleashed a “war on drugs” killing machine that is alleged to have murdered between some 7,000 and 12,000 suspects – most of them extrajudicial killings.
He was pictured in the media cradling a high-powered rifle and he admits that he started carrying a gun recently – not to protect himself because he has plenty of security guards, but to challenge a critical senator to a draw “Wild West” style.
Instead, he simply had the senator arrested on trumped up charges. Duterte has frequently berated the media and spiced up his attacks with threats such as this chilling message he gave casually at a press conference:
“Just because you’re a journalist, you’re not exempted from assassination, if you are a son of a bitch. Free speech won’t save you.”
The death rate among radio journalists, in particular those investigating corruption and human rights violations, has traditionally been high in the Philippines.
In the Czech Republic late last year, President Miloš Zeman staged a macabre media conference stunt. He angered the press when he brandished a dummy Kalashnikov AK47 with the words “for journalists” carved into the woodstock at the October press conference in Prague, and with a bottle of alcohol attached instead of an ammunition clip.
In Slovakia, then Prime Minister Robert Fico called journalists “filthy anti-Slovak prostitutes” and “idiotic hyenas”. A Slovak reporter, Ján Kuciak, was shot dead in his home in February, just four months after another European journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia of Malta, who was investigating corruption, was killed by a targeted car-bombing.
Last week, a 30-year-old Bulgarian investigative journalist, Viktoria Marinova, was murdered. Police said the television current affairs host investigating corruption had been raped, beaten and then strangled. Most of the media killings are done with impunity.
And then the world has been outraged by the disappearance and shocking murder of respected Saudi Arabian journalist and editor Jamal Khashoggi by a state “hit squad” of 15 men inside his own country’s consulate in Istanbul. He went into the consulate on October 2 and never came out.
The exact circumstances of what happened are still unravelling daily, but Turkish newspaper reports reveal captured audio of his gruesome killing.
BRIEF VIDEO KHASHOGGI INSERT
Source: Al Jazeera’s Listening Post
Condemning the brutal act, United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, expressed fears that enforced media disappearances are set to become the “new normal”.
While such ghastly fates for journalists may seem remote here in the Pacific, we have plenty of attacks on media freedom to contend with in our own backyard. And trolls in the Pacific and state threats to internet freedom are rife.
The detention of Television New Zealand’s Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver for four hours by police in Nauru at last month’s Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit while attempting to interview refugees is just one example of such attempts to shut down truth-seeking. Among the many protests, Amnesty International said:
“Whether it happens in Myanmar, Iran or right here in the Pacific, detaining journalists for doing their jobs is wrong. Freedom of the press is fundamental to a just society. Barbara Dreaver is a respected journalist with a long history of covering important stories across the Pacific.
“Amnesty International’s research on Nauru showed that the conditions for people who have been banished there by Australia amount to torture under international law. Children are self-harming and Googling how to kill themselves. That cannot be swept under the carpet and it won’t go away by enforcing draconian limits to media freedom.”
Journalists in the Pacific have frequently been persecuted by smallminded politicians with scant regard for the role of the media, such as led to the failed sedition case against The Fiji Times.
Professor David Robie with Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley and USP journalism coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
The media play a critical role in exposing abuses of power, such as Bryan Kramer’s The Kramer Report in exposing the 40 Maserati luxury car APEC scandal in Papua New Guinea last week. Papua New Guinea’s Maserati luxury sedans scandal.
In this year’s World Media Freedom Day speech warning about the “creeping criminalisation” of journalism, the new UNESCO chair of journalism Professor Peter Greste at the University of Queensland, asked:
“If we appear to be heading into journalism’s long, dark night, when did the sun start to disappear? Although the statistics jump around a little, there appears to be a clear turning point: in 2003, when the numbers of journalists killed and imprisoned started to climb from the historic lows of the late ’90s, to the record levels of the present.
“Although coincidence is not the same as causation, it seems hard to escape the notion that the War on Terror that President George W. Bush launched after 9/11 had something to do with it.”
Peter Greste himself, and his two colleagues paid a heavy price for their truth-seeking during the post Arab Spring upheaval in Egypt – being jailed for 400 days on trumped up terrorism charges for doing their job.
His media organisation, Al Jazeera, and rival media groups teamed up to wage their global “Journalism is not a crime” campaign.
Now that I have done my best to talk you out of journalism by stressing the growing global dangers, I want to draw attention to some of the many reasons why journalism is critically important and why you should be congratulated for taking up this career.
Next month, Fiji is facing a critically important general election, the second since the return of democracy in your country in 2014. And many of you graduating journalists will be involved.
Governments in Fiji and the Pacific should remember journalists are guardians of democracy and they have an important role to play in ensuring the legitimacy of both the vote and the result, especially in a country such as this which has been emerging from many years of political crisis.
But it is important that journalists play their part too with responsibilities as well as rights. Along with the right to provide information without fear or favour, and free from pressure or threats, you have a duty to provide voters with accurate, objective and constructive information.
The University of the South Pacific has a proud record of journalism education in the region stretching back ironically to the year of the inaugural coups, in 1987. First there was a Certificate programme, founded by Dr Murray Masterton (who has sadly passed away) and later Diploma and Degree qualifications followed with a programme founded by François Turmel and Dr Philip Cass.
It is with pride that I can look back at my five years with USP bridging the start of the Millennium. Among high points were gaining my doctorate in history/politics at USP – the first journalism educator to do so in the Pacific – and launching these very Annual Journalism Awards, initially with the Storyboard and Tanoa awards and a host of sponsors.
When I look at the outstanding achievements in the years since then with current Journalism Coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh and his colleagues Eliki Drugunalevu and Geraldine Panapasa, it is with some pleasure.
And USP should be rightly delighted with one of the major success journalism programmes of the Asia-Pacific region.
Wansolwara newspaper, which celebrated two decades of publishing in 2016, has been a tremendous success. Not many journalism school publications have such sustained longevity and have won so many international awards.
Innovation has been the name of the game, such as this climate change joint digital storytelling project with E-Pop and France 24 media. At AUT we have been proud to be partners with USP with our own Bearing Witness and other projects stretching back for two decades.
Finally, I would like pay tribute to two of the whistleblowers and journalists in the Pacific and who should inspire you in your journalism career.
Firstly, Iranian-born Behrouz Boochani, the refugee journalist, documentary maker and poet who pricked the Australian conscience about the terrible human rights violations against asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. He has reminded Canberra that Australia needs to regain a moral compass.
And activist lawyer communicator Joe Moses, who campaigned tirelessly for the rights of the villagers of Paga Hill in Port Moresby. These people were forced out of their homes in defiance of a Supreme Court order to make way for the luxury development for next month’s APEC summit.
Be inspired by them and the foundations of human rights journalism and contribute to your communities and countries.
Don’t be seduced by a fast foods diet of distortion and propaganda. Be courageous and committed, be true to your quest for the truth.
Professor David Robie is director of the Pacific Media Centre and professor of journalism in the School of Communication Studies at Auckland University of Technology. He is also editor of Pacific Journalism Review research journal and editor of the independent news website Asia Pacific Report. He is a former USP Journalism Coordinator 1998-2002. firstname.lastname@example.org
University of the South Pacific’s award winning Class of 2018. Image: Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
“The ban highlights the lingering limits on free speech in our country and the continued attempts to censor our story of resistance against gross human rights violations,” claimed Paga Hill community leader and lawyer Joe Moses, the main character in The Opposition film who had to seek exile in the United Kingdom after fighting for his community’s rights.
“This censorship comes as a deep disappointment for my community who have suffered greatly over the past six years.”
The Opposition tells the David-and-Goliath battles of a community evicted, displaced, abandoned – their homes completely demolished at the hands of two Australian-run companies, Curtain Brothers and Paga Hill Development Company, and the PNG state.
What was once home to 3000 people of up to four generations, Paga Hill is now part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit “AELM Precinct” which will take place this November.
The PNG Human Rights Film Festival. Image: Programme screenshot
Moses said: “We appreciate the PNG Human Rights Film Festival for choosing to screen The Opposition film at their Madang and Port Moresby screenings.
“It is shameful that our government continues to limit free speech and put such pressure on our country’s only annual arts and human rights event. How does this make us look to the world leaders who will be coming here for the APEC meeting in November?”
‘Speak up today’ Under the theme “Tokautnau long senisim tumora” (Speak up today to change tomorrow) the mission of the PNG Human Rights Film Festival includes: “We are all born free and equal in dignity and rights”.
The international and local human rights films screened “promote increased respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights in Papua New Guinea”.
Paga Hill youth leader Allan Mogerema, who also features in the film said: “The right to freedom of speech and freedom of press is provided for under Section 46 of the PNG Constitution. By banning our story, the PNG government is in breach of our Constitution and our rights as Papua New Guinean citizens.”
The Opposition trailer.
As a human rights defender, Mogerema has been invited to the 2018 Annual Human Rights and People’s Diplomacy Training Programme for Human Rights Defenders from the Asia-Pacific Region and Indigenous Australia organised by the Diplomacy Training Programme (DTP) and the Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP) to share his story of the illegal land grab, eviction and demolition of his community.
“The film has already been screened in settlements across PNG and at the Human Rights Film Festival’s Madang screenings. No matter how hard they try to censor us, our story continues to live, and our fight for justice continues to thrive,” added Mogerema.
“No matter how long it takes, our community will get justice.”
Dame Carol Kidu is also featured in The Opposition film. Initially an advocate for the Paga Hill community, Dame Carol turned her back on them by setting up a consultancy to be hired by the Paga Hill Development Corporation, on a contract of $178,000 for three months’ work.
In 2017, she launched a legal action in the Supreme Court of NSW to censor the film. In June that year, the court ruled against Dame Carol’s application.
Frontline Insight: The Paga Hill struggle. Video: Reuters Foundation
The death of Robert Parry earlier this year felt like a farewell to the age of the reporter. Parry was “a trailblazer for independent journalism”, wrote Seymour Hersh, with whom he shared much in common.
Hersh revealed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the secret bombing of Cambodia, Parry exposed Iran-Contra, a drugs and gun-running conspiracy that led to the White House. In 2016, they separately produced compelling evidence that the Assad government in Syria had not used chemical weapons. They were not forgiven.
Driven from the “mainstream”, Hersh must publish his work outside the United States. Parry set up his own independent news website Consortium News, where, in a final piece following a stroke, he referred to journalism’s veneration of “approved opinions” while “unapproved evidence is brushed aside or disparaged regardless of its quality.”
Although journalism was always a loose extension of establishment power, something has changed in recent years. Dissent tolerated when I joined a national newspaper in Britain in the 1960s has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism moves towards a form of corporate dictatorship. This is a seismic shift, with journalists policing the new “groupthink”, as Parry called it, dispensing its myths and distractions, pursuing its enemies.
Witness the witch-hunts against refugees and immigrants, the willful abandonment by the “MeToo” zealots of our oldest freedom, presumption of innocence, the anti-Russia racism and anti-Brexit hysteria, the growing anti-China campaign and the suppression of a warning of world war.
With many if not most independent journalists barred or ejected from the “mainstream”, a corner of the Internet has become a vital source of disclosure and evidence-based analysis: true journalism. Sites such as wikileaks.org, consortiumnews.com, wsws.org, truthdig.com, globalresearch.org, counterpunch.org and informationclearinghouse.com are required reading for those trying to make sense of a world in which science and technology advance wondrously while political and economic life in the fearful “democracies” regress behind a media facade of narcissistic spectacle.
Remarkable Media Lens In Britain, just one website offers consistently independent media criticism. This is the remarkable Media Lens — remarkable partly because its founders and editors as well as its only writers, David Edwards and David Cromwell, since 2001 have concentrated their gaze not on the usual suspects, the Tory press, but the paragons of reputable liberal journalism: the BBC, The Guardian, Channel 4 News.
Their method is simple. Meticulous in their research, they are respectful and polite when they ask a journalist why he or she produced such a one-sided report, or failed to disclose essential facts or promoted discredited myths.
The replies they receive are often defensive, at times abusive; some are hysterical, as if they have pushed back a screen on a protected species.
I would say Media Lens has shattered a silence about corporate journalism. Like Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent, they represent a Fifth Estate that deconstructs and demystifies the media’s power.
What is especially interesting about them is that neither is a journalist. David Edwards was a teacher, David Cromwell is a former scientist. Yet, their understanding of the morality of journalism — a term rarely used; let’s call it true objectivity — is a bracing quality of their online Media Lens dispatches.
I think their work is heroic and I would place a copy of their just published book, Propaganda Blitz, in every journalism school that services the corporate system, as they all do.
Take the chapter, Dismantling the National Health Service, in which Edwards and Cromwell describe the critical part played by journalists in the crisis facing Britain’s pioneering health service.
‘Austerity’ construct The NHS crisis is the product of a political and media construct known as “austerity”, with its deceitful, weasel language of “efficiency savings” (the BBC term for slashing public expenditure) and “hard choices” (the willful destruction of the premises of civilised life in modern Britain).
“Austerity” is an invention. Britain is a rich country with a debt owed by its crooked banks, not its people. The resources that would comfortably fund the National Health Service have been stolen in broad daylight by the few allowed to avoid and evade billions in taxes.
Using a vocabulary of corporate euphemisms, the publicly-funded Health Service is being deliberately run down by free market fanatics, to justify its selling-off. The Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn may appear to oppose this, but does it? The answer is very likely no. Little of any of this is alluded to in the media, let alone explained.
Edwards and Cromwell have dissected the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, whose innocuous title belies its dire consequences. Unknown to most of the population, the Act ends the legal obligation of British governments to provide universal free health care: the bedrock on which the NHS was set up following the Second World War. Private companies can now insinuate themselves into the NHS, piece by piece.
Where, asks Edwards and Cromwell, was the BBC while this momentous Bill was making its way through Parliament? With a statutory commitment to “providing a breadth of view” and to properly inform the public of “matters of public policy”, the BBC never spelt out the threat posed to one of the nation’s most cherished institutions. A BBC headline said: “Bill which gives power to GPs passes.” This was pure state propaganda.
There is a striking similarity with the BBC’s coverage of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lawless invasion of Iraq in 2003, which left a million dead and many more dispossessed. A study by Cardiff University, Wales, found that the BBC reflected the government line “overwhelmingly” while relegating reports of civilian suffering. A Media Tenor study placed the BBC at the bottom of a league of Western broadcasters in the time they gave to opponents of the invasion. The corporation’s much-vaunted “principle” of impartiality was never a consideration.
One of the most telling chapters in Propaganda Blitz describes the smear campaigns mounted by journalists against dissenters, political mavericks and whistleblowers. The Guardian’s campaign against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most disturbing.
Assange abandoned Assange, whose epic WikiLeaks disclosures brought fame, journalism prizes and largesse to The Guardian, was abandoned when he was no longer useful. He was then subjected to a vituperative – and cowardly — onslaught of a kind I have rarely known.
With not a penny going to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also disclosed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.
With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”.
The Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore wrote, “I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.”
Moore, who describes herself as a feminist, later complained that, after attacking Assange, she had suffered “vile abuse”. Edwards and Cromwell wrote to her: “That’s a real shame, sorry to hear that. But how would you describe calling someone ‘the most massive turd’? Vile abuse?”
Moore replied that no, she would not, adding, “I would advise you to stop being so bloody patronising.”
Her former Guardian colleague James Ball wrote, “It’s difficult to imagine what Ecuador’s London embassy smells like more than five and a half years after Julian Assange moved in.”
Slow-witted viciousness Such slow-witted viciousness appeared in a newspaper described by its editor, Katharine Viner, as “thoughtful and progressive”.
What is the root of this vindictiveness? Is it jealousy, a perverse recognition that Assange has achieved more journalistic firsts than his snipers can claim in a lifetime? Is it that he refuses to be “one of us” and shames those who have long sold out the independence of journalism?
Journalism students should study this to understand that the source of “fake news” is not only trollism, or the likes of Fox news, or Donald Trump, but a journalism self-anointed with a false respectability: a liberal journalism that claims to challenge corrupt state power but, in reality, courts and protects it, and colludes with it. The amorality of the years of Tony Blair, whom The Guardian has failed to rehabilitate, is its echo.
“[It is] an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives,” wrote Katharine Viner. Her political writer Jonathan Freedland dismissed the yearning of young people who supported the modest policies of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “a form of narcissism”.
“How did this man ….,” brayed The Guardian’s Zoe Williams, “get on the ballot in the first place?” A choir of the paper’s precocious windbags joined in, thereafter queuing to fall on their blunt swords when Corbyn came close to winning the 2017 general election in spite of the media.
Complex stories are reported to a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission: Brexit, Venezuela, Russia, Syria. On Syria, only the investigations of a group of independent journalists have countered this, revealing the network of Anglo-American backing of jihadists in Syria, including those related to ISIS.
Supported by a “psyops” campaign funded by the British Foreign Office and the US Agency of International Aid, the aim is to hoodwink the Western public and speed the overthrow of the government in Damascus, regardless of the medieval alternative and the risk of war with Russia.
White Helmets appendages The Syria Campaign, set up by a New York PR agency, Purpose, funds a group known as the White Helmets, who claim falsely to be “Syria Civil Defence” and are seen uncritically on TV news and social media, apparently rescuing the victims of bombing, which they film and edit themselves, though viewers are unlikely to be told this. George Clooney is a fan.
The White Helmets are appendages to the jihadists with whom they share addresses. Their media-smart uniforms and equipment are supplied by their Western paymasters. That their exploits are not questioned by major news organisations is an indication of how deep the influence of state-backed PR now runs in the media. As Robert Fisk noted recently, no “mainstream” reporter reports Syria, from Syria.
In what is known as a hatchet job, a Guardian reporter based in San Francisco, Olivia Solon, who has never visited Syria, was allowed to smear the substantiated investigative work of journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett on the White Helmets as “propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government”.
This abuse was published without permitting a single correction, let alone a right-of-reply. The Guardian Comment page was blocked, as Edwards and Cromwell document. I saw the list of questions Solon sent to Beeley, which reads like a McCarthyite charge sheet — “Have you ever been invited to North Korea?”
So much of the mainstream has descended to this level. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is the “perception”.
When he was US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus declared what he called “a war of perception… conducted continuously using the news media”. What really mattered was not the facts but the way the story played in the United States. The undeclared enemy was, as always, an informed and critical public at home.
Nothing has changed. In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s film-maker, whose propaganda mesmerised the German public.
She told me the “messages” of her films were dependent not on “orders from above”, but on the “submissive void” of an uninformed public.
“Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked.
“Everyone,” she said. “Propaganda always wins, if you allow it.”
* Note from the editors of Media Lens: This is a slightly amended version of the foreword to the new Media Lens book, Propaganda Blitz – How The Corporate Media Distort Reality, published today by Pluto Press. Warm thanks to John Pilger for contributing this superb piece to our book. Republished by Café Pacific under a Creative Commons licence.
RADIO 531pi Breakfast Talanoa host Ma’a Brian Sagala has talked about the Rarotonga Treaty with Café Pacific publisher David Robie.
It was hugely significant for the Pacific. It was sort of like a threshold for the Pacific really standing up to the big powers and predated New Zealand’s nuclear-free law.
It was a huge step forward. It was not only a declaration against France, which was detonating nuclear weapons at the time, but also against the US and Britain that had also conducted many nuclear tests in the Pacific.
The Treaty of Rarotonga formalise the Pacific nuclear-free zone on 6 August 1985 and New Zealand’s own New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act followed two years later on 8 June 1987.
David also talks about the Rainbow Warrior’s humanitarian voyage to Rongelap to help the islanders move to another home across the Pacific Ocean. He is the author of the book Eyes of Fire about nuclear testing in the Pacific.
Report by Dr David Robie – Café Pacific. – Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire talks about the global threat against journalists. Video:Café Pacific By David Robie in Paris WHEN Reporters Without Borders chief Christophe Deloire introduced the Paris-based global media watchdog’s Asia-Pacific press freedom defenders to his overview last week, it was grim listening.
First up in RSF’s catalogue of crimes and threats against the global media was Czech President Miloš Zeman’s macabre press conference stunt late last year.
However, Zeman’s sick joke angered the media when he brandished a dummy Kalashnikov AK47 with the words “for journalists” carved into the wood stock at the October press conference in Prague and with a bottle of alcohol attached instead of an ammunition clip.
RSF’s Christophe Deloire talks of the Czech President’s anti-journalists gun “joke”. Image: David Robie/PMC
Harshly critical While noting the positive response by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to the journalists’ safety initiative by RSF and other media freedom bodies, Deloire was harshly critical of many political leaders, including Philippines President Duterte, over their attitude towards crimes with impunity against journalists.
In the Philippines, for example, there is still no justice for the 32 journalists brutally slain – along with 26 other victims – on 23 November 2009 by a local warlord’s militia in to so-called Ampatuan massacre, an unsuccessful bid to retain political power for their boss in national elections due the following year.
Rappler published a report last year updating the painfully slow progress in the investigations and concluded that “eight years and three presidential administrations later, no convictions have been made”.
Ironically, Rappler itself – hated by President Dutertre – has also been the subject of an RSF campaign in an effort to block the administration’s cynical and ruthless attempt to close down the most dynamic and successful online publication in the Philippines (133rd in the RSF World Media Freedom Index – a drop of six places).
NUJP’s Jhoanna Ballaran … worrying situation in the Philippines. Image: David Robie/PMC
Founded by ex-CNN investigative journalist Maria Ressa, Rappler has continued to challenge the government, described by RSF last year as the “most dangerous” country for journalists in Asia. Duterte’s continuous attacks against the media were primarily responsible for the downward trend for the Philippines in the latest RSF Index, with RSF saying: “The dynamism of the media has also been checked by athe emergence of a leader who wants to show he is all powerful.”
The media watchdog also stressed that the Duterte administration had “developed several methods for pressuring and silencing journalists who criticise his notorious war on drugs”.
Test case The revocation of Rappler’s licence by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is regarded as a test case for media freedom in the Philippines.
The RSF consultation with some of its Asia-Pacific researchers and advocates in the field has followed a similar successful one in South America. It is believed that this is the first time the watchdog has hosted such an Asia Pacific-wide event.
Twenty three correspondents from 17 countries or territories — Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Hongkong, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Tibet — took part in the consultation plus a team of Paris-based RSF advocates.
Asia Pacific head Daniel Bastard says the consultation is part of a new strategy making better use of the correspondents’ network to make the impact of advocacy work faster and even more effectively than in the past.
Curtin University’s Associate Professor Joseph Fernandez … keeping tabs on Australia’s media freedom. Image: David Robie/PMC
The Pacific delegation – Associate Professor Joseph Fernandez, a journalist and media law academic who is head oif journalism at Curtin University of Australia (19th on the RSF Index), AUT Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie of New Zealand (8th) and former PNG Post-Courier chief executive and media consultant Bob Howarth of Papua New Guinea (53rd) – made lively interventions even though most media freedom issues “pale into insignificance” compared with many countries in the region where journalists are regularly killed or persecuted.
Media highlights Highlights of the three-day consultation included a visit to the multimedia Agence France-Presse, one of the world’s “big two” news agencies, and workshops on online security and sources protection and gender issues.
RSF’s Asia-Pacific head Daniel Bastard (left) and his colleague Myriam Sni (right) with some of the Pacific and Southeast Asian press defenders. Image: RSF
No sooner had the consultation ended when RSF was on the ball with another protest over two detained local journalists in Myanmar working for Reuters news agency.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, have already been detained for more than 200 days with months of preliminary hearings.
They now face a possible 14-year prison sentence for investigating an army massacre of Rohingya civilians in Inn Din, a village near the Bangladeshi border in Rakhine state, in September 2017.
RSF secretary-general Deloire says: “The refusal to dismiss the case against the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is indicative of a judicial system that follows orders and a failed transition to democracy in Myanmar.”
The chances of seeing an independent press emerge in Myanmar have now “declined significantly”.
The Pacific Media Centre’s David Robie was in Paris for the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific consultation. Dr Robie is also convenor of PMC’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project.
Journalist, media educator and author David Robie … Rainbow Warrior bombing reflections after 33 years. Image: PMC
Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk Pacific environmental and political journalist David Robie has recalled the bombing of the original Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior 33 years ago in an interview with host Sarah Macdonald on the ABC’s Nightlife “This Week in History” programme.
A former Papua New Guinea military commander has warned that he is “concerned, if not frightened” that the PNG Defence Force may be deploying police and soldiers in the troubled Southern Highlands province facing a deadly weapon.
Ex-Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok , a former commander of the PNGDF who arrested mercenaries deployed by the Sir Julius Chan government for the Bougainville war in the so-called Sandline crisis in 1997, has made his views known in independent media.
In an item published by PNG Attitude and EMTV journalist Scott Waide’s blog, Singirok described Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s government response to last week’s Mendi riots as a “premature state of emergency” and a “cheap, reckless and knee-jerk option”.
His comments have come at a time when the nation has been shocked by the display of high powered assault weapons by protesters since last week’s Mendi rioting.
Deadly weapon Jerry Singirok wrote about his fears of how police and soldiers may be pitted against the MAG 58 Model 60-20 machine gun which he described as one of the most robust, deadly and effective weapons of its type ever manufactured.
The MAG 58 Model 60-20 machine gun … “robust, deadly and effective”. Image: My Land, My Country blog
“It is an air cooled, piston and gas operated weapon manufactured in the US and Belgium that uses a 7.62mm NATO belt-fed round and can effectively engage targets from 200-800 meters and – in open country – up a kilometre.
“In 1996, after trials, the PNG Defence Force under my command purchased them.
“Then, a few years ago, some went missing. I have recently seen photographs of them on social media.
“They have been installed on cabin-top trucks in the Southern Highlands province.
Ready for the fight “I am very concerned, if not frightened, that the PNG government is deploying police and soldiers to the Southern Highlands who are likely to come face to face with the MAG 58.
“A premature state of emergency in the face of this combat power appears to be a cheap, reckless and a knee-jerk option by the government.
A machine gun mounted on a pick-up truck in the Southern Highlands. Image: This Land, My Country blog
“In 1989, the then PNG government reacted to a security situation on Bougainville similar to Mendi today which brought PNG to its knees for ten years.
“A solid province was depleted of it minerals for that period and denied a generation of the blessings they would have brought.
“This seems to be yet another irresponsible decision along a similar path.
“How can the government sustain the PNGDF at a prolonged high level and intense military operation if it has not invested in air mobility and cannot buy the most basic uniforms, boots, field gear, ammunition, rations, fuel and so on.
An alarming number of “targeted” journalists being killed and West Papua media for independence were just some of the topics covered in wide-ranging seminar by the director of the Pacific Media Centre last night.
Professor David Robie called for the media, universities and journalism schools to take their Pacific “backyard” more seriously and not just wait for crises to happen.
Dr Robie cited the number of journalists killed while working in 2017 and called journalism an increasingly “dangerous occupation”.
“Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) [Reporters Without Borders] statistics showed 65 journalists were killed worldwide in 2017,” Dr Robie said. Of the 65 journalists killed, 7 of these people were so-called citizen journalists.
This number of casualties varied between media freedom monitoring agencies depending on the definitions of journalists and media workers counted in the statistics, he said.
Although this statistic showed a drop from the previous year, the growth of “hatred” for media and targeting of journalists was a worsening problem.
“This is a dire situation that is getting worse.”
On top of the killings, the Paris-based statistics showed that 326 journalists were detained in prison and a further 54 were being held hostage.
Dr Robie said use of the term “citizen journalist” was problematic, as it gave an impression of untrained journalists working without an ethical basis. In fact, many professional journalists were becoming “citizen” journalists tactically and using social media to defeat mainstream media “gags” such as relating to the Melanesian region West Papua inside Indonesia.
“There are more and more independent journalists that are disillusioned” and publishing untold stories on their own blogs.
One such journalist is Papua New Guinea’s Scott Waide, with whom Pacific Media Centre is collaborating with, published many articles by independent journalists and civil society people on his blog My Land, My Country.
Some of the audience at the WPFD 2018 seminar last night. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
A Filipino radio journalist, Edmond Sestoso, was shot last Monday – three days before Press Freedom Day – and died the next day. He was murdered in a drive-by scenario by a gunman on a motorcycle. According to Dr Robie, it is a “very common way of doing it” in the Philippines.
World Press Freedom Day 2017 In 2017, Dr Robie was invited to go to the week-long UNESCO World Press Freedom Day media conference in Jakarta, Indonesia.
He was one of just two New Zealanders at the conference out of the 1500 people attending the WPFD conference. He spoke a journalist safety academic conference at WPFD but was also a guest keynote speaker at an alternative “Free Press in West Papua” conference organised by Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI).
Dr Robie said it was “astonishing” that were not more people from New Zealand present at WPFD and said it shows how “appalling” New Zealand’s interest in international affairs is with an information gap in coverage of Asia-Pacific issues. The other New Zealander present was Mary Major, executive director of the New Zealand Media Council.
Dr Robie described the week as “challenging” and “inspiring”.
“I was representing AUT university and also entering a fraught situation.”
Independent Indonesian journalists were planning to protest against the treatment of West Papua and make a showcase stand before the world’s press, said Dr Robie.
At the WPFD, there was a tight military and police security cordon which kept out West Papua protesters and prevented conference participants from joining the protests in solidarity.
Professor David Robie with Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman and Amnesty International Indonesia’s Usman Hamid at the “Free Press in West Papua” seminar at WPFD in Jakarta last May. Image: Bernard Agape/PMC
Photojournalist Ben Bohane, who has extensively covered conflict issues in the Asia-Pacific region, wrote a two-page article in the Vanuatu Daily Post in response to a piece about China and Vanuatu byThe Sydney Morning Heraldthat had speculatedabout a “naval base” plan for a wharf aid project at Luganville, Espiritu Santo.Dr Robie said the Australian article was “scaremongering.”
“Ben Bohane’s article said China was not the real concern,” he said. “The real threat in terms of stability and security is Indonesia, for which New Zealand media have a blindspot.”
When the PMC republished the article on its current affairs website Asia Pacific Report, Facebook links were removed. “I got a message saying the picture breached Facebook’s community standards.” While the Facebook “block” did not affect the actual article itself, Dr Robie said it limited the reach of the important article.
Dr Robie said he believed the photo censorship had more to do with “politics” rather than “nudity” and was undoubtedly an attempt by Indonesian sources to curb the debate regarding West Papua.
“It is not the picture that is the real issue,” said Dr Robie. He quoted from Ben Bohane’s latest message saying the cenorship was ongoing in spite of Facebook saying it had lifted the block.
Activists, acdemics and journalists at the Pacific Media Centre WPFD seminar last night. Image: PMC
WPFD in Indonesia – an irony Dr Robie pointed out the irony over Jakarta hosting the WPFD 2017 conference in light of censorship and repressive actives by security forces in West Papua.
According to Dr Robie, Indonesia has a vibrant “plurality” of voices but forces were seeking to radicalise people, along with targeting journalists.
While President Joko Widodo had changed policy in 2015 to “allow foreign journalists into” West Papua after he was elected in 2014, not much had really changed. Arrests and deportations were continuing.
“It’s very tightly controlled by the bureaucracy and security authorities,” said Dr Robie.
“The state of mainstream international media is a big part of how West Papua is ignored. There is a big difference when you watch some news media that take a more independent stance, such as Al Jazeera.”
He praised Al Jazeera’s Dutch journalist in Jakarta, Step Vaessen, for her coverage.
The penalties for showing support for West Papuan independence is severe “15 year prison sentence if you raise the banned Morning Star independence flag – even wearing a t-shirt like I am wearing tonight with the flag on can get you into trouble,” Dr Robie said.
“It is a very serious situation for West Papuans.”
“Western countries have become persuaded that West Papua has become part of Indonesia, making the situation a wrong that has never been righted.”
The WPFD 2018 seminar last night. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
NZ media coverage While the situation is still dire, there has been some sporadic New Zealand coverage of the West Papua situation, said Dr Robie.
New Zealander Karen Abplanalp, who researched journalist access into West Papua for her masters degree, assisted Māori Television in a reporting mission with Adrian Stevenon to West Papua in 2015. The crew had to “dress” up the assignment bid with the authorities by saying it was a cultural showcase and had a nice side report about a kumara aid project in the Highlands.
Dr Robie said New Zealand media covered disasters, coups and cyclones, while ignoring many of the social justice and development stories that were “crying out to be covered” in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Universities have responsibilities to shed light through research,” concluded Dr Robie.
He called for Indonesia to genuinely “open the door” to journalists and non-government agencies to visit West Papua, and for a “real” UN referendum on self-determination for the Papuans.
Social justice activist Maire Leadbeater (right), author of a forthcoming book on West Papua, with “wantok” Melanesians at the Pacific media Centre seminar last night. Image” Del Abcede/PMC
Peace and human rights activist Maire Leadbeater said the presentation was enlightening and covered many topics.
“It was great, I really enjoyed it. Dr Robie covered a lot of bases,” Leadbeater said.