NZ offer still open for taking 150 refugees, says PM Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talking to the media at Auckland University of Technology yesterday. Image: Rahul Bhattarai/PMC

By Rahul Bhattarai in Auckland

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reaffirmed her country’s offer to take 150 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island shortly before she attends the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ summit next week.

New Zealand’s offer to take in “150 refugees from across Nauru and Manus still stands”, she said at the official opening of a new science and technology building at Auckland University of Technology yesterday.

Nauru is hosting the 49th Forum but has a very tight media policy for the event including a ban on Australia’s public broadcaster ABC and a threat to revoke the visas of journalists who capture images of the refugees or detention centre facilities.

READ MORE: Aid groups call on Pacific leaders to end Nauru refugee ‘stain in region’

The country has also been trying to “clean up” the facilities before politicians and the media arrive for the week-long Forum and associated meetings from September 3-9 after years of alleged human rights violations.

Amnesty International alleged this week there was an “escalating health crisis” for refugee children on Nauru, saying the Australian government’s “shameful refugee policy” must top of the agenda of the Forum meeting.


In an open letter co-signed by a coalition of 84 influential civil society organisations, Amnesty International called for an end to the “cruel and abusive refugee policy” which had led to more than 2000 women, men and children being “warehoused” on Nauru and Manus island in “cruel and degrading conditions” over the past five years.

Insight to refugees
Due to her short three-day visit to Nauru, Prime Minister Ardern did not have the time to meet individual refugees, but confirmed New Zealand’s stance.

“Having an insight as to the experience on Nauru, of course, that’s something I want to seek,” she said.

“But if I meet with the individual refugees, how do we decide who they would be?”

Ardern will speak to various different leaders from Pacific Island nations during her Nauru visit.

She said would use her time as productively as she could consider a range of issues from Pacific neighbours’ perspective.

Nauru has been an ongoing problem with its crackdown on the media.

The government’s ban on the ABC had drawn global condemnation from media freedom groups, including the Pacific Media Centre.

The Prime Minister was at AUT to open the new $120 million Engineering, Technology and Design building.

This is a digital era home with state of the art facilities for engineering, computer and mathematical sciences students at AUT’s city campus.

Rahul Bhattarai is a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student journalist who has been on an intensive assignment for Te Waha Nui this week. He is also on the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Blacklisted’ Australian researcher detained in Indonesian airport

Researcher Belinda Lopez … detained by Indonesian authorities in Bali’s Denpasar airport. Image: Belinda Lopez/FB

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

An Australian-based doctoral media researcher says she has been “blacklisted” by Indonesian authorities and refused entry to the country while embarking on a holiday in Bali.

Belinda Lopez, based at Sydney’s Macquarie University and who has researched human rights and other issues in Indonesia, says she is being detained in a room at Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai International Airport and she will have been held for 24 hours before being deported on a flight at 10pm tonight.

A former journalist, she is doing a doctorate in Indonesian studies.

She was travelling to Bali, Jakarta and the Baliem cultural festival in Papua.

Lopez made a plea today for help from friends and colleagues which has been circulated by members of the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA).

READ MORE: Australian student barred from Indonesia


Two years ago when visiting West Papua she was refused renewal of her visa and told she was “suspected of being a journalist”, Lopez says.

Indonesia claims to have softened its policy on media entry to West Papua since President Joko Widodo took office in 2014.

However, media freedom and civil society advocates say there has been little change in practice.

On her Facebook page, Lopez says:

‘Blacklisted by Indonesia’
“This is not a joke: I’m blacklisted by the Indonesian government.
Saya termasuk dalam daftar tangkal Indonesia (terjemahan dibawah). Share!

“I’ve been refused entry to Bali and have been held in a room at Denpasar airport on a couch since midnight. I am told I can only board a flight at 10pm tonight, so that means I’ll be detained for nearly 24 hours before I’m deported.

“I explained I was on a holiday and that I was planning to visit friends in Bali and Java and go to the Baliem tourism festival in Papua.

“Immigration asked me if I was a journalist. Two staff members kept asking me if I had ‘done something wrong to Indonesia’.

“Nine years ago I worked for English language newspapers Jakarta Globe and The Jakarta Post as a subeditor. I have made podcasts for the ABC. And I am a PhD student of Indonesia.

“This was meant to be a holiday from university, officially on leave. My honeymoon. But the immigration staff member kept asking if I was a journalist and if I’d ‘done something bad to Indonesia’.

“Two years ago when I was in Papua, the immigration office wouldn’t renew my visa, wouldn’t explain why and then finally told me I was suspected of being a journalist so I had to leave. I was told it was an administrative matter (not a criminal one) and meant I couldn’t return to the territory for six months. I didn’t make a big deal about it because I wanted an ongoing relationship with Indonesia and I thought keeping respectfully quiet was the way to do that. It’s the first place I moved to as an adult, have visited so many times since, to learn the language and to visit people who have become some of my best friends in the world.

“So why am I now on the Indonesian government blacklist? For how long? For what reason? For going to Papua? This is devastating for me.”

Pacific Media Watch condemned the arbitrary Indonesian action against the researcher and appealed for a more humane treatment of visitors.

The room where Belinda Lopez is being detained at Bali’s Denpasar airport. Image: Belinda Lopez/FB

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Manus refugees ‘in the dark’ as healthcare provider pulls out

An SBS graphic screen shot from a Pacific detention centres timeline video.

By Nick Baker of SBS News

The Australian government has been slammed for a lack of transparency amid news that the healthcare provider for refugees on Manus Island will wrap up its work today.

The International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) has been providing healthcare for refugees on Manus for several years but their contract is due to expire today.

However, despite the end date, the government did not publicly indicate a new provider was confirmed until last Friday. Although details remained scant.

In a statement, the Department of Home Affairs said it had “engaged a new health services provider from 1 May 2018 (and) IHMS will work with the new health service provider during a transition period”.

“Individuals will continue to have access to appropriate primary health services,” it said.

A spokesperson from IHMS confirmed the April 30 end date but said “it will, however, maintain a core group of staff in Manus and Port Moresby to support the transition to a new health service provider”.

New provider
But neither the Department of Home Affairs or IHMS would say who the new provider would be, leaving open questions about the quality of the care.


Greens Senator Nick McKim said Australians were once again “in the dark” about the treatment of refugees on Manus.

McKim said getting information from the Department of Home Affairs was “like getting blood from a stone”.

“And of course that’s deliberate and part of the intent of establishing Australia’s offshore detention system in the first place – to drop a veil of secrecy over what’s happening in those places.”

He said although IHMS had a very checkered history, there was now a danger of gaps in health care over the coming months and beyond.

“Ultimately the risk is yet more people will come to harm … as a result of Peter Dutton’s negligence.”

McKim said the use of Manus and other offshore immigration detention facilities will go down as “one of the darkest chapters” in Australian history.

Harm ‘very rare’
“Because it’s very rare that in Australia’s history we’ve deliberately caused harm to innocent people and that’s exactly what Peter Dutton is doing.”

Refugee coordinator at Amnesty International Australia Graham Thom similarly expressed concerned around healthcare for those on Manus after today.

“Ever since the Australian government began shipping refugees out to detention centres on remote tropical islands, they have been trying to hide from the consequences of this cruel policy.”

“Withdrawing healthcare is Australia’s latest deplorable attempt to shift the responsibility for the suffering it has caused.”

“The health situation for refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea is already dire, but the end of the IHMS contract threatens to turn this into an all-out crisis.”

“The only way for Australia to ensure the health of the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus is to end offshore processing for good.”

SBS News coverage on the Pacific.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

UN human rights chief to send mission to investigate abuses in Papua

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: UN human rights chief to send mission to investigate abuses in Papua

By Sheany in Jakarta

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights plans to send a mission to Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua following reports of abuses against its indigenous population.

“I am also concerned about reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told reporters during his three-day visit to Indonesia.

He added that the Indonesian government had extended an invitation to the UN to visit Papua — the country’s poorest region.

READ MORE: UN rights chief warns ‘intolerance’ and political extremism making inroads in Indonesia

“I think it’s important for us to go and see ourselves what is happening there … and I hope we can do this as soon as possible,” Al-Hussein said.

Accounts of rights violations in Papua have prompted concerns from activists and the larger international community.

The government was earlier accused of restricting access for foreign correspondents to the region.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration has prioritised development in Papua through massive infrastructure projects aimed at boosting the province’s economic growth.

More recently, dozens of Papuans – mostly children – died from malnutrition-related diseases in the province’s Asmat district.

The health crisis has led to allegations that the government’s focus on development in the region does not serve the welfare of its population.

“They [the UN] can visit Papua. I told them that if they find faults, we will take action [to address them],” Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said after his meeting with Al-Hussein.

The UN human rights chief also warned of the “dark clouds” of political extremism and intolerance that are building over Indonesia.

Al-Hussein highlighted the blasphemy laws that were used to imprison Jakarta’s governor last year, and planned new legislation that will criminalise gay sex.

“If Muslim societies expect others to fight against Islamophobia, we should be prepared to end discrimination at home too,” said al-Hussein, who is Muslim.

Sheany is a journalist with the Jakarta Globe.

IFJ blasts ‘press freedom attack’ on Iranian-Kurdish journalist in PNG

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: IFJ blasts ‘press freedom attack’ on Iranian-Kurdish journalist in PNG

Two PNG police officers led away Behrouz Boochani in handcuffs on Manus Island earlier today. Image: Aziz58825713/Twitter

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) in condemning the reported arrest of Iranian-Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani by Papua New Guinea police earlier today.

The IFJ and MEAA have deplored the arrest as a targeted attack on press freedom by Papua New Guinea’s police.

A police operation was launched on Manus Island with PNG police and immigration officers entering the former Australian detention centre.

The centre was closed three weeks ago, but refugees have refused to leave, due to concerns over their safety.

Large numbers of officers, including the paramilitary police mobile squad unit entered the grounds and told the refugees they had an hour to leave. They tried to confiscate mobile phones and reportedly damaged personal belongings.

Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian-Kurdish journalist, was arrested during the raid, with reports that officers were specifically looking for him.


Silencing a critic
He was led away in handcuffs by two police officers.

Boochani has been in the detention centre on Manus Island since August 2013.

Boochani has been a main source of factual information about the conditions inside Manus Island detention centre, with his reports been published in Australia and internationally.

Earlier this year he was shortlisted in the journalism category for the 2017 Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards and just three weeks ago he was awarded the Amnesty International Australia Media Award for his journalism from Manus Island.

Earlier this year, MEAA and the IFJ launched a campaign with IFEX calling on the Australian government to resettle Boochani in Australia.

MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy said: “If, as the case appears to be, he has been targeted and arrested because of his profile and his role as a journalist in an attempt to silence him, this is an egregious attack on press freedom that cannot be let stand.

“We call on the Australian and PNG governments to release him from custody, assure his safety, and not to hinder him from continuing to perform his role as a journalist.”

The IFJ said: “The arrest of Behrouz Boochani, if it is because of his work as journalist, is a blatant attack of press freedom and an attempt to silence a critical voice. We join MEAA in calling for the Australian and PNG governments to release him for custody immediately, and guarantee his safety.

“Journalists should never be stopped from doing their work.”

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Febriana Firdaus wins inaugural Pogau award for courage in journalism

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Febriana Firdaus wins inaugural Pogau award for courage in journalism

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Jakarta has a new award for courage in journalism honouring West Papuan editor Oktovianus Pogau, who died last year. The inaugural award has been made to reporter Febriana Firdaus, who has extensively covered human rights abuses in Indonesia, says the Pantau Foundation.

“We want to honour our colleague, Oktovianus Pogau, a smart and courageous journalist, who edited Suara Papua news and highlighted human rights reporting. He passed away at a very young age – just 23 years old. We want to honor his legacy by establishing this Oktovianus Pogau award,” said Imam Shofwan, chairman of the Pantau Foundation in a speech to a small gathering at his office.

The Pantau Foundation selected Febriana Firdaus, a Jakarta journalist, to receive the inaugural award.

Firdaus covered Indonesia’s efforts to deal with the 1965-1966 massacres, disappearances and arbitrary detentions. She also covered discrimination, intimidation, and violence against the LGBT community in Indonesia.

“LGBT is a very sensitive subject in Indonesia where many religious communities, including Muslim organisations, still consider homosexuality a psychological disorder. Febriana Firdaus is courageous to stand up for LGBT, to affirm that LGBT is nature, and to expose their side of the story,” said Shofwan.

Firdaus was born in 1983 in Kalisat, a small town in eastern Java, and graduated from Airlangga University in Surabaya in 2007. She has worked for Jawa Pos daily, Tempo magazine and Rappler Online. She is currently a freelance journalist.

Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, a former chairman of Indonesia’s Press Council and himself an award-winning journalist, presented the award to Firdaus, welcoming the launch of the award and congratulating Firdaus.

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‘Proto-fascism era’
Allan Nairn, another award-winning journalist based in New York, gave a speech, talking about courage in journalism in Trump’s “proto-fascism era.”

Nairn spoke about the challenges the press faced in covering a president like Donald Trump, who lies constantly yet was also hugely entertaining.

Nairn noted that the US provides a warning to Indonesia because the same proto-fascists that rose to power in the US were also trying to achieve power in Indonesia, although it was not clear whether they would succeed.

On her blog, Firdaus wrote, “This award is not about me or other future winners. This is a gentle reminder of the name Okto Pogau but it’s also more than about his name. His name represents the unsolved human rights abuses in Papua.

“Every year this award will always remind us about the human rights abuses never addressed in Indonesia since the 1965 massacre.”

Oktovianus Pogau was born in Sugapa in the Central Highlands on 5 August 1992 and died on 31 January 2016 in Jayapura.

He won an Indonesian writing competition when he was 14 years old, letting him to travel away from his native West Papua and to take part in a writing course in Yogyakarta, Java Island. He learned WordPress and created his own blog when he was 16 years old. He moved to Jakarta in 2010, studying international relations and becoming a freelance journalist.

Peaceful gathering
In October 2011, he covered a peaceful gathering of thousands of Papuan men and women in Jayapura, discussing their political aspiration to be independent from Indonesia.

Indonesian police used excessive force to disperse them. They fired warning shots, beating and kicking indigenous Papuans. Three men died of gunshot wounds, around 600 were detained and five of their leaders were tried and sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Pogau was upset when seeing that most Indonesian media did not proportionally cover the abuses. He decided to set up Suara Papua (Papuan Voice) on 10 December 2011 — on  international human rights day — to cover rights abuses in West Papua. He made Suara Papua a platform for young Papuans to report and to write their stories.

Pogau also engaged his audience with his sharp political analysis. He used his knowledge and networks to advocate for civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for ethnic Papuans.

He was also sympathetic to the National Committee of West Papua, a large Papuan youth organisation, which is campaigning for a referendum in West Papua.

In October 2012, when he was covering one of their rallies in Manokwari, he was beaten on a street corner. Several police officers stopped him from taking photos. He suffered bruises and complained.

The West Papua police later apologised but his union, Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists, refused to help him, arguing that Pogau was also an activist and declaring he had crossed the line between journalism and activism.

Restriction on foreign journalists
Pogau wrote extensively about the restriction on foreign journalists visiting West Papua. He protested against the discrimination against indigenous Papuan journalists and the intensive use of journalists, both Indonesian and Papuan, to be military and police informers.

He indirectly contributed to President Joko Widodo in May 2015 declaring the Indonesian bureaucracy would stop restrictions on foreign journalists covering West Papua.

Jokowi’s command has not been fulfilled completely. He travelled to the US in December 2015, writing about African-Americans dealing with violence and about the similarity of the harsh treatment of Papuans.

The jurors of the award included Alexander Mering (Kampong Journalism Movement in Pontianak, Kalimantan), Andreas Harsono (researcher at Human Rights Watch in Jakarta, Java), Coen Husain Pontoh (chief editor at Indo Progress news portal in New York), Made Ali (environmentalist at Jikalahari in Pekanbaru, Sumatra), Yuliana Lantipo (editor at Jubi daily in Jayapura, West Papua).

The mandate of this award is to exclude a financial gift and a generous ceremony, hoping that it will be sustainable and making jurors concentrate only in selecting a winner. The award is to be announced every year on January 31.

When presenting the award, Imam Shofwan talked about his personal experience with Pogau: “Once he called me on my mobile and I heard gunshots in the background. I told him to run but he kept on talking, asking me to tweet. He continuously tried to bring out rights abuses in Papua.

“He died young but his courage should inspire other journalists.”

Febriana Firdaus and the Pantau award [Bahasa]