Fisherman kept in ‘abject’ conditions at sea repatriated from Fiji, says lawyer

NZ lawyer Karen Harding … social media video plea to captain of Taiwanese fishing boat helped “free” Indonesian fisherman in Fiji. Image: Karen Harding’s FB page

By Rahul Bhattarai

An allegedly “enslaved” Indonesian fisherman on board Yu Shun 88, a Taiwanese flagged tuna longliner, has now been repatriated from Fiji to his homeland, says an Auckland lawyer.

Barrister and solicitor Karen Harding alleged in a social media video message addressed to the skipper that the fishing boat was holding her client against his will in “abject” working conditions.

But with the help of an Indonesian government representative and a charity group known as Pacific Dialogue, the fisherman was repatriated to Indonesia last weekend.

READ MORE: From traffic law to human rights – how an Auckland woman is fighting for justice for 30 fishermen

Harding, a lawyer with a high profile in acting on drink and driving cases who has branched into human rights lawsuits, said the unnamed fisherman’s bed was infested with fleas, food was spoiled, and there was no fresh soap or water for showers.

The fishermen on the boat, which carries up to 17 people, were also forced to work for 18-20 hours a day, she claimed.

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Harding said the captain had taken the passport, the seaman’s book and withheld pay as a security bond.

The fisherman wanted to go home due to “horrible working conditions” and many injuries.

A “flea-infested bed” on board the Yu Shun 88. Image: Lawyers

Wages withheld
One fisherman was so injured, he was “not even able to hold a chop stick,” Harding said.

“You are holding him against his will and your company is not paying him his wages and holding the wages back as security,” she alleged in the video message.

Her client got a job to work on a Taiwanese fishing vessel in Suva and “was promised, he was going to get US$450 (NZ$672) in wages and commission of US$400 (NZ$589) per month per docking,” Harding said.

Not paying them and holding wages as security was “creating forced labour”, Harding said.

“I liaised with the Indonesian government on Sunday … and liaised with the charity group known as Pacific Dialogue,” and the latter reported the matter to the embassy, Harding said.

The Indonesian government had been helpful in a timely dealing with this matter.

The Indonesian government had arranged for the representative of the Indonesian government to go to the agent’s office on the Suva wharf,” Harding said.

Seeking wages
Now that the fisherman was home, the problem was getting his wages for the time he had worked on the ship.

Out of NZ$1261 allegedly owed to him, he had only received $141 for four months of work. His contract had said that “if he didn’t complete the contract they weren’t going to pay his wages,” said Harding.

There are other fishermen on board the same ship, but because Harding was only dealing with one fisherman, the status of the others is unknown.

The same fisherman had also allegedly been subject to similar harsh conditions in New Zealand waters on board a Korean vessel.

The fisherman still had not been paid by the Oyang 77, for the period of 2009 January 22 to 2010 December 6.

“He effectively only got paid only one hour a day at the NZ minimum pay rate,” Harding said.

“And he worked 18 hours a day on average.”

No comment was available from the company’s involved.

The Yu Shun 88 is now headed towards Solomon Islands and is expected to spend another 12 months at sea with other fishermen on board.

The infected hand of one of the fishermen on board Yu Shun 88. Image: Lawyers

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Boe climate and security pact big step forward, but lacks a gender drive

The major item on the agenda at last week’s Pacific Islands Forum was climate change. However, a gender gap appears to be at play within climate change itself. Jessica Marshall reports for Asia Pacific Journalism.

The content of the Boe Declaration, signed at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru earlier this month, is not widely known. However, a statement from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggests that it declares climate change as a security issue.

“The Boe Declaration acknowledges additional collective actions are required to address new and non-traditional challenges. Modern-day regional security challenges include climate change,” she said in a statement.

Both the Leaders Communique and the declaration itself affirm the fact that climate change is a real issue. However, it is discussion of gender in light of that is lacking.

READ MORE: Nauru 2018 and the new Boe on the block

APJS NEWSFILE

According to a report by Oxfam, men survived women 3 to 1 in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) suggests that this was because women were trapped in their homes at the time of the disaster “while men were out in the open”.

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The agency also suggest that a cultural or religious custom can restrict a woman’s ability to survive a natural disaster.

“. . . the clothes they wear and/or their responsibilities in caring for children could hamper their mobility in times of emergency,” a UNDP report says.

Caregivers and providers
Figures from the United Nations show that 80 percent of those displaced by climate change were women. This, they argue, is caused primarily by their roles as caregivers and providers of food.

London School of Economics research indicates that women and girls are definitively more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than their male counterparts.

In societies where women are considered to be lower on the metaphorical food chain, “natural disasters will kill . . . more women than men,” the report says.

The two researchers could find no biological reason why women would be at more risk than men.

Based on this research, and other research like it, many public figures have called for attention to be paid to the issue.

“More extreme weather events. . . will all result in less food. Less food will mean that women and children get less,” dystopian author Margaret Atwood told a London conference in June.

The author of books like The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake said that climate change “. . . will also mean social unrest, which can lead to wars and civil wars . . . Women do badly in wars”.

Primarily burdened
When asked about the issue at an event at Georgetown University in February, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “. . . women. . . will be . . . primarily burdened with the problems of climate change”.

Earlier this month, former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark told a crowd of about 200 people at the National Council of Women (NCW) conference that the world was close to missing the opportunity to tend to the issue of climate change and women were most likely to be affected by it.

“Everything we know tells us that women are the most vulnerable in this,” she said. “If you look at the natural disasters caused by weather. . . more women die”.

According to Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, President of the Marshall Islands, women are more affected by climate change than their male counterparts but are also “less likely to be empowered to cope”.

“Women aren’t making enough of the decisions, and the decisions aren’t yet doing enough for women,” she wrote in The Guardian.

The UNDP argues it is because of a woman’s place in the household that she is in prime position to affect change when it comes to this issue.

“. . . knowledge and capabilities [regarding reproduction, household and community roles] can and should be deployed for/in climate change mitigation, disaster relief and adaptation strategies,” the report says..

Feminist solution
“A feminist solution” is what former Irish President and UN Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson argued for in June.

She explained that “feminism doesn’t mean excluding men, it’s about being more inclusive of women and – in this case – acknowledging the role they can play in tackling climate change”.

She’s not the only, nor the first, to make such a suggestion.

A whole feminist environmental movement, known as ecofeminism, has sprung up over the decades since the 1970s.

At its most basic level, ecofeminism is exactly what it sounds like: It argues that there is a relationship between environmental damage – such as that done by climate change – and the oppression of women and their rights.

For example, in her 2014 book This Changes Everything, journalist Naomi Klein argues that it is hypocritical that the self-same lawmakers who claim to be “pro-life” are also the ones who push for whole industries surrounding drilling, fracking and mining to not only survive but thrive.

Business confidence
“If the Earth is indeed our mother, then far from the bountiful goddess of mythology, she is a mother facing many great fertility challenges,” she writes.

In New Zealand, leader of the opposition National Party Simon Bridges, who is opposed to the idea of removing abortion from the Crimes Act, is also vehemently opposed to the idea of stopping oil and gas exploration in the Taranaki region.

His concern is that “It will have an effect on business confidence,” he said back in April.

The truth of climate change, as with most global issues, is that there can be no one-size fits all solution.

For some, like Helen Clark, it requires long-term mass movements. For others, it requires being invited to the conversation.

Time will tell as to which one wins out.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Sedition, coup-era media law and nerves keep lid on Fiji press

With the date for this year’s second Fiji general election since the 2006 coup yet to be announced, one of the questions is will there be a free media for the campaign? Sri Krishnamurthi in Suva talks to some media commentators who are not optimistic.

The frenzy of the forthcoming elections is just starting to hit Fiji, even though the date has yet to be announced, but the elephant in the room is whether the media is going to be free of government interference.

“No, definitely not. The combination of threats [such as those faced by Hank Art – who as publisher of The Fiji Times recently beat sedition charges] and self-censorship have become
severe,” says New Zealand journalist Michael Field, a veteran of 30 years reporting on the Pacific.

“I believe the Fiji media is fearful of the [Voreqe] Bainimarama government and its ability to hit at media in ways that are expensive and worrying. This ranges from the simple banning of government ads in The Fiji Times to the various sedition issues.

READ MORE: Coups, globalisation and Fiji’s reset structures of ‘democracy’

FIJI ELECTIONS 2018

“Being free and independent is too expensive for what are small companies compared with the size of the state.”

Dr Shailendra Singh, coordinator of journalism at the University of the South Pacific, questions whether Fiji is ready for a free media.

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“Whether Western notions of free, unrestrained media are suitable for a developing, fragile, ethnically-tense country is a moot point,” he says.

“Media have been known to inflame situations, just as governments have been known to use stability and security as pretexts to curtail media scrutiny and criticism. Finding the right balance can be elusive,“ Dr Singh says.

‘Power of the pen’
When Sitiveni Rabuka staged the first two coups in 1987, he admittedly was unaware of the “power of the pen”.

“Personally, I had nothing to hide from the media” he said on reflection in 2005 about his coups.

The 1987 Fiji military coups leader Sitiveni Rabuka as he was back then. Image: Matthew McKee/Pacific Journalism Review

However, subsequent governments did not see the media as a poodle to be toyed with; instead the perception of the industry was that of a rottweiler itching to bite.

“I think it is more likely that the media regulations arose from those who saw the influence of the media, particularly in the [Mahendra] Chaudhry government [overthrown in the third coup in 2000] – and earlier in the lively free-ranging days when the media really was free and independent,” says Field, who was banned from Fiji in 2007.

“The Bainimarama government is clever enough to realise that they might not last with a free media.”

Fiji has flirted with having both a regulated media and self-censorship since the first of its four coups in 1987.

“True. But the government baulked, fearful of the public reaction and international fallout,” says Dr Singh.

‘Media always fragile’
“What that tells us is that media freedom in Fiji has always been fragile. It was only a matter of time.

“Media in Fiji are free to report as they see fit but serious mistakes are punishable by various existing laws such as defamation and contempt which are sufficient, so journalists are quite cautious.

“No one wants to be dragged through the courts like in the recent Fiji Times sedition case. The three-year lawsuit would have been financially, physically, psychologically draining. The Fiji Times escaped by the skin of its teeth.

“Free media is in the beholder’s eyes in some respects. Government feels media is free enough. Media, on the other hand, feel caged. Finding the right balance can be elusive.”

Ricardo Morris, a former journalist and current affairs magazine editor in Fiji, explains the impact of the Media Industry Development Decree (MIDD) which was imposed in 2010 and five years later became law.

“The decree became an act in 2015. The Media Authority (MIDA) doesn’t have to do much anymore because [chairman – Ashwin] Raj simply has to make comment or criticise a media company for some perceived slight and everyone retreats,” says Morris.

Watching Our Words: Perceptions of Self-Censorship and Media Freedom in Fiji

Morris researched and authored a 2017 report on self-censorship in Fiji on a Reuters Foundation scholarship.

“There is talk regionally and internationally about how the media Act is hanging over the media’s head. However, Raj usually says, ‘we have never brought prosecution against a media company under the media decree’ and he is right.

‘Always that danger’
“But there is always that danger.

“They’ll usually issue statements, and in the past there has been public shaming, so now you don’t really need to bring cases against the media because they are too afraid to do something that might jeopardise their position or if they do get charged they will get charged under some other criminal law as in the case of The Fiji Times now – they are charged under the Crimes Act, a case that has now gone to appeal. That’s a distinction.”

Dr Singh says it is for that reason he does not see a relaxation of the media laws.

“The media situation is not going to change – that I can say with some confidence. The laws are going to remain the same for some time yet.

“Government, which has the power to change the legislation, has not said anything. One assumes the government is happy with the way things are, so why change? If this government is returned with a strong mandate, it may feel confident enough to change the laws.

“Or it may see a stronger mandate as a vindication of its media law. The opposition National Federation Party (NFP) has said it will abolish the decree if it forms government. “

Which provisions of MIDD do those involved find most objectionable and would like to see removed?

‘Protect their own backs’
“Fines and jail terms against reporters/journalists were removed but this is meaningless unless the same is done for publishers/editors, obviously because the latter have control over journalists and will censor them to protect their own backs.

“Clear definition of what constitutes inciting communal antagonism,” says Dr Singh.

As Field says, it is simple case of economies of scale when it come to the media.

“This ranges from the simple banning of government ads in The Fiji Times, to the various sedition issues. Being free and independent is too expensive for what are small companies compared with the size of the state,” he says.

Hence the media has become a cowered and beaten animal in Fiji.

“It has become tame and fearful, it is under the control of the government and its handlers. Many journalists in Fiji, with an eye to junkets and scholarships, prefer to follow the Information Ministry line and just write up press statements,” says Field.

“I don’t think there has been a true debate in Fiji over what a free media should be … the debate has always been defined by the men with the guns.”

Sedition charges
Sedition charges were filed against The Fiji Times, three of its executives, and one opinion columnist. The columnist (Josaia Waqabaca) accused Muslims of historic crimes including invading foreign lands, rape, and murder.

“Sedition is not a crime in most countries, it’s called free speech. The content of the letter with its anti-Muslim sentiment is widely held by many. By suppressing it you do not make it go away,” says Field.

“I believe the final verdict was reached because the open absurdity of the charge, and its contents, could not be sustained, and even the imported judge did not want to be seen signing on to it.”

As Morris puts it: “We haven’t really heard the debate about the sedition law, a lot of the countries with similar histories have abandoned the sedition law because there is a fine line between freedom of expression and sedition.

“But now because of The Fiji Times, my perception is the general public err on the side of caution and will not say anything that will be deemed seditious.”

MIDD sits above the media like an axe waiting to fall, and the threat of it falling is why the media cannot expect freedom in the 2018 general elections or anytime soon.

Sri Krishnamurthi is a journalist and Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies at Auckland University of Technology student contributing to the Pacific Media Centre’s Asia Pacific Report.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PMC journalists, academics, students and mentors celebrate 10 years

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: PMC journalists, academics, students and mentors celebrate 10 years

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Participants at the Pacific Media Centre’s 10th anniversary celebration last Thursday held a silent vigil calling for justice for the victims of the 2009 Ampatuan massacre and in protest against the spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

Calling for “Justice Now!”, “Never again to martial law” and “Stop the killings”, the participants made the emphatic statement at the end of a compelling address by Malou Mangahas, executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), during the “Journalism Under Duress” seminar.

Associate Professor (Pasifika) Laumanuvao Winnie Laban of Victoria University, who launched the centre as a cabinet minister a decade ago, praised the progress, and AUT’s School of Communication Studies head Professor Berrin Yanıkkaya launched a new photojournalism book.

Images by Del Abcede and Kendall Hutt of the Pacific Media Centre

1. A silent but visual vigil for the victims of the 2009 Ampatuan massacre and in protest against the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Image: Venus Abcede/PMC

2. Associate Professor Laumanuvao Winnie Laban – then, in 2007, and now. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

3. RNZ International’s Johnny Blades checks out the PMC exhibition. Image: Kendall Hutt/PMC

4. Exhibition creator Del Abcede with the photo display. Image: Venus Abcede/PMC

5. Del Abcede with her favourite disoplay photo – two young Palestinian women. Image: Kendall Hutt/PMC

6. The PMC photographic display. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

7. Venus Abcede with the PMC photographic display. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

8. Gloria Hooker with the Kunda Dixit photo in the display. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

9. The Pacific Forum “class” of 2011 with PMW’s Kendall Hutt. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

10. Part of the crowd at the PMC photographic display. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

11. Laumanuavao Winnie Laban at the Pacific Media Centre. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

12. Laumanuvao Winnie Laban and PMC director Professor David Robie. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

13. MC Alistar Kata (left) and Laumanuvao Winnie Laban. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

14. Annie and Dr Philip Cass and Professor Berrin Yanıkkaya speaking. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

15. Professors Berrin Yanıkkaya and David Robie launching the books. Image: Kendall Hutt/PMC

16. Professor Berrin Yanıkkaya (centre) with Dr Frances Nelson, Associate Dean Dr Rosser Johnson and journalism curriculum leader Louise Matthews. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

17. Lead co-editor of Conflict, Custom & Conscience Jim Marbrook speaking about the new book. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

18. Dr Rosser Johnson, A/Professor Camille Nakhid (PMC advisory board chair) and Laumanuvao Winnie Laban. Image: Kendall Hutt/PMC

19. Part of the crowd at the book launch. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

20. Professor Barry King with PMW’s Kendall Hutt. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

21. Fiji media personality Bharat Jamnadas. Image: Kendall Hutt/PMC

22. Jim Marbrook and Scott Creighton. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

23. Mata Lauano and MC Alistar Kata. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

24. Julie Marbrook and Paul Janman. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

25. Fuimaono Tuiasau, Tagaloatele Professor Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop and Gloria Hooker. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

26. MC Alistar Kata and Dr Frances Nelson. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

27. MC Alistar Kata and Janet Tupou. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

28. Trevor Darville and Margaret Mills. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

29. Tuwhera’s Donna Coventry Luqman and Luqman Hayes. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

30. Sasya Wreksonon introducing her video Pacific Media Centre 10 years On. Image: Kendall Hutt/PMC

31. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalismspeaking at the “Journalism Under Duress” seminar. Image: Kendall Hutt/PMCr I

32. RNZI’s Johnny Blades speaking at the “Journalism Under Duress” seminar. Image: Kendall Hutt/PMC

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