Media freedom in Pacific a growing challenge, says journalism academic

EMTV journalist Scott Waide … “Papua New Guinea is a democracy and the media is free to hold those in authority to account.” Image: PMC

By Blessen Tom

Pacific media freedom and ignorance of Pacific issues by mainstream media in New Zealand are growing challenges for the region, says a journalism academic

“There are so many issues in the Pacific that are simply ignored by the mainstream media,” Pacific Media Centre director Professor Robie bluntly told the two-day Oceans and Islands conference for Pacific researchers that ended in the Fale Pasifika at Auckland University today.

He cited the ongoing human rights situation in West Papua – which will be marked tomorrow with flag raising ceremonies across New Zealand – and the recent New Caledonian independence referendum as examples of poorly covered issues.

READ MORE: The NZ news item that sparked the Scott Waide saga

The conference was hosted by the NZ Institute for Pacific Research, a NZ government-funded consortium of Auckland University, Otago University and Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

A Maserati luxury sedan as portrayed in the controversial news item shown in EMTV. Image: EMTV screenshot

Addressing the centre’s research and public strategy, Dr Robie also shared his concerns about media freedom in the Pacific region and highlighted this week’s dramatic developments in Papua New Guinea in the wake of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference.


Scott Waide, one of the country’s most high profile and influential journalists, was secretly suspended over broadcasting a New Zealand television news item that criticised government spending on 40 Maserati luxury sedans.

Waide, deputy regional news editor of EMTV and who blogs on social issues in his My Land, My Country website, was reinstated a day after news of his suspension was leaked through social media networks, sparking a flurry of protests in international media.

“This outrageous meddling by the state-owned Telikom company’s board was kept quiet for a week until it finally went viral last Sunday.

‘Blatant censorship’
“This blatant act of censorship – publicly defended by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill – rebounded heavily on the government.”

Dr Robie, who is also the convenor of the PMC’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project in collaboration with international press watchdogs such as the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, criticised corporate and political inference in PNG’s news and current affairs media.

He said what had happened was salutary for Pacific press freedoms. While he described the reinstatement for Waide as a victory for media freedom in the region, he said the journalists’ own reflective comments were “lessons for the rest of the Pacific”.

AUT’s Professor David Robie … critical of political and corporate “meddling” with Pacific media freedom. Image: Blessen Tom/PMC

“Papua New Guinea is a democracy and the media is free to hold those in authority to account,” Waide had said on his blog. “This means highlighting flaws in policy and making sure mistakes are pointed out and corrected. It is an essential part of our democracy.”

Dr Robie cited the Waide suspension as an example of some of the research, publication and storytelling provided by the PMC.

“We try to give lot more storytelling with Pacific voices and Pacific context,” he said.

“We try to provide an outlet for Pacific views and also information right across the region.”

Professional development
AUT’s PMC in the School of Communication Studies operated as independent university-based educational media by providing space for postgraduate students to have their stories published and broadcast for professional development.

This had contributed a lot to Pacific storytelling, he said.

“If we do things independently media-wise, there are a lot of stories that we can tell that much of the mainstream just ignores.”

PMC publishes the following media:

• An online general news and current affairs website called Asia-Pacific Report and PMC Online which focuses on media issues and research.

• Its own YouTube (more than 200,000 viewers) and Soundcloud channels.

Pacific Journalism Review, a peer reviewed journal, the only New Zealand-based publication specialising in journalism, media issues, communication and diversity in the South Pacific, Asia Pacific, Australia and New Zealand.

PJR is ranked on the SCOPUS metrics database and is in its 25th year of publication and is hosted on the open access indigenous research platform Tuwhera at Auckland University of Technology.

Pacific Journalism Monographs, a peer-reviewed research companion to Pacific Journalism Review, which publishes longer research projects in an online and booklet format.

Southern Cross, a weekly radio programme on Pacific affairs run by the PMC on Radio 95bfm at the University of Auckland.

Strong links
The PMC also has strong links with the University of the South Pacific journalism programme (Fiji) and Gadjah Mada University’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies in Indonesia and the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre in the Philippines, and community publishing partnerships with organisations such as RNZ Pacific.

Professor Robie also mentioned PMC’s three-year-old Bearing Witness climate change project and talked about its “outstanding results” by award-winning postgraduate students reporting environmental issues.

He screened the trailer of Banabans of Rabi – A Story of Survival, a short documentary by Hele Ikimotu and Blessen Tom that was premiered at the Nuku’alofa International Film festival last week.

The inaugural Oceans and Islands conference concluded today.

Sri Krishnamurthi and Blessen Tom of the Pacific Media Centre are working as part of a PMC partnership with the NZ Institute for Pacific Research.

AUT’s Professor David Robie with two colleagues at the NZIPR Oceans and Islands conference. Image: NZIPR

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Mary-Louise O’Callaghan: Time we heard the Pacific’s take on the Pacific

Covering the Pacific … “we might even learn a thing or two about the nations and the region within which we live .” Image: Shane McLeod/The Interpreter

ANALYSIS: By Mary-Louise O’Callaghan

It is both apt and overdue that veteran ABC correspondent Sean Dorney was last night awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Journalism at the 2018 Walkley ceremonies.

Judged by the trustees of the Walkley Foundation, this award not only recognises Dorney’s extraordinary body of work built over four decades chronicling life and politics in the Pacific, especially Papua New Guinea, but pays homage to one of the last of a near extinct breed of old-time expat Pacific correspondents who lived and breathed their rounds as long-term residents of the communities upon which they were reporting.

Australian newsrooms, instead of panting and pontificating about the growing influence of China, might be better served by tapping into Pacific conversations.

READ MORE: Podcast by Bond academic, student wins Walkley Award for journalism excellence

Mary-Louise O’Callaghan … “not uncommon in the two decades either side of the turn of the century for Pacific correspondents to report on unfolding events such as the Bougainville secession crisis or expose corrupt or inept governance.” Image: The Interpreter

Sprung from the bad-old and arrogant days of colonial dispatches referencing “restless natives” and “strange customs” when first nation’s peoples served merely as the backdrop for the white man’s conquering and efforts to “civilise”, it can be argued that for a time these rusted-on corros (who not infrequently through their marriages, gained the privilege of the unique insight of living life within a Pacific family), served as useful intermediary interlocutors in the transitional societies of post-independent Pacific states.

As nations such as PNG, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu fought to different degrees to shake off their colonial framing and fashion a culture of accountability of their own, correspondents like myself and Dorney strove to facilitate and amplify indigenous views of events in these nations. This was both in our reporting for Australian audiences, or, in Dorney’s case, for the entire region. His reports were broadcast back into the countries he covered by Radio Australia, the ABC’s once wonderful but now defunct shortwave radio service.


Reporting crises
With the additional resources afforded our first-world news bureaus, it was not uncommon in the two decades either side of the turn of the century for Pacific correspondents to report on unfolding events such as the Bougainville secession crisis or expose corrupt or inept governance that indigenous journalists literally couldn’t afford to do.

As late as 2003, my “scoop” as The Australian’s South Pacific correspondent on the Howard government’s decision to dispatch a 2000-strong Australian-led Pacific intervention force to restore the rule of law in Solomon Islands after several years of unrest, was lifted by the national newspaper, The Solomon Star to run as their frontpage splash.

The only difference being that, unlike The Solomon Star’s newsroom, I worked for a media outlet that could bear the exorbitant cost of international phone calls; I had the means to contact Solomon Island government officials to confirm the story after their meetings in Canberra.

Much has been written in the past decade or so warning about the dangers of the disappearing resident Pacific correspondent, as first Australian Associated Press, then Fairfax closed their bureaus in Suva, Port Moresby, and Honiara, and in many cases wound down the network of stringers who reported for them elsewhere in the region.

The ABC is now the only Australian media outlet still maintaining a permanent presence in the South Pacific region with its bureau in Port Moresby.

But as we are all learning, with disruption comes new opportunities and with digital disruption, in particular, has come new ways of gathering, reporting, and disseminating news.

Hear from the people
Here’s the rub: should we really be lamenting the passing of the old-fashioned foreign correspondent, particularly in our own region?

Or is this a chance to embrace the opportunity to hear from the people of the Pacific in their own voices with analysis from their perspectives and news priorities that reflect Pacific agendas?

There is today a prolific cohort of indigenous journos, bloggers, and social commentators already daily reporting, dissecting, and disseminating their nations and region’s affairs with the insight only an indigenous member of an indigenous society can have.

Australian and New Zealand newsrooms, instead of panting and pontificating about the growing influence of China, might be better served tapping into these conversations.

If we joined them, we might even learn a thing or two about the nations and the region within which we live.

Mary-Louise O’Callaghan lived and reported on the Pacific as a foreign correspondent with Australian metropolitan daily newspapers for more than two decades. In 1997 she won the Gold Walkley for Excellence in Journalism for her investigative reporting exposing the Papua New Guinean government’s ill-conceived decision to hire foreign mercenaries to end a war for secession on the island of Bougainville. Her book Enemies Within, Australia, PNG and the Sandline Mercenary Affair, was published the following year. She is now working for World Vision Australia where she leads the Public Affairs team. This article is republished from the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter with permission.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Be courageous in your quest for truth,’ journalism academic tells graduates

Professor David Robie presenting the Best Mobile Journalism Documentary prize sponsored by Internews and Earth Journalism Network at the annual University of the South Pacific journalism awards. Pictured is Kirisitiana Uluwai of Fiji in the runner-up team. Image: Harrison Selmen/Wansolwara

By Geraldine Panapasa in Suva

Pacific journalism academic Professor David Robie believes the media play a critical role in exposing abuses of power in a world increasingly hostile towards journalists.

However, journalists in the Pacific are frequently “persecuted by smallminded politicians with scant regard for the role of the media”, he says.

Speaking at last week’s 18th University of the South Pacific (USP) Journalism Student Awards ceremony at Laucala campus in Suva, Fiji, Dr Robie said despite the growing global dangers surrounding the profession, journalism was critically important for democracy.

READ MORE: David Robie’s full USP journalism awards ‘media phobia’ speech


Dr Robie said while such “ghastly fates” for journalists – such as the extrajudicial killing of Saudi dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey earlier this month – may seem remote in the Pacific, there were plenty of attacks on media freedom to contend with, while trolls in the region and state threats to internet freedom were “also rife”.

“Next month, Fiji is facing a critically important general election, the second since the return of democracy in the country in 2014. And many graduating journalists will be involved,” Dr Robie said.


“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.”

Professor David Robie presenting a Te Matau a Maui – Mau’s fishhook – to USP journalism coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh for the newsroom to mark the “NZ connection”. Image: Harrison Selmen/Wansolwara

Tribute to whistleblowers
Dr Robie also paid tribute to two whistleblowers and journalists in the Pacific.

“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,” Dr Robie said.

“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 Robie is the 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 the news website Asia Pacific Report. He is a former USP Journalism Coordinator 1998-2002.

Geraldine Panapasa is editor-in-chief of USP’s Wansolwara journalism newspaper.

Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie and MASI president Charles Kadamana with graduating student journalists at the University of the South Pacific. Image: Harrison Selmen/Wansolwara

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Media prize a ‘defeat’ for Australian refugee censorship, says author

Behrouz Boochani … Australian government used “systematic censorship” to control refugee information. Image: Hoda Afshar/Behrouz Boochani/RNZ Pacific

By RNZ Pacific

A refugee journalist detained on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island says winning an Italian award for investigative journalism could end censorship of offshore detention in the Australian media.

Behrouz Boochani, who has made a documentary and written a book during his five years in exile, has won the Anna Politkovskaya Prize for Press Freedom from the Italian magazine Internazionale.

Boochani regularly contributes to The Guardian and the Saturday Paper in Australia but said other publications supported the Australian government’s efforts to restrict information about its offshore detention regime.

READ MORE: Australia needs a moral revolution

“The Australian government couldn’t keep 2000 people, including children and women, in a harsh prison camps on Manus and Nauru without systematic censorship,” Boochani said.

“I have many experiences working with the media in Australia and also internationally over the past five years and I know that the government always tries to manage the information and censor the situation,” he said.


“But after five years I think they are defeated because international media and public opinion are aware completely of what the government has done on Manus and Nauru.”

Condemning a fact
The Guardian reported that the award’s organisers paid tribute to Boochani’s “commitment to condemning a fact which has been intentionally kept out of the spotlight”.

The prize was a symbol of the struggle of the refugees who had spoken out from offshore detention as well as their advocates, human rights defenders and independent journalists who had covered their stories, the journalist said.

“I think it is very important because our work is acknowledged and recognised internationally.”

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

RSF condemns jail terms for two Myanmar journalists in ‘sham trial’

Turmoil outside the Yangon court at the end of the trial of Kyaw Soe Oo (below) and Wa Lone in Myanmar yesterday. Image: Ye Aung Tha/AFP/RSF

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Reporters Without Borders has condemned the seven-year prison sentences imposed on two Reuters reporters in the Myanmar city of Yangon yesterday at the end of a “sham trial”.

The Paris-based global media watchdog reaffirmed its call for their immediate release.

On what was a dark day for press freedom in Myanmar, Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone were convicted of violating the country’s colonial era Official Secrets Act for investigating a massacre of 10 Rohingya civilians by soldiers exactly a year and a day ago in Inn Dinn, a village in the north of Rakhine state.

READ MORE: Trial will test Myanmar’s ‘democracy’

The atrocity being investigated by the imprisoned journalists.

“The conviction of Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone is a terrible blow to press freedom in Myanmar,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“As the justice system clearly followed orders in this case, we call on the country’s most senior officials, starting with government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to free these journalists, whose only crime was to do their job.


“After a farcical prosecution, this outrageous verdict clearly calls into question Myanmar’s transition to democracy.”

The massacre investigated by Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone was acknowledged by the army and seven soldiers were sentenced to 10 years in prison, an RSF statement said.

During the preliminary hearings in the case of the two journalists, a police officer admitted that his superiors framed them by giving them supposedly classified documents and then immediately arresting them.

The entire prosecution case was based solely on this “trumped-up evidence”, RSF said.

Myanmar is ranked 137th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Kyaw Soe Oo outside the Yangon court in Myanmar yesterday. Images: Ye Aung Tha/AFP/RSF

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

RSF condemns Nine-Fairfax merger as threat to media pluralism in Australia

There is concern about the editorial independence of The Age newspaper, one of the jewels of the Fairfax Media empire, now that it is to be run by Nine Entertainment. Image: William West /RSF/AFP

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is extremely concerned about pluralism and respect for editorial independence in the new Australian media conglomerate created from last week’s merger between the Fairfax Media newspaper chain and Nine Entertainment, a national television network.

“Commercial synergy has endangered journalistic independence and media pluralism in what is, to say the least, an incongruous marriage,” the Paris-based RSF global media freedom watchdog said in a statement today.

“On the one hand, Fairfax has provided quality investigative journalism via a network of representative regional print publications throughout the country since 1831.

READ MORE: Nine-Fairfax merger warning for investigative journalism – and democracy

“Nine, which will have control of the new entity, has already announced A$50 million (32 million euros) in budget cuts, to the alarm of news staff at Fairfax’s publications.” Image: RSF

“On the other, Nine is primarily a sports and entertainment broadcaster and its management is regarded as much more concerned about profits and cost-cutting than journalistic ethics.”

Nine, which will have control of the new entity, has already announced A$50 million (32 million euros) in budget cuts, to the alarm of news staff at Fairfax’s publications.


They include The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald flagship newspapers, whose editorial freedom from political or economic interference was summed up in the slogan printed under each newspaper’s name: “Independent. Always.”

The Fairfax brand will disappear in the new media group, in what is a clear sign that this “marriage of reason” is an outright takeover.

Aside from a loss of editorial independence, Fairfax’s journalists fear that newsrooms will be merged and many of the group’s rural and suburban publications will be closed. Although not very profitable, they have until now played a vital role in providing Australians with local news of a diverse nature.

Kept a close secret until announced on July 26  and valued at A$4 billion (2.5 billion euros), the merger still has to be approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

“The freedom and independence of Fairfax’s journalists is clearly in danger,” said Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“We therefore urge the ACCC to block this merger until the new entity managed by Nine has adopted the Fairfax Charter of Editorial Independence in writing, in its statutes.

“Fairfax’s takeover is the end of a journalistic institution in Australia. Quality journalism must not be reduced to a variable dependent on commercial and advertising imperatives.

“This takeover is all the more worrying for journalistic pluralism and democracy because the level of media ownership concentration in Australia is already one of the highest in the world.”

Media monsters
Like Australia’s other media and advertisement giant, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the future entity controlled by Nine will include national and regional newspapers radio, stations, traditional TV channels and online ones, and a string of news websites.

This is now permitted in Australia after the decision by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government a few months ago to repeal 30-year-old legislation restricting simultaneous ownership of both print and broadcast media.

Observers fear that the Fairfax takeover will open the way to even more ownership concentration.

Australia is ranked 19th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index. The chronic lack of journalistic pluralism is one of the reasons why it is not ranked any higher.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Nine-Fairfax merger warning for investigative media – and democracy

If you value the media’s watchdog role in democracy, then the opening words in the deal enabling Channel Nine to acquire Fairfax Media, the biggest single shake-up of the Australian media in more than three decades, ring alarm bells.

The opening gambit is an appeal to advertisers, not readers. It promises to enhance “brand” and “scale” and to deliver “data solutions” combined with “premium content”.

Exciting stuff for a media business in the digital age. But for a news organisation what is missing are key words like “news”, “journalism” and “public interest”.

Those behind the deal, its political architects who scrapped the cross-media ownership laws last year, and its corporate men, Fairfax’s and Nine’s CEOs, proffer a commercial rather than public interest argument for the merger. They contend that for two legacy media companies to survive into the 21st century, this acquisition is vital.

Perhaps so. But Australia’s democratic health relies on more than a A$4 billion media merger that delivers video streaming services like Stan, a lucrative real estate advertising website like Domain, and a high-rating television programme like Love Island.

The news media isn’t just any business. It does more than entertain us and sell us things. Through its journalism, it provides important public interest functions.

Ideally, news should accurately inform Australians. A healthy democracy is predicated on the widest possible participation of an informed citizenry. According to liberal democratic theorists, the news media facilitate informed participation by offering a diverse range of views so that we can make considered choices, especially during election campaigns when we decide who will govern us.


Check on power
Journalists have other roles too, providing a check on the power of governments and the excesses of the market, to expose abuses that hurt ordinary Australians.

This watchdog role is why I am concerned about Nine merging with Fairfax. To be clear, until last week, I was cautiously optimistic about the future of investigative journalism in Australia.

Newspapers like The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the Newcastle Herald and the Australian Financial Review have a strong record of using their commercial activities to subsidise expensive investigative journalism to strengthen democratic accountability by exposing wrongdoing. Channel Nine does not.

Since the formation of The Age’s Insight team in 1967, Fairfax investigations have had many important public outcomes after exposing transgressions including: judicial inquiries, criminal charges, high-profile political and bureaucratic sackings, and law reforms. Recent examples include the dogged work of Fairfax and ABC journalists to expose systemic child sex abuse in the Catholic Church and elsewhere, leading to a royal commission and National Redress Scheme for victims.

Another was the exposure of dodgy lending practices that cost thousands of Australians their life savings and homes, which also triggered a royal commission.

The problem with Nine’s proposed takeover of Fairfax (if it goes ahead) is that it is unlikely to be “business as usual” for investigative journalism in the new Nine entity. First, there is a cultural misalignment and, with Nine in charge, theirs is likely to dominate.

With notable exceptions such as some 60 Minutes reporting, Nine is better known for its foot-in-the-door muckraking and chequebook journalism than its investigative journalism. In comparison, seven decades of award-winning investigative journalism data reveal Fairfax mastheads have produced more Walkley award-winning watchdog reporting than any other commercial outlet.

Financial fortunes wane
Second, even as the financial fortunes of Fairfax have waned in the digital age, it has maintained its award-winning investigative journalism through clever adaptations including cross-media collaborations, mainly with the ABC. This has worked well for both outlets, sharing costs and increasing a story’s reach and impact across print, radio, online and television.

How will this partnership be regarded when Fairfax is Nine’s newlywed? Will the ABC be able to go it alone with the same degree of investigative reporting in light of its successive federal government budget cuts?

Third, my latest research (see graph) has shown that in Australia, as in Britain and the United States, investigative stories and their targets have changed this decade to accommodate newsroom cost-cutting.

Investigative story targets in three countries: 2007-2016; n=100. Andrea Carson/Journalism Studies

Investigations are more likely to focus on stories that are cheaper and easier to pursue. This means some areas such as local politics and industrial relations have fallen off the investigative journalist’s radar. Here and abroad, this reflects cost-cutting and a loss of specialist reporters.

Echoing this, The Boston Globe’s Spotlight editor, Walter Robinson, warned:

There are so many important junctures in life where there is no journalistic surveillance going on. There are too many journalistic communities in the United States now where the newspaper doesn’t have the reporter to cover the city council, the school committee, the mayor’s office …

we have about half the number of reporters that we had in the late 1990s. You can’t possibly contend that you are doing the same level or depth of reporting. Too much stuff is just slipping through too many cracks.

Smaller topic breadth
Of concern, Australian award-winning investigations already cover a smaller breadth of topics compared to larger international media markets. The merger of Fairfax mastheads with Channel Nine further consolidates Australia’s newsrooms.

If investigative journalism continues, story targets are likely to be narrow.

Finally, investigative journalism is expensive. It requires time, resources and, because it challenges power, an institutional commitment to fight hefty lawsuits. Fairfax has a history of defending its investigative reporters in the courts, at great expense.

Will Nine show the same commitment to defending its newly adopted watchdog reporters using earnings from its focus on “brand”, “scale” and “data solutions”? For the sake of democratic accountability, I hope so.

is incoming associate professor at LaTrobe University and has previously worked as a journalist at Fairfax Media at The Age (1997-2001). She is a former lecturer, political science, School of Social and Political Sciences; Honorary Research Fellow, Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne. This article was first published by The Conversation and is republished under a Creative Commons licence.

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘A cloud over Bukidnon forest’ – the Lumad indigenous rights struggle in Mindanao

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: ‘A cloud over Bukidnon forest’ – the Lumad indigenous rights struggle in Mindanao

THE MOOD in the chapel on the outskirts of Malaybalay, capital of Bukidnon province was somber. Six datu (chiefs) and several delegates of the indigenous tribal Lumad people of the region were airing their concerns about a controversial New Zealand-backed $5.7 million forestry aid project for the Philippines. Ironically, less than 100 metres away, in a derelict building nestling amid a plantation of benguet pines on land earmarked for the project, were living about 80 “squatters” who in a sense symbolised the problem at the root of the scheme. Squatters would be the term used by some New Zealand officials and their technical advisers. But it was hardly appropriate, and reflected the insensitivity to many of the social and economic problems in the province. The homeless people belonged to the Bukidnon Free Farmers and Agricultural Labourers’ Organisation, or Buffalo, as it was generally known. Their story was one of injustice, victimisation and harassment, only too common in the Philippines.

The opening two paragraphs of Chapter 14 in David Robie’s 2014 book Don’t Spoil My Beautiful Face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific (Auckland: Little Island Press) summarising his investigation in 1989/1990 into the the controversial $6 million New Zealand forestry aid programme in Bukidnon province, Mindanao, Philippines with a series of articles published in The Dominion and the NZ Listener and other publications.

RESEARCH: David Robie: THE MOOD in the chapel on the outskirts of Malaybalay, capital of Bukidnon province was somber. Six datu (chiefs) and several delegates of the indigenous tribal Lumad people of the region were airing their concerns about a controversial New Zealand-backed $5.7 million forestry aid project for the Philippines.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

“Squatters” on their ancestral tribal land in 1989. Conrado Dumindin (second from right rear) and other Lumads in Bukidnon Forest, Mindanao, Philippines.
(16) A cloud over Bukidnon [forest]. Available from: [accessed Apr 07 2018]. Image: David Robie

Report by Pacific Media Centre