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.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Detained tourist in West Papua on allegations of ‘treason’ awaits trial

Accused tourist Jakup Febian Skrzypski with Frits Ramandey of the Human Rights Commission Office of Papua. Image: Tabloid Jubi

By Islami Adisubrata in Wamena, West Papua

Indonesian Regional Police in West Papua have handed over the documents of the case of a Polish tourist, Jakup Fabian Skrzypski, who was arrested recently with three Papuans and accused of “treason”, to the Jayawijaya District Attorney.

Skrzypski reportedly entered Indonesia on a tourist visa but was arrested on suspicion of working as a journalist illegally and having contact with an “insurgency” group, report news agencies.

The file was handed over to the District Attorney on November 2 and he is expected to face trial in Wamena along with three co-accused.

READ MORE: Police declare papers on accused tourist ready for trial

“So, the four suspects were handed over, two arrested in Wamena, including Skrzypski, and others arrested in Yalimo,” said Lintong Simanjuntak, Adjunct Police Commissionaire who is also the Chief of Violence and Crime Division of the Directorate of Crime Investigation of Papua Regional Police.

Skrzypski and three other people departed from Jayapura to Wamena and were immediately transferred to Jayawijaya District Attorney Office for re-examination.


The four now are detained by the Jayawijaya District Attorney.

Two of the defendants were sent to the House of Correction Class B Wamena, while the other two have been placed in police custody in Jayawijaya police headquarters.

Foreign Ministry help
Adjunct Commissionaire Simanjuntak, who accompanied the four defendants from Jayapura to Wamena, said that although Papua police would investigate this case of alleged treason, the trial would be conducted in Wamena – the place where the incident occurred.

Simanjuntak said that during the investigation, the police were assisted by the Foreign Ministry and had communicated with the Polish Ambassador in Jakarta, ensuring that all procedures had been completed appropriately.

The Chief of State’s Defence and Public Security of the Papua District Attorney Adrianus Irham Tamana said that the trial would be conducted before 20 days of detention had lapsed.

“The trial before 20 days of detention will be handed over to the court. Currently, they are still under our custody,” said Tamana.

But the public prosecutor’s team objected putting the detainees in the police headquarters jail as it was already overcrowded and this could effect access to the basic rights of the detainees in that overcrowded prison, said the detainees legal adviser Latifah Anum Siregar.

“Does this transfer create a problem of over capacity? What about their access and rights? Can these be fulfilled or not?” she asked.

Cell overflowing
Siregar said that during the detention by Papua regional police, the holding cell had already been overflowing, with 50 people occupying space for 25.

Also, the detainees needed to share the toilet for bathing and washing dishes.

“Security must be compared with humanitarian purpose. Don’tt apply security as the reason to ignore humanity.

“My clients have to get access to lawyers, religious leaders and this shouldn’t be restricted,” Siregar said.

She also said Skrzypski had rejected all allegations against him.

Islami Adisubrata is a journalist with Tabloid Jubi and this article has been translated into English and is republished with permission under a content sharing arrangement.

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MASI aims to develop regional journalism with USP boost

Media Association of Solomon Islands president Charles Kadamana, a University of the South Pacific journalism alumni, with wantok student journalists Rosalie Nongebatu (left) and joint top award winner Elizabeth Osifelo. Image: Harrison Selmen/Wansolwara

By Geraldine Panapasa in Suva

The Media Association of Solomon Islands (MASI) plans to work closely with the University of the South Pacific journalism programme to develop journalists in the region, says president Charles Kadamana.

Kadaman, a senior journalist with the Solomon Star daily newspaper, says past collaboration with USP Journalism has been successful, including a recent week-long training on anti-corruption reporting in the Solomon Islands.

He said the training was timely as the Solomon Islands government was in the process of debating the Anti-Corruption Bill.


“In Solomon Islands, there are about 36 USP journalism alumni now holding top jobs in the media industry, the government and in the private sectors,” said Kadamana, who was a guest at last week’s 18th USP Journalism Students Awards ceremony at Laucala campus in Suva.

“Looking at the list of journalism alumni, it is evident that the USP journalism programme has produced a lot of communications professionals in different areas contributing to our countries.

“Fiji and other Pacific countries also have USP journalism alumni in top posts.


“Today, there is growing interest of journalists studying at USP. I am also happy to see the number of students from Solomon Islands is increasing.”

Dominated awards
Eleven student journalists are currently with the USP programme and they dominated the awards.

As educated young people, Kadamana encouraged student journalists to take up leadership roles, adding taking up journalism was not an easy task.

“There will be people who will stab you in the back. To avoid disaster, all you have to do is produce the results.

“Do not be the person who only wants the position for status and glory,” Kadamana said.

The USP journalism alumni said the university had been the breeding ground for nurturing future journalists to meet the needs of the region during the past 50 years.

Wansolwara News and the Pacific Media Centre have a content sharing arrangement.

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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

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Vanuatu student journalist launches first poetry collection and aims higher

Telstar Jimmy with her poetry book Journey of Truth at USP’s Laucala campus in Suva … now keen to help others publish. Image: Harrison Selmen/Vanuatu Daily Post

By Harrison Selmen in Suva, Fiji

Vanuatu student journalist Telstar Jimmy launched her first poetry book in Fiji last week and vows bigger plans ahead to to help boost publishing in her country.

Although it took her several years to achieve her passion, Jimmy was proud that everyone around her is enjoying the moment.

“I feel relieved that I was finally able to publish, and overjoyed that I can now be able to share my poems with others – not just in Vanuatu but in the Pacific, because friends from Solomon Islands, Fiji and Nauru have already started buying the book and giving me a lot of positive feedback on it,” she says.

Jimmy’s plan now is to find other poets in Vanuatu and promote their work in anthology collection that can give them recognition.

“I know many have the potential but they lacked the opportunity to shine and share their stories,” she says.

While on the verge of completing her Bachelor degree at the University of the South Pacific majoring in journalism and language and literature at the end of this year, the launch of her book marks a double highlight in her academic journey.


The title of the book is Journey of Truth with four chapters and 76 pages.

Oceanic views
The poems cover global issues, oceanic views of the Pacific, family values and love stories.

She says the title of the book reflects the many stories in the book depicting real life events and journeys of life.

When asked who inspired her develop her poetry and why she decided to write a book, Jimmy answers, “Grace Molisa [an acclaimed ni-Vanuatu politician, poet and campaigner for women’s equality in politics] was my big inspiration … but then she passed away so soon”.

She said one of the main reasons to publish the book is to create a resource for Vanuatu generations with the Oceania and Pacific context.

As a mother of three children and mentor for many young Vanuatu students at Laucala during her three years of study, Telstar Jimmy describes the poems as a voice for all the silenced women – especially in a male-dominated country like Vanuatu.

Many student journalists at USP have posted messages on social media to congratulate the Vanuatu journalist for her poetic talents.

“Writing was fun and easy but publishing was quiet hard,” she says, thanking her family for funding her publication in Fiji.

Never give up
Jimmy’s message to her peers is never give up in life, even if it takes many years to achieve their dream.

“Don’t neglect the potential that you have.”

She thanked her families, especially her parents, siblings, children and husband for their support.

“Not forgetting Tony Alvero and Jerome Robert for the artistic designs, my English teachers at Malapoa and literature lecturers at USP, colleagues and friends and most importantly the almighty God for the wisdom and blessings,” she says.

  • Telstar Jimmy featured in a Pacific Media Centre climate change video last year by AUT student journalists Julie Cleaver and Kendall Hutt. Asia Pacific Report has a content sharing arrangement with Vanuatu Daily Post.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Gallery: Pacific student journalists show their stuff on USP awards night

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Student journalists have celebrated the end of the academic year with their 18th annual awards at the University if the South Pacific.

They were in jovial spirits as 14 awards and cash prizes to the tune of $6000 were awarded to many of the students in a ceremony on Friday evening.

Solomon Islands students did especially well, taking away many of the prizes.

Keynote speaker was a former coordinator of the USP journalism programme, Professor David Robie, director of the Pacific Media Centre.

Media Association of the Solomon Islands (MASI) president Charles Kadamana, a senior Solomon Star journalist who graduated from the USP programme last year, also spoke.

Full awards list | Professor David Robie’s speech

  • Photographers: Harry Selmen, Jovesa Naisua and David Robie

USP1: Graduating final year students and their awards with USP journalism coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh (left) and PMC director Professor David Robie. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara

ISP2: Part of the crowd at the USP journalism awards night. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara

USP3: Invited speakers … USP journalism programme coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh (from left) with Pacific Media Centre’s professor David Robie, head of the School of Literature and Media (SLAM), and MASI president Charles Kadamana. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara

USP4: MASI president Charles Kadamana and PMC director professor David Robie with graduating student journalists. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara

USP5: PMC’s Dr David Robie speaking at the USP journalism awards. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara

USP6: Keynote speaker Professor David Robie (left) presents a koha from New Zealand to USP journalism programme coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh during the awards ceremony. Image: Jovesa Naisua/Fiji Times

USP7: PMC’s Professor David Robie, Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley and USP journalism coordionator Dr Shailendra Singh at the awards. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara

USP8: Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley presenting an award with the Storyboard in the background. Image: David Robie/PMC

USP9: PMC’s David Robie making a prsentation at the awards. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara

USP10: Second year student journalists – smartest dress award? Image: David Robie/PMC

USP11: Kava not Fiji Gold. Image: David Robie/PMC

USP12: USP Journalism’s Geraldine Panapasa amd PMC’s Professor David Robie share a joke. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media