The statistics globally are chilling. And the Asia-Pacific region bears the brunt of the killing of journalists with impunity disproportionately.
Revelations in research published in the latest edition of Pacific Journalism Review on the trauma experienced by television journalists in the Philippines covering President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called ‘war on drugs’ are deeply disturbing.
According to UNESCO, about 1,010 journalists globally have been “killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public” in the 12 years until 2017 – or on average, one death every four days.
Many argue that the Philippines, with one of the worst death tolls of journalists in the past decade, is a prime example of the crisis.
Journalists covering the “graveyard shift” were the first recorders of violence and brutality under Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
The first phase in 2016, called Oplan Tokhang, was executed ruthlessly and relentlessly.
The Tagalog phase in English means “to knock and plead” and was supposed to be bloodless – a far cry from the reality.
Almario-Gonzalez’s colleague, award-winning photographer Fernando G Sepe Jr, has also contributed an associated photoessay drawn from his groundbreaking ‘Healing The Wounds From the Drug War’ gallery.
He reflects on the impact of Duterte’s onslaught on the poor in his country.
Compared to the Philippines and other Asian countries – such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar – media freedom issues in the Pacific micro states and neighbouring Australia and New Zealand may appear relatively benign – and certainly not life threatening.
Nevertheless, the Pacific faces growing media freedom challenges.
The phosphate Micronesian state of Nauru banned the Australian public broadcaster ABC and “arrested” Television New Zealand Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver while she covered the Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit in September 2018.
Media freedom crises In this context, Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre marked its tenth anniversary in November 2017 with a wide-ranging public seminar discussing critical media freedom crises.
Keynote speakers included Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) executive director Malou Mangahas and RNZ Pacific senior journalist Johnny Blades.
Papers from this seminar and 14 other contributing researchers from seven countries on topics ranging from the threats to the internet, post-conflict identity, Pacific media freedom and journalist safety are featured in this edition of PJR.
Unthemed paper topics include representations of Muslims in New Zealand, ASEAN development journalism, US militarism in Micronesia and the reporting of illegal rhino poaching for the Vietnamese market.
The issue has been edited by Professor David Robie, director of the PMC, Khairiah A. Rahman of AUT, and Dr Philip Cass of Unitec. The designer was Del Abcede.
Evening Report Analysis – National Affairs and the Public Interest, by Selwyn Manning.
Accusations have surfaced alleging the current National Party leadership conspired to politically destroy Jami-Lee Ross – this after details of his affair with a fellow party MP became known to them. The allegations raise serious questions. Those questions include: what did National’s leader and deputy leader know and when did they find out?
A sworn to timeline of events is now essential so that the public interest can be satisfied. This must be a crucial element that is cemented in to the methodology of Simon Bridges’ inquiry into the culture of the National Party. Above all, it must be independent and publicly accessible.
The inquiry must examine the National leadership team’s actions and culture, test whether they acted in a proper and timely manner, and assess whether their actions considered a concern for the welfare and mental health of an MP they had previously supported, promoted, and embedded within their leadership team.
It follows that allegations suggesting a “hit job” was orchestrated from inside the National Party leadership must also be independently explored.
If the inquiry finds that either the leader, or deputy leader, was part of a destructive and inhumane attack on Jami-Lee Ross – while it was known that he was at high risk of being pushed over the edge, was ill, and verging on suicide – and that they acted without reasonable regard for his welfare, then it must be accepted by the National Party caucus, its membership and the public, that this National leadership team is at the very least morally bankrupt.
This inquiry ought to be conducted amidst a background whereby Ross declared his role in the destructive side of politics; following the orders of Sir John Key, Bill English, Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges. Ross was afterall a ‘numbers man’ for Bridges, and benefitted from the patronage that the Bridges-Bennett leadership team offered.
There are a number of ‘ifs’ in this analysis, but the public interest demands that they be considered.
The allegations have surfaced on the blog-site Whaleoil which is owned and edited by controversial writer Cameron Slater.
Some may dismiss the allegations on the basis of tribalism, or ignore the allegations because Slater was centrally involved in National’s so called Dirty Politics as revealed in 2014. But the nature of the allegations are as serious as they get in politics, and, if accurate played a part in the sudden deterioration of Jami-Lee Ross’ mental health, the sectioning of Ross for his own protection, and the erasion of credibility of a potential political opponent who was determined to continue as a critical member of New Zealand’s Parliament.
This analysis’ argument suggests any such bias, on behalf by Cameron Slater’s opponents, ought to be ethically and morally put aside until such a time as the truth and facts are tested. Such an inquiry, preferably judicial but essentially independent, must be robust and critical in its analysis.
To reiterate; numerous elements of this saga elevate the issues to a matter of serious public interest.
And it must be noted at this juncture, that the party’s leader Simon Bridges insists he has acted appropriately and denies taking part in any political “hit job”.
Let’s examine what Evening Report has learned from contacts close to events.
Alleged details of events between Saturday-Sunday October 20-21
There is a txt-chain of events that investigators can forensically examine that are central to understanding who was involved in the sectioning of Jami-Lee Ross.
If the txts are examined they will determine if it is fact that the National Party MP, with whom Jami-Lee Ross had a three-year affair, rang the Police and that as a consequence of that call the Police used mental health laws to take Jami-Lee Ross into custody and contain him within the mental health unit at Counties Manukau Health.
Txts will also show whether it is fact that the female MP then called Simon Bridges’ chief of staff at 9:15pm on Saturday October 20 informing him of the events. If so Bridges’ office was aware of an alleged suicide attempt. Investigators would then be able to assess whether a txt message from Jami-Lee Ross’ psychologist, who Evening Report understands messaged Jami-Lee Ross at 9:28pm on Saturday October 20, asking if he was ok, and that the psychologist had minutes prior received a txt message from Jamie Gray, Simon Bridges’ chief of staff.
It is a matter of public record that Simon Bridges appeared on NewsHub’s AM Show on Tuesday October 23, denying all knowledge of events on the Saturday night – that is until a wider grouping within the National Party became privy to what had happened to Jami-Lee Ross.
It appears reasonable to form an opinion that Bridges’ chief of staff would have informed the leader of such an event. If he didn’t, why didn’t he inform Bridges?
The sectioning of Jami-Lee Ross ended a week where many National Party MPs, and a wider network of those loyal to the party, appeared to be actively orchestrating a coordinated campaign to destroy the so-called rogue MP’s political chances and to discredit his claims of corruption within the National Party leadership. Had Jami-Lee Ross abused his position as the senior whip within the party? It certainly appears so. Did he abuse the power he was afforded? Media reports would suggest this was so. Did he have an affair with at least two women? Yes. But it appears that the public attacks began, not at the time when senior members of the party were informed of Ross’ actions, but, once Ross began to attack the leadership. This is significant.
An Opposition’s Role As The Public’s Advocate
As senior representatives of New Zealand’s Legislature, leader Simon Bridges and deputy leader Paula Bennett can arguably be regarded as the public’s advocates within Parliament. Their job is to keep the Executive Government on its toes, challenge its policy and rationale, to be Parliament’s keepers of the public’s interest.
As such, the public deserves to know if the leaders, as a team or individually, conspired to destroy the political chances of an MP and former colleague, who they considered to have gone rogue, and who they knew was suffering a crisis of mental health so serious that it could have ended in death.
It is in consideration of the public interest, that this editorial is written.
We now know as fact, Jami-Lee Ross had a three year affair with a South Island-based National MP.[name withheld]. Like him, she has two children and was married.
While the affair was going ‘well’, contacts inside the National Party have told Evening Report that Jami-Lee encouraged Bridges to promote his lover above her standing and reputation in caucus, well above some high profile MPs like National’s Chris Bishop who are respected among colleagues and media and seen to have been doing their job well. The promotion was seen to give leverage, to sure up the numbers to stabilise Bridges’ and Bennett’s leadership team at a time when they sensed support was delicate.
Meanwhile, Jami-Lee Ross continued to pull in big donations from wealthy Chinese residents in his Botany electorate. As a reward, Bridges embedded him into his inner core, the top three. Politically, this is really an unsound move by a political leader. With Ross being senior whip, he is supposed to be directed by the leader to pull MPs into line, to do the leader’s bidding, and to do this without necessarily knowing the deep and dark details underlying the leader’s moves.
In effect, with Jami-Lee Ross becoming a central figure, knowing all the details, the dirt, the strategy and tactics, it centralised too much power into the whip position and elevated a real danger of a whip using the position for his own gain. To reiterate, this appears a seriously stupid move of Bridges and Bennett to pull a whip in on their machinations. And, in a significant contact’s view, it appears they risked this because Jami-Lee was pulling in the donor money.
Jami-Lee Ross had been on the rise for a time. Former Prime Minister John Key promoted him to the whips office. Then PM Bill English secured Ross’s rise by maintaining and elevating his whip role. Bridges and Bennett further empowered Jami-Lee Ross by cementing him into the whip position, a move that suggested National’s power-politicians were well satisfied with his service.
It’s hard to tell how far back it was when Jami-Lee Ross began to record Bridges. And, at this juncture, it’s difficult to know if he recorded Bennett as well. The public is left to fathom whether it was when his affair with the National MP went sour and perhaps Ross sensed Bennett having become close to her.
In any event, when Jami-Lee Ross fell out with his colleague and lover, sources say Bennett played a crucial role in the analysis of his conduct, in particular women who had allegedly been burned by Ross. Two women, contacts inside National state were staff of the National Party leader. The MP (whom Ross had a three-year affair with) and the two staff members are said by National Party contacts to be the subject of NewsRoom.co.nz’s investigation into Ross’ activities, an investigation that is believed to have spanned up to one year in duration. Evening Report raises this aspect as the public interest demands to consider whether it is reasonable to believe that two staffers in the leader’s office never told nor informed Bridges, or the chief of staff, that they were cooperating in a media investigation into the leader’s chief and senior whip?
Contacts state that Bennett gained the women’s confidence, received information so it could be prepared as part of a disciplinary process. Did Bennett choose to engage media with this information? If so, once media received the information, what involvement did the deputy leader have or continue to have, or engage with, the complainants and media?
Sources inside National state Bennett then seeded info about Jami-Lee Ross having had an affair. They point to her having hinted at behaviour unbecoming of a married member of Parliament during an interview before TV, radio and print journalists. Did she do this without Bridges knowing or being forewarned.
If true, in effect, this would have driven the narrative ahead of the leader. If so, it is reasonable to fathom that a senior politician would know Bridges would be forced to defend the character-attack campaign that appeared orchestrated and designed to destroy Ross. Amidst the firestorm, National MP Maggie Barry spoke out against Ross with significant indignation. This will have been digested by the public that National had expelled a human predator from its midst. It also gave the impression National’s female caucus members were unified. However, respected MP Nikki Kaye kept out of it. Why?
Next, Bridges was forced to field political journalists’ questions about breaking the old convention that you keep affairs and family issues under the covers.
Bridges was then compelled to inform media that he had “told off” his deputy leader for giving credence that an affair had been ongoing between Ross and a Nat MP. This made Bridges look even weaker.
The future of National’s leadership
National Party contacts suggest Bridges is positioned where he will be forced to absorb the political fallout for what is seen by some as a character assassination campaign gone wrong. One contact states that once Bridges is rendered useless, and the issue dies down, Bennett herself will be well positioned to remove Bridges as leader in 2019.
It is reasonable to form an opinion that senior National MP Judith Collins will also be available if the leadership were to fall vacant. Her popularity is again on the rise.
At this juncture, for Bridges and Bennett, it appears wise for them to expect more National Party dirt to emerge before the end of the year. Evening Report’s sources say: “ample dirt lingers just below the surface.”
For a party that once stated it had no factions, it certainly seems its personality factions are now in all-out political warfare.
Judith Collins’ star has been rising since she returned to the front-bench in opposition. And it has been bolstered by a favourable Colmar Brunton Poll. It’s fair to suggest she has laid heavy hits on Labour’s Housing Minister Phil Twyford. As a consequence, her standing within the caucus has improved. On investigation, it is clear she has not had the loyalty of Jami-Lee Ross since he was promoted by John Key. He, along with Mark Mitchell, then supported Bill English for the leadership. Bennett and Mitchell are politically close. It does appear that moves by some media to connect Jami-Lee Ross’ revelations with a Judith Collins plan as not based on fact.
While there’s an expectation among interested public that Collins will be the next leader, she will need the support of what’s left of National’s social conservatives and those loyal to Nikki Kaye.
For Collins to succeed, she will have to be seen to inoculate the party from damaging information that may be in the possession of Jami-Lee Ross. All the while, she, like Bennett, needs Bridges to continue to fail as a leader.
It is fair to accept, the recordings and damaging information are now with Cam Slater and Simon Lusk. It is also reasonable to suggest that Bridges is a disappointment to some who once supported his bid for leadership. Cam Slater is clearly appalled at what he refers to as a “hit job”.
Slater is adamant that he is not motivated by an agenda, nor by a pitch by a fiscal conservative faction to gain leadership of the National party. Rather he said, he is motivated to help an old friend who the current leadership moved to destroy. He added on his blog-site, if the current leadership continues “to lie” he will continue to reveal the truth.
Meanwhile, Jami-Lee Ross is being reassured and cared for by a mutual friend of his and Slaters who is a pastor with the Seventh Day Adventists.
Contacts say, with regard to Jami-Lee Ross and his National Party former lover and colleague, the three year affair was a relationship that in the end didn’t deliver what either banked on – despite promotions and connections and having benefitted politically from their association.
It’s fair to say, Jami-Lee Ross was out of his experiential depth and in part abusive from the point of view of how to handle political power, networks and consensual relationships.
Two other women who laid complaints about Ross, worked in the leader’s office.
Bridges is adamant he didn’t know about the abuse of power nor the complaints. Did Bennett know? At what point was she privy to the information?
One National Party contact said: “It defies reasonable belief that Bridges didn’t know.”
It is right that Bridges has initiated an inquiry into National’s culture. But that in itself falls short or what the public interest demands. Why? Because the inquiry reports back to Bridges, who as leader may well be one of the protagonists. Also, the report will not be released to the public which leaves it as a golden prize, the holy grail, for any journalist and, irrespective of who it damns or exonerates, will become a currency for any MP with leadership ambitions.
As it now stands, Bridges’ worst nightmare must be not knowing what Jami-Lee Ross recorded and at what point did he begin taping the National Party leader’s conversations.
If those recordings contain further embarrassing or damaging content and references, then he will be finished as leader. Bridges, as leader, even if he has a clear conscience, must be wracking his memory as to past conversations and comments while knowing the conversations may be in the hands of people with whom he has lost their trust.
And the question remains unanswered: Was Paula Bennett recorded as well?
If her actions are found by inquirers to have led an orchestrated political response to Jami-Lee Ross’ revelations, whether that be at the behest or otherwise of the current leader, then this will destroy any higher ambitions that she may have ever contemplated.
It follows, that if the report concludes that the rot inside National extends to its current leadership, then it may well be that Judith Collins will become the leader of the National Party, unopposed.
Whatever the future holds for the National Party, it is in everyone’s interests that an independent judicial investigation into this National affair be conducted in a spirit of openness and propriety.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Evening Report invites any individual connected to this analysis to have a right of reply.
Footnote: Interview between the author and Jami-Lee Ross on his role as a new National Party MP (August 13 2012):
Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Sympathy for Clare Curran
It is very hard not to feel sympathy for Clare Curran. The minister was obviously not coping with her job, and scrutiny from the National Party opposition and the media. She was clear about that herself in her statement, saying she found it an “intolerable” situation, and pleaded to be understood as a “human being”.
This has raised questions in recent days about whether Curran really deserved the treatment she was receiving, and the manner of her downfall. Some have seen it as a “media beat-up” or a “National Party lynching”.
Many of her supporters, especially on social media, have painted a picture of the former minister as a victim of an unnecessarily brutal and dehumanising political culture. Some have questioned whether her downfall was even warranted, suggesting it was simply a result of bullies in Parliament and the media wanting to claim a “scalp”. Others feel the heat on Curran was over the top.
Such reactions are fair enough, and it’s always good to reflect on whether politics and the media are becoming too harsh at the expense of everyone’s humanity. However, the problem is that the people asserting the cries of “injustice” are invariably partisans of the politician in question, and their arguments often appear as just another form of opportunistically appealing to some sort of higher principle in order to defend their own team. Very seldom do those crying “unfair” seem to ask themselves whether they have behaved in the same way, or how they would react if the shoe was on the other foot and the other political side was under pressure.
For a good example of sympathy for Clare Curran over the whole scandal, you can read Frank Macskasy’s blog post, Kicking a person when they are down is never a good thing. He argues that National’s pursuit of Curran was akin to amoral hungry animals killing their prey: “Sensing the Minister’s vulnerability, National Opposition MPs continued to attack her in Parliament and through on-line social media. It was the most primal of interactions between creatures; a pack of predators hungry for a kill, circling a solitary, wounded creature. The ‘pack’ pursued her, drained her of strength until all resistance crumbled, and she relented”.
Macskasy does admit the same occurred to National when they were in power: “To be utterly, brutally fair – the Labour Opposition scored their own victories during nine years of Key’s administration, claiming one ‘scalp’ after another; Todd Barclay; Judith Collins; Aaron Gilmore; Phil Heatley; Mike Sabin; Kate Wilkinson; Maurice Williamson; Pansy Wong; Richard Worth”.
National Party blogger David Farrar has also expressed sympathy for Curran, but points out Labour was equally ruthless in targeting National MPs. Farrar says: “I actually feel sorry for Clare Curran… I’ve always found her well intentioned, nice on a personal level, and it must be horrible going through all this” – see: Duncan and Tova on Curran.
Farrar’s main point, however, is that no side is blameless in putting pressure on MPs: “Parliament is a tough environment and Labour never held back when a National MP was in trouble. As someone pointed out on Twitter, Labour tried to crucify Todd Barclay (also a really nice guy) for a stupid mistake, and even get him arrested.”
Similarly, Claire Trevett says this is simply reality for all in politics: “Ministers who make one mistake will always be branded a potential weak link and face greater scrutiny than their colleagues from the Opposition. It looks like bullying and sometimes it is. But neither side can cry foul because both do it” – see: Clare Curran the canary in the mine for Jacinda Ardern.
Trevett says some politicians actually benefit from the pressure: “those who emerge tougher than tungsten from the pressure… Judith Collins is one exhibit, Bill English and Helen Clark are others who have the intestinal fortitude to forge through hard times and ultimately triumph. The hard times simply make the redemption that much sweeter. Others crumble under the pressure”.
Too much media scrutiny of Curran?
The claim that the media has also been bullying towards politicians has been made. And Clare Curran seems to think so, too, making one last tweet at a political journalist who had been covering her press conference: “That is an incredibly nasty comment… Just show a damn example to other journalists will you” – see the Herald’s Clare Curran hits back at RNZ journalist on Twitter, then deletes account.
Certainly, a number of journalists have been rather scathing of Curran. The Political editor of the Otago Daily Times has reflected on Curran’s ten years as a politician in Dunedin, and suggested it might be time for Labour to seek a replacement for her, as her electorate is now vulnerable to National taking it off her – see Dene Mackenzie’s Gone but wrongs not forgotten.
Mackenzie argues that the MP was never strong under scrutiny: “Ms Curran was never suited to be a minister. She struggled in Opposition to build a credible reputation after unseating MP David Benson-Pope in a contested selection in February 2008, and was never confident under scrutiny.”
Furthermore, he argues that as the local MP for Dunedin South, Curran has been rather ineffective compared to her predecessors. And he expressed his frustrations with her interactions with the media: “She could not complete a task and was very defensive when questioned on any of her actions. Her relationships with even the most accommodating of local media personnel were fractious, to say the least. Arriving late for interviews was stock in trade. In fact, this reporter used to wait 10 to 15 minutes and return to the office rather than continue to wait for the then Opposition MP. As a minister, she has not been in contact.”
Some in the media have also challenged the notion that Curran was the victim of someone else’s harsh actions. For example, Heather du Plessis-Allan responded to this, saying “as for Curran’s exit statement, she told reporters that the pressure has become ‘intolerable’ because the current heat being placed on her is unlikely to go away. Come on, that’s blaming everyone else! Curran’s not in this position because people are chasing her. She’s in this position because she kept stuffing up” – see: Curran saga shows PM is lacking a spine.
And when Curran hit out at a journalist on Twitter, former parliamentarian Deborah Coddington tweeted: “MPs should just suck it up. Taxpayers pay them good wages. They want to regulate; they have to roll with the punches and NEVER blame media. It’s the old kitchen/heat cliche.”
Was Clare Curran “hard enough” for ministerial politics?
I’m reported in an ODT article about Curran’s demise, suggesting that the former minister was perhaps not as tough as she made out: “Edwards said Ms Curran was normally a feisty and combative debater, but recent events suggested she was not as tough as that veneer suggested” – see Mike Houlahan’s Pressure sinks Curran.
The same article also quotes rival local MP, and former minister, Michael Woodhouse: “The so-called intolerable pressure has been brought on entirely by her own actions… Life as a minister is difficult and busy and there is a high level of scrutiny. If she wanted less intolerable pressure she should have performed to a higher standard.”
As to Curran’s status as a tough and battling politician, Richard Harman has written a revealing commentary today which looks at some of the issues of her operating style. He relays a recent conversation with her: “she reminded me that she had worked for the Australian Labor Party. It was something her opponents didn’t seem to realise, she said. “I learned how to be tough there,” she said. Sadly, it is now obvious. She didn’t” – see: Why did Labour let Curran go.
Harman reflects on how Curran normally operated in politics with a “forceful personality”, but her performance last week in Parliament “was not the way an ALP hard person would have reacted.”
Others have drawn attention to Curran’s infamous and unique achievement of successfully challenging her Labour predecessor in Dunedin South, David Benson-Pope. Not only had this taken an incredibly ruthless approach from Curran, but there now seemed to be, according to Barry Soper, a case of “History repeating itself – or karma” – see: Clare Curran saga reflects poorly on Jacinda Ardern’s leadership.
Soper points out that the parallels between the declines of both Labour ministers are uncanny. For example, “By the time he stepped down as a minister, Benson-Pope was a quivering wreck, having developed a nervous tick.”
Curran an author of her own misfortune
Soper also suggests that politicians just have to get used to the rough and tumble of politics: “Politics is a tough business but if you answer questions honestly and in good faith you generally survive relatively unscathed.” And he doesn’t believe that Curran was in anyway a victim of misfortune: “Curran committed what were two significant strikes, meeting secretly with people who sought to gain from her role in Government, she should have been fired after the first and after the second it was a no-brainer.”
Also unsympathetic to Curran’s plight is broadcaster Kerre McIvor, who says “Her press conference on Friday afternoon was full of self pity and delusional justification” – see: Clare Curran had to go but must own mistakes. She suggests that some self-reflection is in order: “Come on, Clare! Whose fault is it that the media are asking questions and the Nats are taking chunks out of you?”
McIvor explains in detail why Curran’s misdemeanours were actually very serious, and she is worth quoting at length: “the clandestine meeting with Radio NZ’s head of news was a shining example of what NOT to do to create a thriving democratic system… The point is that in an open democracy, you cannot have a government interfering, or appearing to interfere, with the media. The Minister of Broadcasting held a meeting with a senior member of management at Radio NZ. The Cabinet Manual says that if a minister wants to meet with an employee of a government agency, then the minister must first have ensured the employee has raised the matter with the chief executive. That clearly didn’t happen. Who knows what sweetheart deals could be arranged in meetings between taxpayer funded ministers and members of taxpayer funded organisations?”
Ardern’s failure to be “cruel to be kind”
I’ve written about how Curran has faced “one of the most wretched weeks of her life”, and how this might be partly due to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern failing to be “cruel to be kind” in not removing her earlier – see: Curran’s misery at an end, but the PM’s goes on.
Here’s my main point about Ardern’s “kindness” in keeping Curran in the job as long as she did: “If it was a matter of personal friendship or loyalty, of giving a colleague another chance, then it will be a tough lesson for everyone concerned. The phrase “cruel to be kind” springs to mind, because allowing Ms Curran to stagger on did her no favours and certainly did not help the government.”
Similarly, Tracy Watkins has written, that “Sometimes in politics, you have to be cruel to be kind” and “Forcing Curran to limp on until then would have been as cruel as it was unwise politically” – see: Wounded Clare Curran had no choice but to quit.
Watkins suggests that it might be Ardern’s intended approach of being “kind in government” that has let her down: “Her popularity in huge part was based on her putting a softer kinder face on Government. But there is a fine line and strong leadership isn’t always just an image thing.”
In his article today on the issue, Richard Harman also draws attention to whether Ardern and the rest of the Government’s leadership and advisers did enough to help Curran during her difficulties, saying that normally these problems would mean “she would come under tight political management from someone higher up the Beehive. We now know that this did not happen and because of that she was doomed. It may be that management was attempted, and maybe it was rejected. We don’t know.”
Finally, despite the question of whether Clare Curran was the author of her own misfortune, clearly there is a need to remember that such politicians are – as the former minister rightly put it, “human beings”. And the pressures of life in politics need to be considered in the current focus on mental health issues. In this regard it’s worth considering Laura Walters’ thoughtful article, asking: Where is politics’ John Kirwan?
Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Police apologise to Nicky Hager for “dirty politics”
It’s been a long time coming, but Nicky Hager’s battle with the Police, who badly mistreated him when they investigated his Dirty Politics book in 2014, has finally come to an end. Victory for Hager comes in the form of the Police making him a significant apology and a substantial financial payout.
This is not just a win for Hager personally, but also for freedom of the press, for the ongoing vigilance against police authoritarianism, and the general fight against injustice. No doubt, the payout from the Police will now fund Hager to continue producing his important public interest journalism.
News of the apology and payout can be read in David Fisher’s report, Police pay Nicky Hager ‘substantial damages for unlawful search of his home in hunt for Dirty Politics hacker. In this, Fisher provides some background to today’s outcome: “The settlement comes almost four years after the publication of Dirty Politics, which alleged the office of former Prime Minister Sir John Key ran a dirty tricks campaign through right wing bloggers. Hager wrote the book after an anonymous source known only as Rawshark provided information said to have been hacked from Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater.”
Police then sought to discover who had hacked Slater’s computer and, although they didn’t suspect Hager himself, they raided his home, and also obtained information from banks, airlines and phone companies that Hager was a customer with.
The treatment Hager received was enough to unite many of the left and right in condemning the Police actions. I wrote back in 2015 about how many on the political right – such as Matthew Hooton and Rodney Hide – were highly supportive of Hager’s case – see: Libertarians against dirty politics.
Hager claimed that these Police actions were unlawful, and gained a High Court ruling that agreed with him – see, also, my 2015 roundup of this landmark case: Dirty Politics won’t die. This showed that many experts agreed about the need to have properly functioning mechanisms – especially investigative journalism – that hold the powerful to account, and that the police actions had undermined that mechanism.
It’s also worth noting that Hager’s daughter was the only person at her father’s house when the Police raided it, and she also received a settlement from the Police in 2016 – see RNZ’s Hager’s daughter’s police pay-out ‘a relief’.
For analysis of today’s settlement, see law professor Andrew Geddis’ blog post, Why the police’s apology to Nicky Hager matters. He concludes that what the Police did to Hager was “completely unreasonable and dangerous to our democracy. It should never have happened, and should never happen again”.
Geddis gives a comprehensive account of what the Police did wrong in this case. Here’s the most interesting part: “The police admit that they misled a court by omission into giving them apparent legal authority to raid the house of not a suspect in a crime, but a witness to it. That witness, they knew, was a working journalist whose efficacy depends upon being able to assure his sources… And in what is perhaps the most damning indictment of the police’s actions, they now admit that they told some of these third parties they wanted information about Mr Mr Hager because he was suspected of fraud and other criminal activities. This was what is known in legal circles as a complete and utter lie.”
In this interview, Hager elaborates on the positive impact that today’s settlement might have for public interest journalism: “What I’m hoping this decision will do is that people who’ve got really important information that matters to the public and matters in big issues won’t be too scared to give it to us. That’s what really matters, and we couldn’t have got a better result for that”.
Hager adds that “The PM and Judith Collins were very angry”, and the Police raid was meant to be “punishment”, “not for breaking the law, but for releasing information that powerful people didn’t want to come out.”
There’s been plenty of reaction to the settlement on Twitter, and here’s some of the more interesting responses: Nandor Tanczos (@NandorTanczos) Following on from the shambles & backtracking at the Defense Force over ‘Hit & Run’, today comes another vindication of Nicky Hagar and his work in ‘Dirty Politics’. This is an important outcome for anyone seeking to expose corruption and lies among the powerful.
Rachel Stewart (@RFStew) Everybody on the right of NZ politics will be having a septic, shitty little day. And I’m glad. You can’t buy integrity, and that’s what Nicky Hager has in spades.
Thomas Beagle (@thomasbeagle) So, what’s happening to the members of NZ Police who authorised and carried out the multiply illegal search of Nicky Hager? #TheNZAccountabilityDeficit
Meg de Ronde (@MegdeRonde) Very pleased & proud to see this outcome for Hager & for human rights in NZ. Thanks again to all the amazing people that donated to the Givealittle so we could support this legal action. We all did it!
Felix Geiringer (@BarristerNZ) It has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life to act for Nicky on the #DirtyPolitics case. I will never meet a person with more integrity.
Alex Coleman (@ShakingStick) Hager is lucky he’s not on twitter to get inundated with all the apologies from the people who said on here that the raid on his house was absolutely fair game and that he was just being a sook about something he should have expected
Branko Marcetic (@BMarchetich) A victory for press freedom in Aotearoa. The police investigation into Hager had the potential to cause a chilling effect on NZ journalism. Instead, this outcome will hopefully have a chilling effect on future police intimidation of reporters
Lew (@LewSOS) Nicky Hager still the undisputed champion. Nobody can lay a glove on him, try as they might.
Branko Marcetic (@BMarchetich) Further thought on the Hager outcome: this, coupled with the NZDF’s dishonesty regarding Hit & Run, is exactly the reason why people warn against vesting sec services & law enforcement with easily abused powers. These organisations can and frequently do become politicised
The politicians haven’t provided much reaction yet. But Shane Cowlishaw quotes National leader Simon Bridges: “Look, if the police stuffed up and they got the law wrong, then the apology is the right thing to do. In terms of compensation where that goes, again, I haven’t seen the detail but there’s a pretty well-worn legal track for that in case law, and I think that’s where the answer should lie” – see: Hager triumphs as police capitulate.
Of course, Hager’s victory has involved much help from others. For example, his initial legal action against the Police was made possible by some activists crowdfunding through a Give-a-Little page for some of his legal costs, which raised $65k, and then US journalist Glenn Greenwald raised another $21k.
Finally, this column requires something of a disclosure from the author – because I have championed Nicky Hager’s case, being supportive of his journalistic work, and of his rights. I was an “expert witness” in the legal case that Hager took against the Police. And last year, I wrote in tribute to Hager’s work on the eve of the release of his Hit and Run book, co-written with Jon Stephenson, in which I explain why such work is badly needed in New Zealand: “The real value of Hager’s work is that it enhances the democratic process. His research is usually on the powerful in society, and helps us understand how that power is used. Of course it’s the nature of the powerful that they seek to wield their influence without raising public awareness. But in a democracy we need to know how society really works, why decisions are made, and how they are influenced” – see: Why we need another Nicky Hager book.
Headline: Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: The Hit & Run inquiry opens up a can of worms
Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: The Hit & Run inquiry opens up a can of worms
New Zealand’s military conduct in its longest running war ever – in Afghanistan – is finally getting an official government inquiry. This has the real potential to open up a can of worms. So far, the announcement of the Government’s inquiry into Operation Burnham has been met with a great diversity of reactions. Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, and their supporters, have been “over the moon”, as Hager put it. But this doesn’t mean they don’t have concerns about the inquiry.
Validity of inquiry disputed
Not everyone is happy to see the New Zealand defence forces being made accountable for the SAS raid in Afghanistan. Newstalk ZB’s Tim Dower represents one strand of opinion in his argument that the military should never be criticised or investigated – see his column condemning the new inquiry: When it comes to military operations, I’m taking the word of our guys.
Dower makes the case that New Zealand soldiers were in Afghanistan to help the locals, and the chaotic nature of the conflict there meant “our guys were at a disadvantage from the get-go.” He goes so far as to say that, even if New Zealand troops killed Afghans in a botched raid, “I’d rather it was one of them – even a civilian – than one of ours.”
Newstalk ZB’s political editor Barry Soper says that “in reality this was a firefight and unfortunately some innocents lost their lives, which tragically happens in war zones” – see: Little doubt in what SAS inquiry will come up with. He expects the defence forces to be exonerated, on the simple basis that: “the allied forces were under fire and responded”.
Soper regards the inquiry as a “waste of money”, saying “surely the money would have been better spent on the mould and leaks at Middlemore Hospital.” This is a similar line to that being run by the National Party. It’s defence spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, has come out strongly against the inquiry, reiterating that when National was in office it carefully considered the evidence and was in no doubt an inquiry wasn’t needed. You can see his very good ten-minute interview with Breakfast TV’s Jack Tame here: Inquiry into deadly NZ-led Afghanistan raid labelled a waste of taxypers’ money by National.
The New Zealand Defence Forces bosses remain confident they will be cleared by the inquiry. The head of the defence force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, has emailed his staff to say that the “conduct of the NZSAS ground forces was exemplary” and the evidence he has will clear “the soldiers of any wrongdoing”.
How any government inquiry is set up obviously has a significant impact on what is revealed, and whether justice is served. That’s why so much attention was paid to the terms of reference provided to the inquiry. Supporters of Hager and Stephenson had worried that these terms of reference would be too narrow, or that not enough resources or independence would be supplied by the Government.
Such fears appear to have been unfounded. Both Hager and Stephenson have expressed their support for how the inquiry has been established. Stephenson has said, “It appears that the terms of reference are sufficiently broad to enable Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Sir Terence Arnold to ask the questions that I believe need to be asked”, and “I’m pleased that the issue of NZ involvement in transferring detainees to the Afghan secret police who are well known to torture detainees is going to be examined” – see Jo Moir and Henry Cooke’s Author Jon Stephenson pleased with inquiry, but queries Govt ‘muddying waters’.
This article also reports Stephenson’s belief that witnesses would be dealt with appropriately: “He said the fact that the inquiry could take evidence under oath in secret and protect the identity of witnesses would mean his sources would be comfortable – particularly the ones who were serving at the time.”
According to that article, the main issues that the terms of reference include are the following: “The allegations of civilian deaths. The allegation that NZDF knowingly transferred a man to a prison where he would be tortured. The allegation that soldiers returned to the valley to destroy homes on purpose.”
There is one further, less publicised, focus of the inquiry, that has the potential to be even more explosive than the Hit and Run allegations: an examination of whether New Zealand soldiers were involved in assassination missions on behalf of other countries. Here are the terms of reference relating to this: “7.9 Separate from the Operation, whether the rules of engagement, or any version of them authorised the pre-determined and offensive use of lethal force against specified individuals (other than in the course of direct battle) and if so, whether this was or should have been a[aren’t to (a) NZDF who approved the relevant version(s) and (b) responsible Ministers.”
Blogger No Right Turn has picked up on this, saying this “is a new and unpleasant issue, and highlights the dangers of letting foreigners decide when and in what circumstances NZ soldiers are allowed to kill” – see: Finally.
He adds: “we know that many of NZDF’s allies (including the USA, UK and Australia) are not moral countries and their moral values around military action and assassination are deeply at odds with those of the New Zealand public (and with international law). It’s not clear whether there’s any allegation that NZDF soldiers have been involved in assassinations, but if they have, then they may have committed crimes under New Zealand and international law, for which they will need to be prosecuted.”
Investigative journalists Eugene Bingham and Paula Penfold have worked on important stories about the 2012 Battle of Baghak, in which two New Zealand soldiers were killed in action. This controversy has been specifically excluded by the Government, which claims it has already been dealt with in an Army Court of Inquiry. Bingham and Penfold dispute this, and argue the inquiry needs to be considerably wider in scoop – see: Missing the target: The Government inquiry into Afghanistan raid.
The journalists give kudos to the Government for establishing the new inquiry, but say “the specific concern over civilian casualties in Operation Burnham represents only a fraction of the problems with culture and lack of accountability at the top of Defence, particularly regarding the decade-long deployment to Afghanistan. Those problems run very, very deep. A bold Government would have taken on these issues. Instead, it has wilfully turned a blind eye.”
They argue an inquiry needs to look broadly at the NZDF’s “lack of transparency and accountability. Of a culture of cover-up and obfuscation. And at the heart of it all are questions raised by families of fallen New Zealand soldiers in The Valley: why were we even in Afghanistan in the first place? What were we trying to achieve?”
Muddying the waters
In announcing the inquiry, the Attorney-General David Parker commented that he had been shown a US military video of the raid, and this “does not seem to me to corroborate some key aspects of the book Hit & Run”. Parker stated: “The footage suggests that there was a group of armed individuals in the village” and that this contradicted how Hager and Stephenson had portrayed the village as “non-threatening”. This is all best covered by Herald reporters Isaac Davidson, Lucy Bennett, Claire Trevett and David Fisher – see: Inquiry already prejudiced, say Hit & Run authors.
The first problem with Parker’s actions is that he has refused to give further details, and has not secured the footage for the inquiry. Jon Stephenson believes Parker has pre-empted the actual inquiry: “In my view he’s prejudiced the inquiry and he’s provided that information without any context at all and refused to answer questions about it. He’s just muddied the waters… He’s essentially making statements that are prejudicial… Surely the professional and appropriate thing to do was to allow the inquiry to determine the facts, having heard all the evidence and render a verdict, not pre-empt that.”
The must-read view on this is from Gordon Campbell, who sums up the situation like this: “at the outset of an independent government inquiry, the Attorney-General not only felt free to make unverifiable assertions about Hit & Run – but no guarantee can be given that even this august inquiry will be able to see the footage in question and draw definitive conclusions from it, either way. It seems amazing that NZDF is able to screen this footage for lobbying purposes with politicians whenever it suits NZDF to do so, while claiming that national security concerns prevent it from sharing the same information with either the public, the media, or – potentially – even with the $2 million inquiry set up to clarify the matters in dispute. As I suggested to Parker yesterday, we seem to be getting off on the wrong foot here” – see: On the Hit&Run inquiry.
It opens the government up to criticism that Parker was deliberately throwing a bone to the defence forces with his reference to the video footage. After all, the Government has reportedly been under strong pressure not to hold the inquiry.
Campbell’s column is also essential reading for anyone with concerns about what could go wrong with the inquiry. He points to a myriad of issues and dynamics that might allow authorities to effectively keep the lid on this particular can of worms.
Headline: Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Should Clare Curran go?
Political Roundup: Should Clare Curran go?
Political Analysis by Dr Bryce Edwards – From some angles, it seems like a comparatively trivial and pedantic controversy, but New Zealand’s reputation for integrity in the political system is just too important to be tarnished in the way that the RNZ-Curran scandal is doing. Far from being a “storm in a coffee cup”, it encompasses some huge issues, including the independence of the media, the ability of state entities to self-govern, and the executive to make decisions in a proper way. All of that is under challenge due to the way Clare Curran has created this shambles with RNZ.
Overall, there’s just too much murkiness, and too many bad decisions and conflicts of interest. A consensus is building that Clare Curran either has to be able to credibly explain what has occurred or step down.
Farrar makes the case that a state-owned media organisation such as RNZ needs to have total editorial independence, and that this can be seen as compromised when RNZ’s head of news – the person responsible for political coverage – has a private meeting with the minister responsible for broadcasting. He argues this becomes even more sensitive given Labour’s current plans for increasing RNZ’s budget. Such meetings, in which there were no officials present, create conflicts of interest.
Farrar’s questions include: “Why did Curran only use initials for Hirschfeld in her ministerial diary?”, and when the Minister became aware Hirschfeld was publicly misrepresenting the nature of the meeting, “Why did Curran’s office only contact Radio NZ, but not correct the public record?”
If this all seems like partisanship from the right, then it’s well worth reading leftwing columnist Gordon Campbell’s blog post, On Clare Curran’s dim future. It is, if anything, even harsher on the minister, putting forward a case for Curran’s sacking.
Campbell suggests that in her arrangements with Hirschfeld, Curran was “improperly” initiating “a tactical encounter” designed to bypass RNZ’s leadership in order to get her way about developments at the broadcaster, and “If so, that kind of thing is surely a sackable offence.”
Curran has simply been too murky and disingenuous in dealing with the whole issue, especially after her mistakes became obvious: “At the time Curran did not publicly set the record straight, but – as mentioned – did so privately by alerting the RNZ leadership. (Ironically, Curran is also the Minister of Open Government.) Did Curran really clarify the nature of the meeting as soon as she possible could, as PM Jacinda Ardern has claimed? The public, at least, have no reason to think so. They were kept in the dark. Full and frank are really not the first words that come to mind about Curran’s responses.” He also adds, that when Curran attempted to correct the record on what has happened, it “was too little, too late – and it smacked of Curran trying to cover her own tracks.”
Campbell argues that the RNZ management will now have little trust in their minister, and “At best, it is hard to see how Curran can work with Thompson and Griffin in future”. What’s more, the public will have little faith in future funding decisions for RNZ.
There is another must-read account today of the Curran scandal – from business journalist Hamish Rutherford, who asks: Why no calls for Clare Curran, now Minister of Secret Meetings, to resign? Rutherford – like Campbell and many others – suggests Curran was going through back channels essentially to obtain unofficial allies within RNZ to help further her goals. Rutherford says, “If so, Curran should be sacked immediately. Even attempting to form a direct ‘informal’ relationship with Hirschfeld appears improper.”
While all of this might “fail the ‘average voter’ test” in not seeming like a big deal, Rutherford disagrees strongly, saying the whole situation lacks integrity, especially for the Minister tasked with opening up government to greater transparency: “New Zealand needs to focus on open government to assure itself that it deserves to be seen as corruption free. But Curran is now the Minister of Secret Meetings, the Minister of Astoria and the Minister of Costing a Respected Journalist Her Job. She is in no position to drive more open government.”
Rutherford also argues that Curran is unlikely to be sacked, simply because it would “create a precedent against which other ministers might well fail”. But he says, “If Jacinda Ardern is determined not to sack her, she cannot possibly escape the fact that a plank of her Government – to be more transparent than National – is utterly comic while Curran is its figurehead.”
And today’s New Zealand Herald editorial also suggests the government needs to lift its standards, although, while it says Curran has made her government “look amateurish and clumsy”, it does not consider her actions a “sacking offence” – see: Broadcaster goes but minister survives for now. The editorial reiterates how crucial RNZ’s political independence is: “a news medium financed entirely by the state has to be careful to keep its distance from those who control its rations”.
In determining whether Curran should stay or go, some are pointing to whether she has been in breach of the Cabinet Manual in her meeting arrangements with Hirschfeld, a state servant. Richard Harman discusses this in his column, Curran may have breached Cabinet manual, and he concludes “that the obligation was on Curran to ensure that RNZ CEO, Paul Thompson, knew in advance of the meeting. Apparently, he did not.”
Harman points out that Curran will be appearing on Sunday’s Q+A programme to defend herself. But the much more important event will be next week’s Select Committee appearance by RNZ’s executives, where they will put right their unwittingly incorrect statements to the committee. It may be here that Curran’s survival or departure is essentially determined. The RNZ account of what has occurred will need to marry with Curran’s, or she might be expected to depart as Minister.
It is also difficult for Curran to argue she was naïve and didn’t know the Cabinet Manual rules. As Nick Grant outlines in the NBR today, Curran seemed to be an expert in the manual when she targeted former Maori Party minister Te Ururoa Flavell – see: Curran more Machiavelli than muddler, claims former foe (paywalled). According to Flavell, in 2015, “Curran was quick to suggest that I was taking an opportunity to influence the editorial position and indeed the appointment of the Maori Television CEO” when he met with TV boss. And, “She knows the manual because she read it to me and tried to imply I had breached certain protocols.”
Media commentator John Drinnan, who originally published concerns about the Astoria meeting between Curran and Hirschfeld, has written about what all this means for plans to extend RNZ’s activities into a television channel, arguing “Labour should consider abandoning its broadcasting policy, or the minister” – see: Can Radio New Zealand Trust Labour?
Drinnan says the whole scandal has tarnished RNZ’s reputation, raising further questions about its neutrality: “The incident has damaged the state broadcaster, which has long tried to overcome the overblown claims that it was biased in favour of the Left.”
In terms of explaining what has gone on within RNZ, and Curran’s fraught agenda to establish a new public broadcasting channel, see Mark Jennings’ very good article, Coffee meeting leaves RNZ+ in a mess.
But perhaps what Clare Curran was trying to establish justifies her unorthodox approach. Chris Trotter writes today about parallels with the First Labour Government’s attempt to bring in a public broadcaster that would counter the more conservative private media – see: The Politics of Public Service Broadcasting.
Headline: Family of Inspiring Journalist Yasmine Ryan Issue Details of her Memorials
Family of Inspiring Journalist Yasmine Ryan Issue Details of her Memorials
The first of three memorials for courageous and inspiring journalist, Yasmine Ryan, will be held in Istanbul at the Conrad Hotel on Sunday, 3 December between 2-3pm. A second memorial is due to be held in Tunis (date and location yet to be confirmed).
A memorial will also be held in London, United Kingdom on Monday 11 December from 5:30pm-7pm, exact location TBD.
Her family hopes the memorials honour the life and work of their wonderful and talented daughter, sister and friend. They wish to take the time to honour Yasmine’s life in the cities she spent a significant amount of time so her global family of friends have time to say goodbye.
Yasmine will be brought home to New Zealand where a service will be held in the near future.
Yasmine’s father Tom Ryan is currently in Istanbul Turkey. He has met with colleagues and friends of Yasmine who were with her the past week. He has also met with the Turkish authorities. Yasmine’s family want it to be known that her death is not considered to be suspicious.
This is a very difficult time for the family and they ask for privacy to grieve.
A New Zealand journalist and associate of the Pacific Media Centre has been killed in a fall from a building in Istanbul, reports the Turkish-based news service TRT World.
Media industry sources have cited police as treating the death of Yasmine Ryan, 34, in a five-storey fall as “suspicious”.
Her death has shocked colleagues and friends around the world.
A colleague, Ashfaaq Carim, at TRT World said Ryan had left behind a “rich legacy of stories that have left a deep impact on people and journalists”.
“This morning, I woke up to the tragic news that a trusted friend, colleague, and fellow journalist, Yasmine Ryan, had passed away,” he wrote in a TRT opinio0n blog.
“I have been blessed to know Yasmine for more than eight years. Throughout she had been an epitome of courage,” he wrote.
“A selfless human. A fearless woman.”
Tragedy at friend’s house The journalist was staying at a friend’s house when the tragedy happened, according to news reports.
“The pair had retired for the day and gone to sleep in separate rooms. The friend was awoken at 2.20pm by a noise,” said The New Zealand Herald.
“They discovered an open window and Ryan on the ground below.
RT World reported emergency services were called but declared her dead at the scene.
Police were now investigating the death.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said the ministry was aware of the death of a New Zealander in Istanbul and was providing consular assistance to the family.
Zaoui book One of her colleagues in New Zealand, independent journalist Selwyn Manning, recalls her early work in a collaborative book, I Almost Forgot About The Moon – about the disinformation campaign against refugee Algerian theologian Ahmed Zaoui.
“Her research and writing of various chapters in the book were so exact and thorough,” Manning said.
“Her passion for human rights shone through and led her, I believe, to pursue a career reporting in North Africa and the Middle East.
“Early on, when I was editor of Scoop, I assigned her to report in the Solomons when unrest became evident after some arson attacks in Honiara.
“We flew her and Jason Dorday up there to cover events. She immediately was in her element.”
Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie described Ryan as one of the most professional New Zealand journalists he had encountered working as a foreign correspondent.
He paid tribute to her Arab Spring reportage from Tunisia for Al Jazeera.
“Her reporting broke the mould and alerted the world to the forces of would-be change heralded by the Arab Spring, even if the early hopes dwindled in the end.”
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has condemned a brutal attack against journalist Saldi Hermanto in Timika, Papua, and called for a campaign of letter protests.
Hermanto was attacked by the police after he criticised on Facebook the police handling of security at an entertainment show he attended.
Although the Mimika police chief pledged to “properly settle” the case, the public and media should monitor and ensure that the case was not merely settled by the internal police mechanism, AHRC said in a statement.
“The perpetrators must be criminally prosecuted,” it said.
AHRC’s case narrative said that on Saturday, 11 November 2017, at 10:50 pm, journalist Saldi Hermanto and his child were enjoying an entertainment show in the night market of Timika Indah, Papua.
As the show was going on, suddenly there was chaos among the audience. Subsequently, Hermanto wrote on his Facebook wall criticising the police failure to secure the entertainment show and guarantee security for visitors.
Hermanto’s criticism angered the police officers, some of whom felt he had humiliated and offended the police institution.
Search for journalist Some six to eight police officers of Mimika Police Office (Polres Mimika), then searched for Hermanto.
Finally, they found him in a small post where many journalists usually gather and send news to various media, located in front of the Mimika Traffic Police Unit of Mimika Police Office (Kantor Satuan Lalu Lintas Polres Mimika).
The police officers then brutally attacked Hermanto, they beat him repeatedly and brought him inside the integrated police post, the AHRC report said.
“The brutal attack caused serious injuries on Hermanto’s face and right rib, and Hermanto had difficulty breathing after the attack,” the report said.
On November 13, at 9 a.m. Timika journalists from the Association of Online Media (IWO) Timika and from the Association of Journalist Photo Indonesia (PFI) Timika organised a peaceful protest in front of the Mimika Police Office in Cendrawasih Street.
The protesters demanded that the chief of oolice of Mimika Police Office, Police Superintendent (AKBP) Viktor Dean Mackbon, “fairly and properly investigate” the brutal attack and violence against Saldi Hermanto, a journalist of Salam Papua and Okezone.
In responding to the protest, AKBP Dean Mackbon stated that nine of 13 police officers who had been examined, were detained for further investigation related to the attack.
Two investigations In addition, AKBP Victor stated that the there would be two investigation processes, both internal and criminal prosecution. He also apologised to the journalists and promised to settle the case.
The AHRC notes that violence against journalists continues in Indonesia.
Another recent case occurred on 20 October 2017, when police brutally attacked Panji Bahari, a journalist of Banten Post in Banten province.
According to the Independence Journalist Alliance (AJI) Indonesia, in 2016 there were 78 cases of violence and attacks against journalists. This is a higher number compared to 2015, in which 40 cases of violence and attacks against journalists were recorded.
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.”