Gaza under siege – but Palestinians ‘will never give up’, says author

Author Dr Ramzy Baroud speaking at the Auckland protest today … reclaiming the Palestinian narrative. Image: Rahul Bhattarai/PMC

By Rahul Bhattarai in Auckland

Palestinian author and a journalist Dr Ramzy Baroud vowed today that Palestinians would never be defeated by the Israelis and they would never cease to fight for their freedom.

“Sisters, brothers, comrades and friends, Gaza is under siege, their people are dying in droves, their children are denied the most basic human rights,” he told a rally of about 400 people protesting in Auckland’s Aotea Square in support of Palestinian human and land rights.

In the last 10 years of blockade, thousands of Palestinians had been killed by a “deliberate Israeli campaign of starvation, dehumanisation and disempowerment”, the author said.

Dr Baroud, in New Zealand on a tour to promote his new book, The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story, also spoke about the Palestinian holocaust caused by the Israelis, which was seldom fairly reported by mainstream media.

Protesters at the human rights for Palestine protest in Auckland today. Image: Rahul Bhattarai/PMC

The UN Human Rights Council yesterday voted to assign international war crimes investigators to probe last Monday’s killings of scores of Palestinians on the bloodiest day of protests in Gaza.

The resolution was supported by 29 countries, with only the US and Australia voting against. Fourteen countries abstained, including Britain and Germany.

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Boycott sought
Middle Eastern Eye reported that 110 Palestinians had been killed in recent weeks in a report about the UN investigation.

Holding the protest in Auckland was an attempt to gain support from the NZ government, “to impose a boycott in their [Israeli] regime, on its economy, and on its political representation,” said Mike Treen, a spokesperson for Global Peace and Justice Auckland (GPJA).

Mike Treen speaking at the Auckland rally for Palestine today. Image: Rahul Bhattarai/PMC

The protesters then marched down Queen Street towards the US Consulate near Britomart chanting slogans such as, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, “Freedom for Palestine”, and “Long live Palestine”.

About 60 Palestinian men, women, and children were killed by Israeli Defence Force (IDF) troops during protests over the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Guatemala followed suit the next day.

May 14 marked the 70th year since the state of Israel was established.

That was a day of celebration for Israelis and Zionists but mourned by indigenous Palestinians as Al Nakba – “the catastrophe”, the day they lost their liberty.

A young Palestinian woman raises a fist in defiance at the Auckland rally. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

US embassy ‘wrongdoing’
In his speech, Dr Baroud spoke about the wrongdoings of the rightwing Israeli government and the Trump administration for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is heavily disputed and highly controversial as it is regarded as sacred land by both the Jews and the Muslims.

Dr Baroud said the reason for global trip was to reclaim the Palestinian narrative, “an attempt at retelling Palestinian history from the viewpoint of Palestinian refugees”.

Since most mainstream media focused on the Israeli narrative rather than the “Palestinian facts”, he wanted to tell the story exactly as it was happening on the Gaza Strip.

Dr Baroud said many historians focused on Palestinian’s history through the “eyes of Israel, the Zionists and through the Western media”.

‘Central narrative’
This was the “central narrative” of this conflict between Zionists and Palestinians which needed to be re-taught, he said.

Dr Baroud also said that the long-term solution to resolve the conflict was to end Israeli colonisation of Palestine that had continued for decades.

“This system of apartheid, system of military occupation, has to end.”

According to UN resolutions, there were four key points that the Israeli government needed to follow – “the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, Palestinian freedom to travel, and an end to the apartheid system, and demolition of the apartheid wall.

“And the racist laws that have targeted Palestinians for over 50 years need to end.”

Dr Baroud said the occupation needed to come to an end in order for there to be a prospect of peaceful co-existence in the future.

The apartheid of colonisation had to be dismantled.

A Palestinian family at the Auckland solidarity rally today. Image: Del Abcede/PMC Palestinian children proudly hold up their flag in the rain at Auckland’s Aotea Square today. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Why data power of social media giants like Facebook troubles human rights

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Why data power of social media giants like Facebook troubles human rights

By Sarah Joseph in Melbourne

Facebook has had a bad few weeks. The social media giant had to apologise for failing to protect the personal data of millions of users from being accessed by data mining company Cambridge Analytica.

Outrage is brewing over its admission to spying on people via their Android phones. Its stock price plummeted, while millions deleted their accounts in disgust.

Facebook has also faced scrutiny over its failure to prevent the spread of “fake news” on its platforms, including via an apparent orchestrated Russian propaganda effort to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

Facebook’s actions – or inactions – facilitated breaches of privacy and human rights associated with democratic governance. But it might be that its business model – and those of its social media peers generally – is simply incompatible with human rights.

The good
In some ways, social media has been a boon for human rights – most obviously for freedom of speech.

Previously, the so-called “marketplace of ideas” was technically available to all (in “free” countries), but was in reality dominated by the elites.

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While all could equally exercise the right to free speech, we lacked equal voice. Gatekeepers, especially in the form of the mainstream media, largely controlled the conversation.

But today, anybody with internet access can broadcast information and opinions to the whole world. While not all will be listened to, social media is expanding the boundaries of what is said and received in public.

The marketplace of ideas must effectively be bigger and broader, and more diverse.

Social media enhances the effectiveness of non-mainstream political movements, public assemblies and demonstrations, especially in countries that exercise tight controls over civil and political rights, or have very poor news sources.

Social media played a major role in co-ordinating the massive protests that brought down dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as large revolts in Spain, Greece, Israel, South Korea, and the Occupy movement.

More recently, it has facilitated the rapid growth of the #MeToo and #neveragain movements, among others.

READ MORE: #MeToo is not enough: it has yet to shift the power imbalances that would bring about gender equality

The bad and the ugly
But the social media “free speech” machines can create human rights difficulties. Those newly empowered voices are not necessarily desirable voices.

The United Nations recently found that Facebook had been a major platform for spreading hatred against the Rohingya in Myanmar, which in turn led to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Video sharing site YouTube seems to automatically guide viewers to the fringiest versions of what they might be searching for. A search on vegetarianism might lead to veganism; jogging to ultra-marathons; Donald Trump’s popularity to white supremacist rants; and Hillary Clinton to 9/11 “trutherism”.

YouTube, via its algorithm’s natural and probably unintended impacts, “may be one of the most powerful radicalising instruments of the 21st century”, with all the attendant human rights abuses that might follow.

The business model and human rights
Human rights abuses might be embedded in the business model that has evolved for social media companies in their second decade.

Essentially, those models are based on the collection and use for marketing purposes of their users’ data. And the data they have is extraordinary in its profiling capacities, and in the consequent unprecedented knowledge base and potential power it grants to these private actors.

Indirect political influence is commonly exercised, even in the most credible democracies, by private bodies such as major corporations. This power can be partially constrained by “anti-trust laws” that promote competition and prevent undue market dominance.

Anti-trust measures could, for example, be used to hive off Instagram from Facebook, or YouTube from Google. But these companies’ power essentially arises from the sheer number of their users: in late 2017, Facebook was reported as having more than 2.2 billion active users. Anti-trust measures do not seek to cap the number of a company’s customers, as opposed to its acquisitions.

Power through knowledge
In 2010, Facebook conducted an experiment by randomly deploying a non-partisan “I voted” button into 61 million feeds during the US mid-term elections. That simple action led to 340,000 more votes, or about 0.14 percent of the US voting population. This number can swing an election. A bigger sample would lead to even more votes.

So Facebook knows how to deploy the button to sway an election, which would clearly be lamentable.

However, the mere possession of that knowledge makes Facebook a political player. It now knows that button’s the political impact, the types of people it is likely to motivate, and the party that’s favoured by its deployment and non-deployment, and at what times of day.

It might seem inherently incompatible with democracy for that knowledge to be vested in a private body. Yet the retention of such data is the essence of Facebook’s ability to make money and run a viable business.

Microtargeting
A study has shown that a computer knows more about a person’s personality than their friends or flatmates from an analysis of 70 “likes”, and more than their family from 150 likes. From 300 likes it can outperform one’s spouse.

This enables the micro-targeting of people for marketing messages – whether those messages market a product, a political party or a cause. This is Facebook’s product, from which it generates billions of dollars. It enables extremely effective advertising and the manipulation of its users.

This is so even without Cambridge Analytica’s underhanded methods.

Advertising is manipulative: that is its point. Yet it is a long bow to label all advertising as a breach of human rights.

Advertising is available to all with the means to pay. Social media micro-targeting has become another battleground where money is used to attract customers and, in the political arena, influence and mobilise voters.

While the influence of money in politics is pervasive – and probably inherently undemocratic – it seems unlikely that spending money to deploy social media to boost an electoral message is any more a breach of human rights than other overt political uses of money.

Yet the extraordinary scale and precision of its manipulative reach might justify differential treatment of social media compared to other advertising, as its manipulative political effects arguably undermine democratic choices.

As with mass data collection, perhaps it may eventually be concluded that that reach is simply incompatible with democratic and human rights.

‘Fake news’
Finally, there is the issue of the spread of misinformation.

While paid advertising may not breach human rights, “fake news” distorts and poisons democratic debate. It is one thing for millions of voters to be influenced by precisely targeted social media messages, but another for maliciously false messages to influence and manipulate millions – whether paid for or not.

In a Declaration on Fake News, several UN and regional human rights experts said fake news interfered with the right to know and receive information – part of the general right to freedom of expression.

Its mass dissemination may also distort rights to participate in public affairs. Russia and Cambridge Analytica (assuming allegations in both cases to be true) have demonstrated how social media can be “weaponised” in unanticipated ways.

Yet it is difficult to know how social media companies should deal with fake news. The suppression of fake news is the suppression of speech – a human right in itself.

The preferred solution outlined in the Declaration on Fake News is to develop technology and digital literacy to enable readers to more easily identify fake news.

The human rights community seems to be trusting that the proliferation of fake news in the marketplace of ideas can be corrected with better ideas rather than censorship.

However, one cannot be complacent in assuming that “better speech” triumphs over fake news. A recent study concluded fake news on social media:

… diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information.

Also, internet “bots” apparently spread true and false news at the same rate, which indicates that:

… false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.

The depressing truth may be that human nature is attracted to fake stories over the more mundane true ones, often because they satisfy predetermined biases, prejudices and desires. And social media now facilitates their wildfire spread to an unprecedented degree.

Perhaps social media’s purpose – the posting and sharing of speech – cannot help but generate a distorted and tainted marketplace of fake ideas that undermine political debate and choices, and perhaps human rights.

What next?
It is premature to assert the very collection of massive amounts of data is irreconcilable with the right to privacy (and even rights relating to democratic governance).

Similarly, it is premature to decide that micro-targeting manipulates the political sphere beyond the bounds of democratic human rights.

Finally, it may be that better speech and corrective technology will help to undo fake news’ negative impacts: it is premature to assume that such solutions won’t work.

However, by the time such conclusions may be reached, it may be too late to do much about it. It may be an example where government regulation and international human rights law – and even business acumen and expertise – lags too far behind technological developments to appreciate their human rights dangers.

At the very least, we must now seriously question the business models that have emerged from the dominant social media platforms.

Maybe the internet should be rewired from the grassroots, rather than be led by digital oligarchs’ business needs.

Dr Sarah Joseph is director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University, in Melbourne, Australia.This article was first published by The Conversation and has been republished by Asia Pacific Report under a Creative Commons licence.

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Mackenzie Smith: Indonesia’s Pacific neglect highlights NZ media problem

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Mackenzie Smith: Indonesia’s Pacific neglect highlights NZ media problem

President Joko Widodo ordered military and medical teams to several locations across the vast Papua region to treat the sick and undertake a mass immunisation campaign during the measles outbreak. Image: Medical Xpress

OPINION: Mackenzie Smith reviews two months living in Indonesia as a journalist.

In Indonesia, I expected to broaden my understanding and realisation of Asia and its importance to New Zealand. And in a way I did. But more than anything, the experience reinforced for me why engaging with and respecting the Pacific is paramount for New Zealand.

My first week at AFP news agency’s Jakarta bureau coincided, tragically, with the deaths of as many as 100 people, mostly toddlers, in Papua from a measles outbreak.

The crisis, sparked by poor conditions and increasing local reliance on imported foods, represented “decades of neglect” by Indonesia following its annexation of the region.

READ MORE: West Papua protest during Jokowi’s visit to NZ

AFP committed significant resources to covering this, including sending a team of reporters to a remote Papuan village. Along with assistance from us folks that manned the fort in Jakarta, they produced what I believe was the definitive coverage of that health crisis.

It was genuinely humbling to be a part of. Papua, after all, has faced decades of neglect from the international media too, New Zealand included.

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While RNZ Pacific does a fantastic job, it is not enough and, as pointed out by some, it is too partisan at times.

Diversity is needed when we cover events of international significance. Yet Papua is of particular and unique significance to New Zealand.

Siding with colonial past?
Having played a key role in the decolonisation of the Pacific, if we cannot continue this, including by acknowledging Papua as a Pacific and Melanesian nation, then surely we are siding with our colonial past (and present).

New Zealand’s foreign policy is changing dramatically, and not just under the direction of a new government in place.

As recent speeches by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Winston Peters have indicated, policy shifts towards the Pacific are motivated at least partly by the increasing sway Asia has there.

And although veiled references to China were highlighted by analysts, its long arm is not the only one in play in the Pacific.

There is a need now to be more savvy than ever towards Asia, if only for the sake of the Pacific. And for all the importance of politics in setting the pace of national dialogue, journalists too play a significant role.

The New Zealand media’s restraint, for example, in covering revelations of China’s political influence activities from Anne-Marie Brady has been remarkable. Just look at Australia, they are going nuts over there.

The media certainly prodded officials during the government’s recent Pacific tour over China’s growing influence there but it was a long way from the “roads to nowhere” white elephant rhetoric coming from across the ditch.

Hope for Asia-Pacific voices
There is hope for how we cover the Asia-Pacific and for the voices we give air to.

So it feels like a good time to arrive back as an “Asia-savvy” journalist – savviness being a term I share the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s fondness for – but an even better time to be a Pacific-savvy journalist.

While both regions demand our attention, one neighbours us and one we sit in. How the two interact will define New Zealand’s foreign policy mandate for the foreseeable future.

There was no happy resolution to Papua’s health crisis; it merely petered out, media coverage in its final days giving way to the detainment of a rather foolhardy journalist who had set out to cover it, rather than the real issues at hand.

And, as observers told AFP, the deaths are doomed to be repeated unless drastic action is taken.

The day before Indonesia declared the crisis over, in an unrelated incident a 61-year-old woman was shot dead by military police in Papua.

As the Foundation’s Pip McLachlan has pointed out, “we need to talk about Asia”. But we also need to talk about the Pacific.

Mackenzie Smith spent six weeks working in Jakarta on the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesia Studies Journalism Professional Practicum. His participation was funded by the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s media programme. Views expressed are personal to the author.

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Racist reporting still rife in Australian media, says new monitoring report

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Racist reporting still rife in Australian media, says new monitoring report

New research shows Muslims are more negatively portrayed in the media than other groups. Image: Lukas Coch/AAP/The Conversation

By Dr Christina Ho in Sydney

Half of all race-related opinion pieces in the Australian mainstream media are likely to contravene industry codes of conduct on racism.

In research released this week, the Who Watches the Media report found that of 124 race-related opinion pieces published between January and July this year, 62 were potentially in breach of one or more industry codes of conduct, because of racist content.

Despite multiple industry codes of conduct stipulating fair race-related reporting, racist reporting is a weekly phenomenon in Australia’s mainstream media.

We define racism as unjust covert or overt behaviour towards a person or a group on the basis of their racial background. This might be perpetrated by a person, a group, an organisation, or a system.

The research, conducted by not-for-profit group All Together Now and the University of Technology Sydney, focused on opinion-based pieces in the eight Australian newspapers and current affairs programmes with the largest audiences, as determined by ratings agencies.

We found that negative race-related reports were most commonly published in News Corp publications. The Daily Telegraph, The Australian and Herald Sun were responsible for the most negative pieces in the press. A Current Affair was the most negative among the broadcast media.

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Chart 1: Number of race-related stories by outlet and type of reporting. Source: Author

Muslims were mentioned in more than half of the opinion pieces, and more than twice as many times as any other single group mentioned (see chart 2).

Chart 2: Number of race-related stories by outlet and ethnic minority group. Source: Author

Portrayed more negatively
Muslims were portrayed more negatively than the other minority groups, with 63 percent of reports about Muslims framed negatively. These pieces often conflated Muslims with terrorism. For example, reports used terrorist attacks in the UK to question accepting Muslim refugees and immigrants to Australia.

This was a recurring theme in race-based opinion pieces over the study period. In contrast, there were more positive than negative stories about Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders.

Chart 3: Number of stories by ethnic minority group and type of reporting. Source: Author

Negative commentary about minority groups has lasting impacts in the community. An op-ed in The New York Times recently highlighted the impact that racism in the media has on individuals. It explained:

…racism doesn’t have to be experienced in person to affect our health — taking it in the form of news coverage is likely to have similar effects.

The noted effects include elevated blood pressure, long after television scenes are over. Racism is literally making us sick.

Note also that given the lack of cultural diversity among opinion-makers, particularly on television, social commentators are largely talking about groups to which they do not belong. According to the 2016-20 PwC Media Outlook report, the average media employee is 27, Caucasian and male, which does not reflect the current population diversity of Australia.

This creates a strong argument for increasing the cultural diversity of all media agencies to help minimise the number of individuals or groups being negatively depicted in race-related reports.

Our research echoes the findings of the UN expert panel on racial discrimination, which reported last week that racist media debate was on the rise in Australia. The UN recommended the Australian media “put an end to racist hate speech” in print and online, and adopt a “code of good conduct” with provisions to ban racism.

Urgent recommendations
Our report makes urgent recommendations to strengthen media regulations in relation to race-based reporting, to support journalists to discuss race sensitively, and to continue media monitoring.

While media regulations enable audiences to make complaints about racism in the media, under some codes, audiences have only 30 days to do so. The research report recommends that this deadline be removed to allow audiences to make complaints about racist media content at any time.

It also calls for the definition of racism be broadened in the codes of conduct to include covert forms of racism. Covert racism includes subtle stereotyping, such as the repeated depiction of Muslim women with dark veils, implying secrecy and provoking suspicion.

News agencies need to do more to help journalists address race issues responsibly. They can do this by providing training, recruiting more journalists of colour, and ensuring that their editorial policies are racially aware.

The media are meant to hold up a mirror to society. When it comes to race-related reporting, we need a more accurate portrayal of the successes of Australian multiculturalism.

Dr Christina Ho is senior lecturer and discipline coordinator in Social and Political Sciences, University of Technology Sydney. Priscilla Brice and Deliana Iacoban from All Together Now, a not-for-profit group working to combat racism, also contributed to this article. Republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence.

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NZ ‘relentlessly Pākehā’ newsrooms improving, says researcher

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: NZ ‘relentlessly Pākehā’ newsrooms improving, says researcher

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Journalists find there is a tension between honouring tikanga and needing to file stories to a deadline, says Julie Middleton. Image: 123RF

There are still too few Māori in New Zealand’s newsrooms, media researcher Julie Middleton says.

Middleton, who has worked for the New Zealand Herald, the Listener, the Sunday Star-Times and the Guardian, is studying for a doctorate at Auckland University of Technology’s School of Communication Studies.

Journalist Julie Middleton … mainstream media doing better now. Image: Linked-in

She is investigating how tikanga (culture) Māori is influencing and shaping New Zealand media.

She told Radio New Zealand’s Māori Issues correspondent Mihingarangi Forbes that until 2006, when she left the Herald, the culture in newsrooms and journalism was “relentlessly Pākehā”.

“There have always been very few Māori in mainstream newsrooms and Māori always were seen as ‘the other’,” Middleton says.

“All of us who have been in journalism have got very used, in the 80s and 90s, to Māori only [ever being] criminals or sports heroes.

“You could see in the writing, a lot of the time, the unconscious stereotypes about Māori.”

Although there are still too few Māori journalists, the mainstream media is doing better now, she says.

Middleton said that in her interviews with journalists the thing that cropped up time and again was the tension between honouring tikanga and needing to file stories to a deadline.

“People say that they will not consciously trample on their tikanga but they just sometimes have to develop ways of keeping things moving on,” she said.

“Occasionally they just have to admit defeat and say to their bosses, ‘Look, it’s not going to happen right now because I’m not going to trample all over this haukāinga’s tikanga’.”

From RNZ’s Summer Report.