Human rights watchdog calls for police probe into ‘unclear’ Papua killings

Christmas spirit at a Human Rights Day rally in the Papuan capital of Jayapura this week. Image: Voice Westpapua

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Indonesian police should investigate a Papuan armed group’s killing of at least 17 people, including a soldier, at a construction area in Nduga in Papua’s densely forested Central Highlands earlier this month, Human Rights Watch said today.

The circumstances of the killings on December 2 remained unclear, said the watchdog.

Papuan militants should cease unlawful killings, and the Indonesian government should ensure that its security forces act in accordance with international standards and not commit abuses in response to the attack, said the watchdog.

READ MORE: Indonesia’s Papua media blacklist

“A Papua militant group’s attack on a worksite raises grave concerns that require a full investigation,” said Elaine Pearson of Human Rights Watch.

“Militants and responding security forces should not inflict harm on ordinary Papuans.”

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The West Papua National Liberation Army (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat), the military wing of the Free Merdeka Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka), claimed responsibility for the killings, saying those killed were military personnel from the Indonesian Army Corps of Engineers.

An army colonel said that three of the survivors of the attack were military personnel working as engineers.

Indonesian police prepare to face peaceful Papuan protesters in the capital of Jayapura this week. Image: Voice Westpapua

‘Military engineers’
Sebby Sambom, a spokesman for the Papuan armed group, told the media that the attacks were organised by the militant’s group’s third Ndugama Command.

He said they had monitored the workers for three months and concluded that they were engineering corps personnel wearing civilian clothes.

However, Indonesia’s public works minister, Basuki Hadimuljono, said that those killed were workers from state-owned companies PT Istaka Karya and PT Brantas Abipraya, sent from Sulawesi to work on the 4300 km Trans-Papua highway.

He said that only the soldiers protecting the workers were armed, including the one killed in the attack.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in reaction to the attacks he had “ordered the armed forces commander and the police chief to pursue and capture all the perpetrators of such rude and violent acts”.

Priests, seminarians and students take part in a peaceful Human Rights Day march in the capital Jayapura this week. Image: Voice Westpapua

In West Papua, December 1 is widely commemorated as the day West Papua declared nationhood. In 1961, under Dutch rule, an elected council consisting mostly of indigenous Papuans commissioned the creation of a national anthem and flag.

On December 1, 1961, the West Papuan Morning Star flag was flown beside the Dutch tricolor for the first time.

Indonesia took control over Papua with United Nations recognition in 1969.

500 plus arrested
Over the last five decades, some Papuans have resisted Indonesian rule. On December 1, 2018, more than 500 students were arrested in more than 10 Indonesian cities after peacefully raising the Morning Star flag and demanding a referendum on independence.

Indonesia’s National Police initially announced that the killings in Nduga were in retribution for a worker taking photographs of Papuan militants organising a flag-raising ceremony near a road and bridge construction.

More than 100 military and police officers were evacuating the dead and injured, and engaged in a military operation against the militants.

Human Rights Watch has long documented human rights abuses in Papua’s Central Highlands, where the military and police have frequently engaged in deadly confrontation with armed groups.

Indonesian security forces have often committed abuses against the Papuan population, including arbitrary detention and torture. A lack of internal accountability within the security forces and a poorly functioning justice system mean that impunity for rights violators is the norm in Papua.

“The Indonesian security forces should exercise care when operating in Nduga, directing all security personnel to treat Papuans in accordance with international standards,” said the watchdog.

“They should transparently investigate and hold accountable anyone implicated in a criminal offence. Both the military and the police should allow journalists to operate independently in the area.”


A cartoonist’s depiction of Indonesian government restrictions on media freedom and rights monitoring in Papua. Cartoon: © 2015 Toni Malakian/Human Rights Watch

Remote access
Nduga is an extremely remote area where no journalists have had access since the attacks.

A decades-long official restriction on foreign media access to Papua and controls on Indonesian journalists there have fostered that lack of justice for serious abuses by Indonesian security forces and fueled resentment among Papuans.

“The situation in Nduga is muddled in large part because no journalists can independently go into the area to interview witnesses and verify what happened,” Pearson said.

“Having independent monitors on the ground will help deter abuses by both the militants and security forces, which would benefit all Papuans.”

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Labour rally in Jakarta, Fiji march highlight global human rights issues

How UN agencies strive to put human rights at the centre of their work. Video: UN

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Hundreds of workers from the Confederation of United Indonesian Workers (KPBI) held a protest march at the weekend in the capital of Jakarta and Fiji’s Coalition on Human Rights staged a march today to commemorate World Human Rights Day.

In Jakarta, the Indonesian workers marched from the Farmers Monument in Central Jakarta to the nearby State Palace on Saturday, reports CNN Indonesia.

During the action, the workers highlighted the problems of corruption and the failure to resolve human rights violations.

READ MORE: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70

“This action is a reflection of the regime that is in power, Jokowi [President Joko Widodo] has failed, particularly in cases of corruption and human rights violations in Indonesia”, said KPBI secretary-general Damar Panca.

The Jakarta rally for human rights at the weekend. Image: Rayhand Purnama Karim/CNNI

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Panca said that during Widodo’s administration corruption had become more widespread as had human rights violations. Trade unions had also suffered human rights violations when holding protests.

Panca said that not long ago during a peaceful demonstration, workers were assaulted and had tear gas fired at them by security forces.

“Not just that, 26 labour activists have been indicted. So we are articulating this now because it is the right moment – namely in the lead up to Anti-Corruption Day (December 9) and Human Rights Day (December 10),” he said.

Social welfare demands
In addition to highlighting human rights violations, they also demanded that the government take responsibility for providing social welfare for all Indonesians and rejected low wages, particularly in labour intensive industries, low rural incomes and contract labour and outsourcing.

Panca said that Saturday’s action was also articulating several other problems such as inequality in employment, the criminalisation of activists and the need for free education.

The KPBI is an alliance of cross-sector labour federations. Saturday’s action was joined by the Indonesian Pulp and Paper Trade Union Federation (FSP2KI), the Cross-Factory Labour Federation (FBLP), the Populist Trade Union Federation (SERBUK), the Indonesian Harbour Transportation Labour Federation (FBTPI), the Indonesian Workers Federation of Struggle (FPBI), the Industrial Employees Trade Union Federation (FSPI), the Solidarity Alliance for Labour Struggle (GSPB) and the Greater Jakarta Railway Workers Trade Union (SPKAJ)

“This action is not just in Jakarta, similar actions with the same demands are also being organised by KBPI members in North Sumatra. In Jakarta they have come from across Jabodetabek [Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi, Greater Jakarta],” he said.

According to CNN Indonesia’s observations, the hundreds of workers wearing red and carrying protest gear continued to articulate their demands from two command vehicles near the State Palace, directly in front of the West Monas intersection.

They also sang songs of struggle and followed the directions of speakers shouting labour demands. The protest was closely watched over by scores of police officers.

Fiji rally for rights
In Suva, Fiji, the NGO Coalition on Human Rights organised a march for today to commemorate World Human Rights Day.

The march will begin at 10am from the Flea Market ending in a rally at Sukuna Park and is the culmination of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence from November 25 to December 10.

World Human Rights Day is celebrated annually on December 10 to mark the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

This year is a significant milestone for the UDHR as it marks its 70th Anniversary.

Human Rights Day is a day to celebrate and advocate for the protection of Human Rights globally. Since its launch in 1997, the NGOCHR now includes members such as the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Citizen’s Constitutional Forum, FemLINK Pacific, Ecumenical Centre for Research and Advocacy, Drodrolagi Movement, Social Empowerment and Education Program and observers, Pacific Network on Globalisation, Haus of Khameleon and Diverse Voices and Action for Equality.

The Indonesian report was translated by James Balowski of Indoleft News. The original title of the article was “Ratusan Buruh Berunjuk Rasa di Istana, Soroti Pelanggaran HAM”.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Widodo wants security forces to guard all development projects in Papua

Sixteen bodies have been retrieved from the killings of workers on a Papuan infrastructure project claimed by pro-independence militants to be Indonesian soldiers. Image: Hark Arena

By Ray Jordan in Lampung, Indonesia

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo insists that work on the Trans-Papua road project will continue despite this week’s shooting of construction workers in the Papua regency of Nduga.

Widodo is asking that all infrastructure projects and Trans-Papua construction workers always be accompanied by security personnel.

For the moment, Widodo said that the government would prioritise the evacuation of the victims of the shooting by the West Papuan Liberation Army that is regularly branded by the authorities as armed criminal “separatists”.

READ MORE: West Papua independence leader urges calm after killings

“Yes this is because there is still a process there that isn’t finished yet, we will prioritise the evacuation as quickly as possible. After that construction will continue”, Widodo told journalists at the Mahligai Agung Convention Hall at the Bandar Lampung University in Lampung City, North Sumatra.

According to The Jakarta Post, the casualties include 19 workers of state-owned construction company PT Istaka Karya, who had been assigned to build a 275 km section to connect Wamena and Mamugu as part of President Widodo’s flagship trans-Papua road project.

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One Indonesian Military (TNI) soldier was also killed.

But the West Papua National Liberation Army (WPNLA), which claimed responsibility for the attack and said 24 people had been killed, alleged the workers were in fact soldiers in disguise, according to RNZ Pacific.

Independence rallies
Last Saturday, as members of the Liberation Army held a ceremony to commemorate Papua’s independence from Dutch colonial rule on December 1, 1961, as part of many rallies across Papua, Indonesia and internationally, a worker was said to have snapped a photo of the scene.

This enraged the militants.

In Sumatra, President Widodo said that wherever construction work was being carried out in Papua, workers must be accompanied by security forces in order to provide a sense of safety.

A Papuan freelance journalist John Pakage, who was reportedly beaten by members of the Indonesian Mobile Brigade Corps and his family threatened. Image: Wenslaus

“I want to convey that wherever construction work is going on it is always accompanied by security personnel in order to truly provide security guarantees for workers who are working in the field, in the jungles, in preparing infrastructure, particularly roads in the land of Papua which will never stop, but will continue regardless,” he said.

Widodo said the government’s goal was to continue development in Papua in order to create a sense of social justice in eastern Indonesia. Widodo said he wanted all of Indonesian society to experience this development.

“This is to provide infrastructure in the land of Papua and secondly also social justice for all Indonesian people to address the discrepancies in infrastructure between Java and Papua, between the east and west, that is what we can truly pursue”, said Widodo.

Earlier, national police chief General Tito Karnavian claimed that the West Papua Liberation Army led by Egianus Kogoya numbered no more than 50 people who had around 20 firearms.

‘Diplomatic’ resolution
The Guardian reports that Benny Wenda, the chair of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), said it was hard to know exactly what happened at Nduga, amid conflicting reports on the long-running tensions, and without free access for media or human rights groups.

Indonesian authorities had not responded to requests for comment from The Guardian.

Wenda told The Guardian he could not stop the liberation army but wanted to tell them the UMLWP wanted to solve the issue “diplomatically”.

“We don’t want any bloodshed, we want Indonesia to come to the international table to discuss and we can agree to a referendum That’s what our campaign is about,” he said.

Sebby Sambom, spokesman for the WPNLA, the military wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), said in a telephone interview that they attacked a government construction site last weekend because they believe the project is conducted by the military, according to Jawa Pos TV.

“Trans-Papua road projects are being carried out by Indonesian military and that is a risk they must bear,” Sambom said.

“We want them to know that we don’t need development, what we want is independence.”

According to Wenslaus, John Pakage, a freelance journalist who was also a former Reuters and Tabloid Jubi journalist, was beaten by members of the Indonesian Mobile Brigade Corps and his family threatened.

Detik News translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was “Jokowi Minta Pekerja Trans Papua Selalu Didampingi Aparat Keamanan“.

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Nauru 19 to appear in first sitting of nation’s new Court of Appeal

T-shirts worn by family and supporters of the 19 Nauruans who were prosecuted by government for staging a protest outside of Parliament in 2015. Image: RNZP/Nauru 19/ Facebook

By RNZ Pacific

The group known as the Nauru 19 will go back to court next week in what will be the first sitting of the Nauru Court of Appeal.

The Nauru 19 were charged over an anti-government protest more than three years ago and are facing an appeal from the Nauru government.

The group, which includes a former Nauru president, had sought a permanent stay on legal proceedings against them, arguing the trial process dragged on too long and that the government had not met a court directed order to pay some of the expenses of the group’s Australian lawyers.

Justice Geoff Muecke, who was brought in by the Nauru government to hear the case, granted a permanent stay on the proceedings, saying the government’s conduct throughout had been a “shameful affront to the rule of law”.

Now the government is appealing this decision.

The Nauru Court of Appeal was set up after the government secretly ended its use of the Australian High Court as Nauru’s appellate court earlier this year.

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The Nauru 19 believe this move was another attempt to deny them a fair trial.

The judges hearing the appeal are high ranking members of Pacific judiciaries – Tonga’s Chief Justice Michael Scott, Kiribati Chief Justice John Muria and PNG Supreme Court judge Nicholas Kirriwom.

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

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Trauma research on TV journalists covering killings revealed in Pacific Journalism Review

Part of the cover of the latest Pacific Journalism Review. Image: © Fernando G Sepe Jr/ABS-CBN

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

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.

More than 12,000 people have reportedly been killed – according to Amnesty International, although estimates are unverified – in the presidential-inspired purge.

READ MORE: Killing the messenger

The latest Pacific Journalism Review.

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.

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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.

Chilling study
This chilling post-traumatic stress study in the latest PJR by ABS-CBN news executive Mariquit Almario-Gonzalez examines how graveyard-shift TV journalists experienced covering Oplan Tokhang.

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.

The “Journalism Under Duress in Asia-Pacific” seminar examined media freedom and human rights in the Philippines and in Indonesia’s Papua region – known as West Papua.

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.

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Scott Waide: PNGFM news boss calls for investigations, penalties for troops who assaulted journalists

Parliament Haus in Waigani … scene of the reported assault against PNGFM journalists. Image Scott Waide’s blog

Scott Waide’s blog highlights an open letter by Genesis Ketan, director of news, PNGFM:

As director of News for PNGFM, I am very disappointed at the manner at which two of my reporters – one male and one female – were assaulted by disciplinary officers while covering the storming of Parliament on Tuesday,  20 November 2018.

They were simply there to do their jobs and cover the proceedings of what was happening at National Parliament when they were accosted by a group of inflamed disciplinary officers, both police and correctional service officers.

Upon seeing the journalists – one officer called out “Em ol Reporter ya, ol laik kisim wanem kain story, paitim ol”. (“They are reporters, what kind of story are they here for, beat them up.”)

READ MORE: RSF condemns exclusion of PNG journalists

Police Commissioner Gary Baki … received PNGFM’s assault complaint. Image: Loop PNG

The female journalist was manhandled by a group of police officers who pulled at her shirt attempting to rip it:

“One of the police officers pulled out my camera from my bag and smashed it right in front of me. While I was trying to take in what was happening, another officer pulled my bag causing the leather handle of my bag to break. He then threw my bag on the ground, kicked it towards the other officers, they in turn kicked the bag back to him, emptying out all my belongings in my bag. Another officer picked up my phone and smashed it while others were shouting and yelling abusive languages.”

-Partners-

She was pushed back and forth during the commotion with just one elderly officer attempting to assist her and help her out to safety.

At the same time, the male reporter was separated from his colleague, then told to put his camera away and not film or take shots.

“During the struggle, I was attacked by a Correctional Service officer at first, which then led to police officers surrounding me and attacking me. During the incident, I was trying to see what was happening to my colleague, but kept getting punched until one Police Mobile Squad officer pulled me away to safety. I had my vest broken, my note book gone and the company camera destroyed by the officers.”

PNGFM has written a letter of complaint to Correctional Service Commissioner Stephen Pokanis and Police Commissioner Gary Baki calling for those involved to be penalized.

Such an attack is an attack on our media freedom when journalists should be protected and not be subjected to such attacks for merely doing their jobs.

Meanwhile, at separate media conferences on Thursday, November 22, both Commissioner Pokanis and Commissioner Baki were informed of the assault against our journalists and have given assurance they will investigate this matter thoroughly.

– Genesis Ketan, director of news, PNGFM

Scott Waide’s blog columns are frequently published by Asia Pacific Report with permission. He is also EMTV deputy news editor based in Lae.

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Couple remanded in big Vanuatu human trafficking, slavery case

By Richard M. Nanua and Royson Willie in Port Vila

Vanuatu’s Magistrates Court has remanded a Bangladeshi couple over what is alleged to be the biggest human trafficking and slavery case in Vanuatu and the region.

Sekdah Somon and Buxoo Nabilah Bibi – the owners of the “Mr Price” home and furniture store in Vanuatu – were arrested and charged with 12 counts of human trafficking.

Somon and Bibi are also facing 12 counts each of slavery, contrary to section 102 (a) and 11 additional counts of money laundering against section 11 (3) (a) of the Penal Code.
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The Vanuatu Daily Post was reliably informed that between September 21, 2018 and November 2018 Somon and Bibi allegedly brought in 12 people from Bangladesh illegally to find jobs in Vanuatu.

Reliable sources confirmed that complainants have filed complaints within the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) and the proceedings commenced after the arrest of the accused in Port Vila.

They said 92 people had been allegedly illegally brought to Vanuatu by the couple and their cases are yet to be dealt with and brought before the court.

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The Daily Post was also informed the couple were from Bangladesh but the husband had a Zimbabwe passport while his wife was using a Mauritius passport.

Other passports
The couple were denied bail in the Magistrates Court on Wednesday amid concerns the couple may have other passports in their possession that made them a possible flight risk as they are originally from one country but evidence indicated they are using passports from different countries.

The Magistrates Court said that any bail should be obtained at the higher court after considering the seriousness of the offending is of public importance.

The couple were rejected bail because they might interfere with the witnesses.

The victims were placed in various locations in Port Vila.

Sources confirmed while the case was still under investigation there might also be some breaches in Vanuatu immigration laws, labour laws and Vanuatu Financial Service Commission (VFSC) laws.

They said it was likely that more people would be charged depending on the findings of the investigation.

The Daily Post was told the couple allegedly arranged and facilitated their entry in Vanuatu using deception, denial of their freedom of movement, coercion or threat of violence exploited and placed them in servitude.

Bangladeshi workers
They said after the 12 Bangladeshi workers came to Vanuatu, the couple allegedly subjected them to slavery by engaging them in work under oppressive terms and conditions, under menace of penalty and without freedom to leave at any time.

There were allegations these workers were promised good money for jobs in Vanuatu but they have to pay them some money in return for the offer.

The sources said that some of them allegedly paid $US2000 to the couple, some paid $US3900, $US4000, $US5000, $US6000 and $US8000.

They said the couple were alleged to have directly and indirectly made arrangements that involved property that they knew or ought to have known to be proceeds of crime when they procured those amounts from the victims.

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Andrew Napuat, has confirmed the arrest of the investor behind “Mr Price” in relation to alleged money laundering and human trafficking.

While the couple are known as owners of Mr Price, sources said the investigation was still underway to check whether or not the company had a link with the global Mr Price.

This is not the first time that Mr Price Asian Junction has been in the spotlight in Vanuatu as in June this year 21 work permits were revoked for workers brought in from overseas by the company.

Buzz 96FM interview
“We didn’t want to come out in the media to talk about the case because of the sensitivity of it,” Minister Napuat told Buzz 96FM’s Kizzy Kalsakau.

“But since people are already talking about, I felt that it’s good that we come out and provide initial clarifications.”

After the revocation of work permits, the investors appealed to the minister and the revocations were reversed but with conditions to employ ni-Vanuatu and for imported workers to do work they came to do.

The minister said the investigation would take a while.

He said appropriate authorities such as the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority (VIPA) and Customs Department and Ministry of Finance that are responsible for business licenses will have to be consulted.

Napuat said those brought to work under Mr Price would be treated as witnesses in the case against the investor behind Mr Price.

He denied rumours that people were brought in from overseas in containers.

False information
Minister Napuat is appealing for members of the public not to spread false information about the issue.

Meanwhile, Acting CEO of Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority Kalpen Silas said due diligence was carried out before Mr Price’s application was forwarded to the VIPA board for approval.

However, Silas said one of the requirements under the VIPA Act was that any investor who breaks any Vanuatu law through provision of false information would be penalised.

He said VIPA was aware of investigations currently being carried out on Mr Price.

The case is expected to resume within two weeks.

Human trafficking has been defined as the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation.

The maximum penalty for this in Vanuatu as set out in section 102 (b) of the Penal Code Act [CAP 135] is 20 years behind bars.

This article is republished from the Vanuatu Daily Post with permission.

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RSF condemns Chinese exclusion of journalists at APEC side events

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Port Moresby … accused over “new media control strategy” in South Pacific. Image: SCMP

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the discrimination practised by the Chinese delegation against local and international media at the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held last weekend in Papua New Guinea and attended by President Xi Jinping.

During the APEC leaders summit, held from November 17-18 in Port Moresby, several accredited media – including the Australian public broadcasting TV channel ABC and the local EMTV News channel and National daily newspaper – were prevented from covering three events organised by the Chinese delegation and involving Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The events included a dinner with President Xi’s counterparts from eight Pacific Island States, reports RSF.

READ MORE: Nothing to see here … Chinese state media has little to say over APEC summit drama

Chinese journalists were apparently the only ones allowed to cover these events.

“The delegation, which did not see fit to explain the reasons for this discrimination, cynically invited excluded journalists to use the recordings broadcast by the Chinese media as the source of information for their articles,” RSF said.

-Partners-

Cédric Alviani, director of RSF’s East Asia office, said: “It is intolerable that a foreign delegation in an international event would claim the right to choose which journalists can be admitted or not to cover the proceedings.”

He added that this incident was “a new example of the media control strategy established by Beijing, which is no longer limited to the Chinese territory and tends to spread internationally”.

China is one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, holding more than 60 professional and non-professional journalists behind bars.

In the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published by RSF, the country stagnates at 176 out of 180. In the RSF Index, President Xi is described as a “predator” against press freedom.

In Auckland, the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project also condemned the “assault on Papua New Guinea’s freedoms of speech, expression and access to information” in a country that has a constitutionally guaranteed free media.

President Xi Jinping’s “predator” against media freedom file with RSF. Source: RSF

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

A bridge too far.

Headline: A bridge too far. – 36th Parallel Assessments

Jiaozhou Bay/Qingdao-Haiwan Bridge, China. Photo: Feel the Planet (feel-planet.com).

The Labour-led government in New Zealand has settled on a new mantra when it comes to addressing the US-China rivalry. It claims that New Zealand is ideally situated to become a bridge between the two great powers and an honest broker when it comes to their interaction with the Southwest Pacific. This follows the long-held multi-party consensus that New Zealand’s foreign policy is independent and autonomous, and based on respect for international norms and multinational institutions.

The problem is that the new foreign policy line is a misleading illusion. It ignores historical precedent, the transitional nature of the current international context, the character and strategic objectives of the US and the PRC and the fact that New Zealand is neither independent or autonomous in its foreign affairs.

The historical precedent is that in times of conflict between great powers, small states find it hard to remain neutral and certainly do not serve as bridges between them. The dilemma is exemplified by the island of Melos during the Peloponnesian Wars, when Melos expressed neutrality between warring Athens and Sparta. Although Sparta accepted its position Athens did not and Melos was subjugated by the Athenians.

In stable world times small states may exercise disproportionate influence in global affairs because the geopolitical status quo is set and systemic changes are incremental and occur within the normative framework and around the margins of the system as given. When international systems are unstable and in transition, small states are relegated to the sidelines while great powers hash out the contours of the emerging world order—often via conflict. Such is the case now, which has seen the unipolar system dominated by the US that followed the bi-polar Cold War now being replaced by an emerging multi-polar system aggregating new and resurgent powers, some of which are hostile to the West.

In this transitional moment the US is in relative decline and has turned inward under a Trump administration that is polarizing at home and abroad. It is still a formidable economic and military power but it is showing signs of internal weakness and external exhaustion that have made it more reactive and defensive in its approach to global affairs. China is a rising great power with global ambition and long-term strategic plans, particularly when it comes to power projection in the Western Pacific Rim. It sees itself as the new regional power in Asia, replacing the US, and has extended its influence world-wide.That includes involvement in the domestic politics and economic matters of Pacific Island states, including Australia and New Zealand.

China’s rise and the US decline are most likely to first meet in the Western Pacific. When they do, the consequences will be far reaching. Already the US has started a trade war with the Chinese while reinforcing its armed presence in the region at a time when China cannot (as of yet) militarily challenge it. China has responded by deepening its dollar and debt diplomacy in Polynesia and Melanesia as part of the Belt and Road initiative, now paralleled by an increased naval and air presence extending from the South and East China Seas into the blue water shipping lanes of the Pacific.

There lies the rub. New Zealand is neither independent or autonomous when it confronts this emerging strategic landscape. Instead, it has dichotomized its foreign policy. On the security front, it is militarily tied to the US via the Wellington and Washington Declarations of 2010 and 2012. It is a founding member and integral component of the Anglophone 5 Eyes signal intelligence gathering network led by the US. It is deeply embedded in broader Western security networks, whose primary focus of concern, beyond terrorism, is the hostile activities of China and Russia against liberal democracies and their interests.

On trade, New Zealand has an addict-like dependency on agricultural commodity and primary good exports, particularly milk solids. Its largest trading partner and importer of those goods is China. Unlike Australia, which can leverage its export of strategic minerals that China needs for its continued economic growth and industrial ambitions under the China 2025 program, New Zealand’s exports are elastic, substitutable by those of competitors and inconsequential to China’s broader strategic planning. This makes New Zealand extremely vulnerable to Chinese economic retaliation for any perceived slight, something that the Chinese have been clear to point out when it comes to subjects such as the South China island-building dispute or Western concerns about the true nature of Chinese developmental aid to Pacific Island Forum countries.

As a general rule issue linkage is the best approach to trade and security: trading partners make for good security partners because their interests are complementary (security protects trade and trade brings with it the material prosperity upon which security is built). Absent that, separating and running trade and security relations in parallel is practicable because the former do not interfere with the latter and vice versa. But when trade and security relations are counterpoised, that is, when a country trades preferentially with one antagonist while maintaining security ties with another, then the makings of a foreign policy conundrum are made. This is exactly the situation New Zealand finds itself in, or what can be called a self-made “Melian dilemma.”

Under such circumstances it is delusional to think that New Zealand can serve as a bridge between the US and China, or as an honest broker when it comes to great power projection in the Southwest Pacific. Instead, it is diplomatically caught between a rock and a hard place even though in practice it leans more West than East.

The latter is an important point. Although a Pacific island nation, New Zealand is, by virtue of its colonial and post-colonial history, a citizen of the West. The blending of Maori and Pacifika culture gave special flavor to the Kiwi social mix but it never strayed from its Western orientation during its modern history. That, however, began to change with the separation of trade from security relations as of the 1980s (where New Zealand began to seek out non-Western trade partners after its loss of preferred trade status with UK markets), followed by increasingly large waves of non-European immigration during the next three decades. Kiwi culture has begun to change significantly in recent years and so with it its international orientation. Western perspectives now compete with Asian and Middle Eastern orientations in the cultural milieu, something that has crept into foreign policy debates and planning. The question is whether the new cultural mix will eventuate in a turn away from Western values and towards those of Eurasia.

The government’s spin may just be short term diplomatic nicety posing as a cover for its dichotomous foreign policy strategy. Given its soft-peddling of the extent of Chinese influence operations in the country, it appears reluctant to confront the PRC on any contentious issue because it wants to keep trade and diplomatic lines open. Likewise, its silence on Trump’s regressions on climate change, Trans-Pacific trade and support for international institutions may signal that the New Zealand government is waiting for his departure before publicly engaging the US on matters of difference. Both approaches may be prudent but are certainly not examples of bridging or brokering.

While New Zealand audiences may like it, China and the US are not fooled by the bridge and broker rhetoric. They know that should push come to shove New Zealand will have to make a choice. One involves losing trade revenues, the other involves losing security guarantees. One involves backing a traditional ally, the other breaking with tradition in order to align with a rising power. Neither choice will be pleasant and it behooves foreign policy planners to be doing cost/benefits analysis on each because the moment of decision may be closer than expected.

Analysis syndicated by 36th Parallel Assessments

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Business as usual’ vows Parkop after storming of PNG Parliament, rioting

The National Parliament of Papua New Guinea came under attack yesterday as angry police and corrections officers stormed into Parliament Haus and destroyed the main entrance.  Video: EMTV News

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

National District Governor Powes Parkop has pledged that it will be business as usual today in the Papua New Guinean capital of Port Moresby as normalcy has been restored in the city after yesterday’s rioting, looting and an assault on Parliament.

Parkop declared this after meeting members of the Security Force, together with National Parliament Speaker Job Pomat, Minister for Finance James Marape, Minister for Police Jelta Wong, and other ministers yesterday afternoon at Sir John Guise Stadium in Waigani, reports Loop PNG.

Security forces protested over the lack of payment of security allowances for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders summit last week by storming Parliament Haus in Waigani and causing damage.

READ MORE: Army ‘not involved’ in storming of PNG Parliament

Port Moresby looting captured by Camara Geita on Twitter yesterday. Image: PMC screenshot

This triggered off rioting in parts of the city and looting in shops.

-Partners-

“Government has agreed to settle the allowances as soon as possible and we all agreed to return to duties to restore calm and normalcy to the city with immediate effect!”

Parkop said the issue of allowances for officers providing security during the APEC meeting is being resolved by the national government and relevant agencies.

He said that K10 million (NZ4.4 million) was released yesterday and was being processed to be disbursed as soon as possible.


A live feed fof shooting, looting and rioting in Port Moresby yesterday. Video: Camara Geita/Twitter

‘Purely administrative’
“This is a matter that is purely administrative.

“Schools should return to normal, shops should open and offices and business should operate as normal instantly. There is no cause for concern or worry.

“I call on everyone not to rely on rumours and fake news to cause an alarm and incite fear unnecessarily.

“The event was regrettable but it’s under control and there is no reason to be fearful anymore.”

Yesterday, business houses, schools and shops closed early due to the looting that occurred at different parts of the city, reports EMTV News.

This followed the rampage at the Parliament by frustrated Joint Security Task Force members over the non-payment of their APEC allowance.


The APEC pay dispute and why the PNG police protested. Video: EMTV News

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media