Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Telling Pacific stories with a difference

INTERESTING development at Scoop, the largest and most influential independent website in New Zealand ... Scoop Media is tomorrow launching Pacific.Scoop - a new department of the website devoted to telling the "untold" stories of the Pacific with flair and insight. This is a partnership with AUT University's communication studies school, which already produces an award-winning newspaper, radio station and regular television stories. Undoubtedly, the web content will be rather different from what mainstream news sites in New Zealand offer on the Pacific. The new Pacific offering was pushed by Scoop co-editor Selwyn Manning and carried on by co-editor and manager Alastair Thompson. Scoop already has a cutting edge with several specialised sections, notably Gordon Campbell's political and current affairs blog and Jeremy Rose's Scoop Review of Books. Pacific.Scoop is being edited by Café Pacific’s David Robie and his team at AUT University's Pacific Media Centre. There will be a strong educational core with student journalists filing from AUT, USP, Papua New Guinea and Samoa and elsewhere. And some development journalism tackling resources issues in the region. The team promises "independent news and comment" on a shoestring. Next March, the university is introducing a new Graduate Diploma in Pacific Journalism. Watch this space ...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bougainville's New Dawn FM comes into the limelight

CONGRATULATIONS to Aloysius Laukai and the team at New Dawn FM in Bougainville. They have become the first Pacific group to win the global Communication and Social Change Award, hosted and sponsored by the University of Queensland. The "brave and pioneering" community radio station was charged with the mission in 2008 of helping rebuild the shattered province after a decade-long civil war with estimates of up to 20,000 people dying in the conflict or related health and poverty issues because of the blockade imposed by Papua New Guinea. An estimated 40,000 people were internal refugees at the height of the war.

UQ’s head of the School of Journalism and Communication, Prof Michael Bromley, says 19 entries were received for the award, which recognises and honours outstanding contributions to the theory and practice of communication and social change. Café Pacific understands at least two other nominations were from the Pacific – femLINK Pacific in Fiji and the Pacific Media Centre in New Zealand. Nominations also came from 11 other countries - Bangladesh, Burundi, Canada, Congo, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda and the US.

New Dawn’s chairman and manager Aloysius Laukai was delighted with the station's recognition and he will fly to Brisbane to receive the award next month. The jury for the award included ABC foreign editor Peter Cave, AusAID Deputy Director General Annmaree O'Keeffe and former secretary-general of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union Hugh Leonard. They were joined by chair Prof Ken Wiltshire and three other senior Queensland University academics.

The award constitutes a commemorative plaque and a cash prize of $2500. The jury also awarded a special meritorious commendation for Communication and Social Change Award to Indian graphic designer and artist Lakshmi Murthy for her “innovative and ground-breaking use of graphic design to promote communication and social change”. She will receive A$1500 and a plaque.

New Dawn FM was established after early planning in 2000 with the assistance of several Australians who had worked in broadcasting in PNG, including Keith Jackson AM, Phil Charley OAM and Prof Martin Hadlow, now director of the Centre for Communication and Social Change at UQ.

The radio was dubbed New Dawn FM to “mark our optimism about the future of Bougainville following a terrible civil war that left countless thousands of people dead, injured or internally displaced”, explains Laukai on the radio website:
We believed the project would contribute to establishing a public sphere of community discourse, enabling discussion and giving a voice to a community dispossessed by civil insurrection and seeking to rebuild a democratic society.

The [planning] talk continued and reached a lunch table in Sydney, Australia, where our board member Carolus Ketsimur met his old Papua New Guinea broadcasting buddies Phil Charley, OAM, and Keith Jackson, AM. They sought the assistance of Martin Hadlow of UQ, himself formerly a radio station manager in PNG and a senior UNESCO executive.

Together we developed a concept that saw UNESCO and the German government provide funds for studio equipment and a transmitter. After a number of false starts, we finally started testing the station in April 2008. Then, at the end of June, our transmitter was destroyed when strong winds damaged the telescopic mast. We paid for another and a standby transmitter and went back on air in November 2008.

We are now on air with a transmitter power of 300w. Since our establishment we have covered the Bougainville presidential byelection and also the celebrations of the inauguration of the second Autonomous Bougainville Government. This was done in Arawa in Central Bougainville and we covered it live for listeners in the north.
Pictured: A pro-peace protest in Bougainville calling for a speeding up of the destruction of guns. Photo: New Dawn FM.

Pilger on the 'change' myth of President Obama

A LINK in case you missed this gem from John Pilger (as Café Pacific did, being on leave in remote parts of the Pacific with non communications at the time) about propaganda, disinformation and the rise of Obama. Pilger was speaking at Socialism 2009 on US independence day last month and filmed by Paul Hubbard in San Francisco. Pilger says that in reality President Obama promises not change, but more of the same (a view long shared by Café Pacific) – and even embarking on a new war in Pakistan. Behind the illusion, says Pilger, Bush and Obama have much in common:
The clever young man who recently made it to the White House is a very fine hypnotist … partly because it is indeed extraordinary to see an African-American at the pinnacle of power in the land of slavery. However, this is the 21st century and race together with gender, and even class, can be very seductive tools of propaganda. For what is so often overlooked, I believe above all, is the class one serves.

George Bush’s inner circle was perhaps the most multiracial in presidential history. It was PC par excellence… It was also the most reactionary. Obama’s very presence in the White House appears to reaffirm the moral nation. He is a marketing dream… he is a brand that promises something special, something exciting, almost risqué, as if he might be radical, as if he might enact change. He makes people feel good, he is a post-modern man with no political baggage – and all that’s fake.

Monday, August 17, 2009

MoJo slams eco-chic branding of Fiji's 'junta water'

FIJI WATER has come out with a spluttering response to Mother Jones’ investigative story condemning the South Pacific “pure water” company as creating a marketing illusion in the United States that is far from reality. In a nutshell, freelancer Anna Lenzer’s story given splash cover treatment by the magazine proclaims “the spin” as “pure”, “fancied by celebs (including President Obama)”, “every drop is green”. “untouched by man” and “living water” is flawed.

The “facts”, claims MoJo, are that Fiji Water produces “twice the plastic”, puts “lipstick on the junta”, is “diesel-powered”, “hides its profits in tax havens” and “locals drink dirty water”.

Lenzer’s article, "Fiji water: Spin the bottle", proclaims: Obama sips it. Paris Hilton loves it. Mary J. Blige won't sing without it. How did a plastic water bottle, imported from a military dictatorship thousands of miles away, become the epitome of cool?

The article has riled executives of Fiji Water, a company that reputedly employs 350 people in a rural part of the Pacific country. Company spokesman Rob Six replied on MoJo’s Fiji Green Blog:
We strongly disagree with the author’s premise that because we are in business in Fiji somehow that legitimises a military dictatorship. We bought Fiji Water in November 2004, when Fiji was governed by a democratically elected government. We cannot and will not speak for the government, but we will not back down from our commitment to the people, development, and communities of Fiji.

We consider Fiji our home and as such, we have dramatically increased our investment and resources over the past five years to play a valuable role in the advancement of Fiji.

It is true that Fiji is a poor country, but we believe that the private sector has a critical role to play to address the under served areas of Fiji’s development, with special attention to economic opportunities, health, education, water and sanitation.
MoJo co-editor Clara Jeffery replied through comments by Lenzer, saying Six didn’t respond to key questions raised in the MoJo article: from the polluting background of Fiji Water’s owners past and present, to the company’s decision to funnel assets through tax havens, to its silence on the alleged human rights abuses of the Fijian government. Lenzer's piece "doesn’t argue that Fiji Water actively props up the regime, but that its silence amounts to acquiescence. In contrast to the progressive image projected by the company in the US":
The regime clearly benefits from the company's global branding campaign characterising Fiji as a "paradise" where there is "no word for stress." Fiji's tourism agencies use Fiji Water as props in their promotional campaigns, and the company itself has publicised pictures of President Obama drinking Fiji Water. This is a point repeatedly made by international observers, including a UN official who in a recent commentary (titled "Why Obama should stop drinking Fiji water”) called for sanctions on Fiji, and singled out Fiji Water as the one company with enough leverage to force the junta to budge.

Yet the most pointed criticism the company has made of the regime was when it opposed a tax as "draconian;" it has never used language like that to refer to the junta's human rights abuses.

It’s worth remembering that there aren’t very many countries ruled by military juntas today, and Americans prefer not to do business with those that are. We don't import Burma Water or Libya Water.
Lenzer herself pointed out:
I did contact Fiji Water before my trip, and [Rob] Six mentioned that the company "takes journalists to Fiji"; I didn't follow up about joining such a junket. Despite news reports showing that Fiji wouldn’t cooperate with journalists who went there independently, I chose to do so and visited the factory on a public tour. I had planned to speak to Fiji Water’s local representatives, and to visit the surrounding villages, afterward. But it was at that point that I was arrested by Fijian police, interrogated about my plans to write about Fiji Water, and threatened with imprisonment and rape.

After that incident, personnel at the US Embassy strongly encouraged me not to visit the villages. I did discuss my trip to the islands with Six after I returned, and had extensive correspondence with him on numerous questions, many of which he has not addressed to this day, including:

- Why won't the company disclose the total amount of money that Fiji Water spends on its charity work? Do its charitable contributions come close to matching the 30 percent corporate tax rate it would be paying had it not been granted a tax holiday in Fiji since 1995?

- Will Fiji Water owners Lynda and Stewart Resnick, who in the company’s PR materials contrast our tap water supply with the “living water” found in their bottles, disclose the full volume of pesticides that their farming and flower companies use every year? Could limiting those inputs create better water here at home?

- Fiji touts its commitments to lighten its plastic bottle (which is twice as heavy as many competitors’) by 20 percent next year, to offset its carbon emissions by 120 percent, and to restore environmentally sensitive areas in Fiji, but its public statements never acknowledge that these projects are, in many cases, still on the drawing board or in the negotiating stages. Why?
Picture: Fiji Water reportedly became the first bottled water company to publish its carbon footprint in 2007. But is a bottle of Fiji Water truly green? Photo: Inhabit.

Meanwhile, it's good to see a despatch posted at Pacific Media Centre from AUT postgrad journalist Keira Stephenson, who is on internship with the Philippine Star, about Manila communities' daily struggle for water.

Friday, August 14, 2009

More zzzzz over cagey 'open file' SIS spooks

JANE KELSEY’S recent welcome reality check on the so-called SIS “openness” files has sparked renewed concerns over the state of the surveillance society in New Zealand. Earlier in the year, the focus had been on activists getting a fair deal. Now the academics are also up in arms over the Security Intelligence Service’s inept prying into critical thinkers on campus. Calls have been renewed for a commission of inquiry reviewing the activities of the Security Intelligence Service, a move strongly supported by Café Pacific.

Many activists, academics, civil society stirrers and some journalists have applied for copies of their SIS files. But the period of “glasnost” ushered in by new SIS director Dr Warren Tucker, including release of personal information under the Privacy Act, has been shortlived. After a relatively brief stint of “open file” revelations in the media from surveillance subjects – some such as CAFCA (the only organisation to have had a file released), Green MP Keith Locke and human rights activist Maire Leadbeater were featured on Café Pacific – the inevitable chill wind has swept through espionage house. Many people are now receiving “neither confirm nor deny” responses about their SIS file, claiming the release of this information would prejudice national security. It is believed neither-confirm-nor-deny responses apply to still active files. Café Pacific’s publisher David Robie has received one of these letters (dated June 5) from the SIS after an earlier fob off in April, possibly over his close connections with independence movements and radical groups in New Zealand and the Pacific in the 1980s as a journalist.

The Global Peace and Justice Auckland group plans to hold a meeting next week for those who applied for their SIS files to discuss issues around the controversy. GPJA’s Mike Treen and John Minto noted: “As the number of people seeking information has increased so the amount released from each file has decreased. Some people have been refused access altogether while others have been told the SIS will neither confirm nor deny the existence of a file on them.”

The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) distributed a media release protesting against academics being spied on for simply doing their jobs. The union’s response followed a public condemnation of the SIS and the Privacy Commission by Jane Kelsey, a law professor of the University of Auckland and a high profile independent critic of free-trade policies, including New Zealand “bullying” of small Pacific nations over PACER-Plus. TEU president Dr Tom Ryan says:
We cannot afford to have a society where the SIS is spying on academics who are simply doing their job. News that a highly-respected University of Auckland professor of law, Jane Kelsey, has been spied on by the SIS because of her professional work is intimidating for all academics.

Our democracy will be weakened if tertiary researchers and teachers are scared off from questioning official policies in their own fields of expertise. But that seems to be exactly the outcome the SIS was aiming for with its long-running campaign against Dr Kelsey.

A chilling aspect of Dr Kelsey’s case is that the SIS appears to have been spying on her simply because of her views on our country’s economic and trade policies rather than any real concern that she might pose a physical or military risk. And much of the spying appears to have occurred in her university workplace.
New Zealand Herald columnist Brian Rudman scoffed at the SIS files furore, adding that in spite of "unmasking a fellow student as a spy" during his Auckland University days, he had never risked writing to Spy Central" when they "first offered to open their filing cabinets to the paranoid, and to anyone else who suspected the spooks might have been trawling for dirt on them over the years". On a more serious note, Kelsey’s own web-based background resource around the “open files” issue observes:
The SIS has a long history of spying on academics. The file of economist Wolfgang Rosenberg dates back 50 years, and includes comments he made in the common room and his applications for academic jobs. Recent files of several other academics focus on lawful activities undertaken in the course of their employment as academics, such as giving lectures, participating in conferences and convening meetings on university campuses. Various Students Association groups and activities have also been monitored.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Burmese peace laureate back under house arrest for elections

BURMESE Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to 18 more months detention for "violating her house arrest" by allowing an uninvited American into her home. The 64-year-old opposition leader has spent 14 of the last 20 years in detention, mostly under house arrest, and the extension ensures her absence from the political scene when the ruling junta stages elections next year.

According to a report by the Burmese independent Mizzima news service:
Home affairs Minister Lieutenant General Maung Oo, the minister of home affairs, arrived in court and read out an order signed by the head of the military junta, Senior General Than Shwe, dated 10 August.

The order stated that if the court convicted Aung San Suu Kyi, half of the sentence should be commuted. It added that she could be freed after serving the sentence if she showed good behaviour. The order explained that her sentence had been commuted because she is the daughter of General Aung San, the architect of Burma's independence from the British colonial

"The verdict against Aung San Suu Kyi is that she will be taken back to her house and kept under restrictions for 18 months, after which if she shows good behavior she could be freed," her lawyer, Nyan Win, told Mizzima. He said she wiould be kept under restrictions but could write a
request asking for certain rights, including receiving guests. She would also be allowed to watch television and read newspapers.

Similarly, her two live-in political party members, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, who were also sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour, had their terms reduced to an 18-month suspended sentence each and would be sent back along with Aung San Suu Kyi to her home.

John William Yettaw, the American man who swam across a lake to reach Aung San Suu Kyi's house, however, was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment with hard labour. The court said that Yettaw's sentence relates to abetting Aung San Suu Kyi in violating the terms of her house arrest and other charges including violation of immigration laws.

In an attempt at transparency, the Burmese military junta allowed diplomats and journalists to be present at the court proceedings in Rangoon's Insein prison, where the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and her three co-defendants was being held.

A Rangoon-based diplomat told Mizzima that several foreign missions based in Rangoon, along with journalists, were given permission to be inside the court room.
Picture: Filipino protesters holding cutout portraits of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally outside the Burmese Embassy, south of Manila. Photo: Dennis M. Sabangan, EPA.

Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 18 months in detention
Burma locks up Suu Kyi for 18 more months

Friday, August 7, 2009

Media freedom and dealing with the Fiji regime's gag

THE EXPECTED fallout from PINA 2009 has been fast flowing since the two-yearly regional media circus. Many rifts were on show long before the conference began in Port Vila late last month - for example, the criticisms of PINA's recent lukewarm actions over regional media freedom and the founding of the successful upstart Pacific Freedom Forum by PINA dissidents; the hostility between the conference hosts, Media Asosiesen blong Vanuatu (MAV) and the country's main newspaper, Vanuatu Daily Post, and publisher Marc Neil-Jones; and the calls for PINA and Pacnews to be relocated outside of Fiji as a protest against the regime's media censorship. The election of MAV president Moses Stevens as PINA president only served to fuel the animosity. Stevens was elected ahead of talented Stanley Simpson of Fiji's Mai TV, an innovative graduate of the University of the South Pacific, to take the regional body forward for the next two years. He cited training for young journalists as a policy priority and also hinted at the possibility of Australian and NZ media groups being allowed to fully join PINA. Reflecting on the conference's results, Matangi Tonga editor Pesi Fonua wrote:
What appeared to be a sincere intention by the former PINA board to turn its biannual convention into a Pacific Media Summit under the theme "Breaking Barriers - Access to Information'" did not live up to expectations.

Despite the great effort to attract as many participants as possible to attend the Vanuatu PINA inaugural summit, their contributions did not see the light of day, because most participants were not permitted to attend the AGM, and so some serious observations made by working journalists and media people were not translated into the decision-making process.
Café Pacific's correspondents report that the meeting became quite tense when it was realised that two military censors - both women - had been invited and were present. The mood was becoming ugly, with some people questioning why the censors were there - how dare PINA invite them?

Cook Islands News editor John Woods (elected vice-president as the Cook Islands is hosting the next conference) was a particularly strong critic. He wanted the pair to be barred from the meeting. He said their presence would have a chilling effect on Fiji journalists and discourage them from speaking their minds. Woods described their presence there as "despicable". However, some journalists thought the whole issue rather over-dramatised and that it was important to get an insight into the thinking of the Fiji censors - one of them even a former journalist.

One leading regional journalism educator, Shalendra Singh, is head of journalism and media at the University of the South Pacific. He is a former news magazine editor and is committed to all sides of the story. He defended the women's right to speak as representatives of Fiji's Ministry of Information (a PINA member, although there was some doubt over whether the Minfo was actually paid up).

"Talk about shooting the messenger! The irony is staggering," Singh said later. He said the women should be allowed to speak. The conference should not do to the women what the regime administration in Fiji had done in gagging the media. Singh also mentioned that journalism was about balance and getting all sides of the story. It was an opportunity to put the regime representatives under the spotlight and question them. He said journalists should practise freedom of expression, not just preach it. Singh also described how Fiji was facing draconian censorship and there was a danger that people might become used to the status quo.

Some views changed then and other people present, such as Lisa Williams-Lahari, founding coordinator of the Pacific Freedom Forum, spoke in favour of the women speaking but only in a session about censorship under a military regime, not this one devoted to regional stories of media freedom under fire. She also strongly asked the censors during the Q and A whether they felt Minfo should withdraw as a PINA member without waiting for PINA expulsion. Another panellist, Fiji Times editor-in-chief Netani Rika, walked out in protest at the presence of the censors after his presentation. (He was awarded the region's media freedom prize).

Only one journalist - Dev Nadkarni, a former USP journalism coordinator - commenting on this contentious issue noted the fact that one of the regime's representatives, Lance Corporal Talei Tora, was in fact educated on the USP regional journalism programme and herself a former broadcaster. Tora was well-trained in rigorous journalism skills and freedom of speech. But now as a soldier - one of Fiji's pioneering women officer cadet recruits - she follows military orders. Her elder sister, Luisa Tora, is also an award-winning journalist and long a free speech advocate.

Corporal Tora raised issues of media bias in Fiji, of media paying journalists badly and exploiting them, and other shortcomings - but these issues were not discussed at all. Media in the Pacific does not like to discuss criticism that is leveled at it - as Café Pacific has noted often in the past. There is no critical self-scrutiny as there should be at such meetings - or as happens in many other countries that have challenging "media watch" style radio and television programmes, such as Media 7 in New Zealand. Pacific media too often just plays the victim.

Café Pacific understands that some mention of Pacific Media Centre director associate professor David Robie's past research on Fiji media at the time of the Speight coup was cited - the detailed findings were published in his 2004 USP book Mekim Nius: South Pacific media, politics and education. In Nadkarni's review of freedom of speech issues at the PINA convention, he wrote:
[Corporal Tora] said she was a civil servant and had a job to do and pointed to a number of cases of inaccurate reporting (for which several of the media outlets have since apologised).

The questions flew thick and fast: Would she and her colleague be reporting the proceedings to their military bosses? Would the emergency regulations apply to Fiji journalists now they were in a different country? Would they be liable to action? Tora stood her ground and answered questions with confidence, although she used her comparatively junior rank to express inability to comment on the more sensitive matters.
Freedom of speech cuts both ways. If media bleatings over the gagging of Fiji news organisations are to be taken seriously in global contexts, then a major effort needs to be taken by the region's journalists to be fully informed about the complexities of Fiji politics and to report with more insight and balance and to defend open dialogue. Ironically, two of the best reports to come out of Fiji in recent times have not been from Pacific media at all but by Australian-based investigative journalists Graham Davis and Mark Davis for their attempts to give the "other side of the story" of Bainimarama's claimed plan for genuine democracy shorn free of racism.

Pictured: Fiji Times editor Netani Rika speaking at the PINA convention - he was awarded the PINA media freedom award for his defence of free speech in Fiji; Moses Stevens. Photos: Fiji Times; MAV.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Taking a breather - and giving Fiji a break

BACK from a month's sojourn in remote corners of Bora Bora, Papenoo and Maui and far busier moments in Alcatraz, Sausalito and Santa Monica, Café Pacific's publisher David Robie is refreshed and back in the thick of things. It was a delight being immersed in the stacks of quality newspapers (albeit endangered) in San Francisco after the paucity of a good press in NZ. Among the many colleagues encountered in the travels were Tagata Pasifika's Adrian Stevanon and Tagaloatele Osone Okesene on the ground in Pape'ete. Café Pacific missed the special Balibo film screening of the long-awaited story of the murder of six journalists in East Timor in 1975 at the Auckland Film Festival (a couple of days after the Melbourne premiere), but it's a delight to see that it is getting such a positive reception.

After a brief homecoming stopover in Fiji - thanks to Air Pacific - David was thrust back into the complex post-coup issues that cast a shadow over the Pacific. First the PINA media flop last week and now the Cairns "free trade" jackup prelude to the Pacific Islands Forum. Good to see the recent Mark Davis Dateline interview with Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, which included some pithy insights into the "one person, one vote" mantra to repel three decades of a racist and corrupt so-called democracy.

It is also worth sharing this recent dispatch from NZ-based German journalist Ulli Weissbach. He doesn't run his own blog, so here's his personal perspective (abridged) directed to "friends and foes" alike following a three-week research trip:
Part of my job in Fiji was to prepare the ground for a German TV foreign affairs programme on Fiji. I had a chat with government spokesperson Lt Col Neumi Leweni, who assured me there would be absolutely no problem for the German TV crew entering Fiji and interviewing the "evil dictator".

Experience 1:
I actually saw him once, entering the lobby of the Holiday Inn hotel in Suva. No heavily armed bodyguards around
him, just a guy in a plain suit. If a waitress at the bar hadn't pointed him out to me "Look, there's Frank", I wouldn't have noticed him. Now, dear friends and foes, do you think an evil dictator, who is hated by half of the country, would dare to walk into the public arena without bodyguards?

Experience 2:
I talked to an Indian girl working at a Denarau Hotel and asked her how she feels under Frank's dictatorship. She said she actually feels better, because she can now safely walk the streets of Nadi at night. The crime rate has come down considerably since Frank took over, which is backed by official statistics as well.

Experience 3:
I circumnavigated the whole of Viti Levu without seing one military checkpoint, except for Nadi airport. Dear colleague Barbara Dreaver, can you please stop peppering your Fiji reports with outdated checkpoint footage from TVNZ's archive?

Experience 4: Along the road I saw a lot of Methodist Church gatherings, where priests thundered through loudspeakers to their congregation. I can't prove it but it all sounded too familiar to me and reminded me of the time when I worked in Fiji at the end of the 1980s. Back then, a Reverend called Lasaro was the chief ideologist of the fundamentalist Methodist Church and incited indigenous Fijians to burn down Hindu temples and mosques. He's still the chief mullah of the Methodist Church and it makes perfect sense to me that Frank is trying to constrain him and his other mullahs. The Methodist Church was behind all the coups before Frank, it is a highly politicised organisation with close ties to the ultra-nationalistic and racist Taukei movement. I call them the Fiji Nazis.

Experience 5:
The tourism industry is doing rather well, due to a lot of Australians and Kiwis ignoring their countries' negative travel advisories. But still they are hurting and hotels are cutting jobs, which proves, that sanctions only hurt the little people, not the government they are aimed at. Same with the sugar cane industry, where EU sanctions and the cutting of subsidies will hurt the little people - ie. Indo-Fijian farmers.

Experience 6:
Yes, newspapers and other media are constrained and intimidated and no journalist can agree with that. Yet many of them are Australian-owned and follow their own agenda. NZ journalists who are banned from Fiji, like "Pacific commentator" Mike Field and TVNZ reporter Barbara Dreaver, have only themselves to blame. Mike Field has been found guilty of inaccurate comments about Fiji by the BSA (Broadcasting Standards Authority). And Barbara Dreaver filed a report about poverty in the goldmine town of Vatukoula, which was highly inaccurate...

If that's the quality of NZ journos reporting about Fiji, who can blame the Fiji government for wanting to keep them away?

Experience 7:
During my Fiji trip, Commodore Bainimarama held a widely publicised speech to the nation about his Strategic Framework for Change, which outlined his envisaged roadmap to elections and democracy. It reflected many of the goals of his proposed People's Charter for building a better Fiji, which has been rubbished repeatedly by Mike Field and consorts as an "idealistic" document.

Idealistic - yes, it's in the nature of constitutions that they promise a better future for their people. But criticising it from a country that doesn't have a constitution and a fair non-racial electoral law is a bit rich. None of these commentators and journalists has bothered to properly inform New Zealanders about the constitutional process in Fiji. Read the People's Charter and make your own judgment. Some of it's principles would suit NZ as well - like equal voting rights for every citizen no matter what his ethnicity is.

We can judge Bainimarama in 2014, when his promised elections will be held. It took my own home country Germany four years to develop and agree to a truly democratic constitution after WW2. And guess who forced it to do so - the military government of the occupying forces (USA, GB and France)?

Pictures: Top: Newspapers in San Francisco; Middle: A Bora Bora pareo; a Tagata Pasifika crew in Pape'ete. Photos: David Robie

Fiji People's Charter
PINA summit fails to stand up for media freedom
Perfectly Frank interview [transcript]
Perfectly Frank [video 20m 09s]

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