Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Farewell Comrade Max Watts (1928-2010)

Max Watts. Photo: Vivienne Porzolt

By Peter Boyle in Sydney

MAX WATTS, a well-known personality on the left in Australia, particularly in Sydney, died on November 23.

Max was a left-wing freelance journalist, an occasional contributor to Green Left Weekly and its discussion e-list, and a solidarity activist with many national liberation struggles, including in Palestine, Kanaky, West Papua and Bougainville.

In the 1960s, he was a central activist in Europe working with soldier resistance to the Vietnam War within the US armed forces. Resistance inside the army (RITA) was one of his great political passions.

Max was an extravagant personality and some people may have found him difficult at times, but he was someone always firmly on the left and on the side of all struggles against oppression and exploitation. You could count on that, and he will be remembered by many comrades in the broad left movement.

Max shook his head at the persistent tendency of the left to be over-factionalised and divisive, but he was quick to work alongside those who took up serious struggle. An eagerness to understand and show solidarity with new forces in motion in any country was one of his characteristics.

Max passed away in Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital from kidney and heart failure. He was with close friends Rosie, Lydia, Vivienne and Barbara at the time and passed peacefully.

I managed to say goodbye to him in hospital a few days before he died. He was quite feisty then — though somewhat confused and disoriented, probably due to medication.

After about an hour, my attempts to get him to stay in his bed earned me the following last words: “Boyle, your visiting time is up!” It was classic Max.

Max will be formally farewelled in Sydney on December 1 at 11.30am at Camellia Chapel, Macquarie Park Crematorium, Plassey Road, North Ryde. Phone (+614) 11 366 295 for more details.

Friends of Max have set up a Facebook group. To leave messages, photos or other material, go to www.facebook.com and search for “Remembering Max Watts”.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Top Asia-Pacific editor advocates paradigm shift to 'peace journalism' training - and JEAA 2010

Nepali Times editor and author Kunda Dixit surveys some of the photos for his exhibition at the Investigative Journalism conference in Auckland next weekend. Photo: David Robie/PMC

KUNDA DIXIT believes there needs to be a paradigm shift in journalism training from war correspondent to peace correspondent. The Nepali Times editor and investigative journalist is keynote speaker for the Media, Investigative Journalism and Technology conference at AUT University next weekend and his Frames of War photojournalism exhibition is also being shown. Don't miss out - register today!

The power of a war-and-peace picture – all 179 of them

By Courtney Wilson

Images of Nepal’s civil war going on show in New Zealand next weekend illustrate the aftermath of war in a way words cannot.

Kunda Dixit, Nepali Times editor and coordinator of the Frames of War exhibit, which will be opened at AUT University on December 4, says a picture does not tell a thousand words – it shows them.

“Because of Nepal’s low literacy rate, the picture is the only way to communicate,” he says.

“At many exhibition venues we saw young school girls reading aloud the captions of the photographs to their illiterate grandparents.”

The Frames of War exhibition contains pictures of the Nepali people during and after the 10-year-long People’s War, which ended in 2006. Dixit and his team – including noted Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam and war photographer Shyam Tekwani – looked at more than 3000 images and chose 179 for their exhibition and their book trilogy called The People War.

The exhibition and books do not have pictures of actual battles, partly because most of them took place at night. Dixit believes war journalism is not supposed to be about pictures of battles, it should be about how war affects ordinary people.

The collaboration attempts to make up for the gap in media coverage of the Nepal war by taking the role of a “peace correspondent”, trying to focus on the human cost, the effect on civilians, the women and children.

Most affected
“In all modern wars, they are the ones who are affected the most,” says Dixit.

Dixit thinks there needs to be a paradigm shift in journalism training from war correspondent to peace correspondent.

“Reporters who go to war are almost celebrities. They cover the war as a series of battles, they count the body bags and chronicle the carnage,” says Dixit.

“War correspondents focus on the battle plans, the strategy of the warring sides, and the hardwares of killing.

“A peace correspondent tries to look at the human cost so that the politicians who lead people to war understand the pain they have unleashed, or covering stories that help in the reconciliation process rather than polarising society.”

Dixit suggests studying the roots of violence to discover the definition of peace and that journalists should be taught non-violence through leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Violence is not just war; there is violence in our speech, violence against nature, violence in the home. You don’t have to be physically violent to be violent. Peace is not automatic, one has to fight for it, struggle to nurture it.

Bias for justice
“Media should be communicating these ideas. Media should have a bias for justice and peace, while adhering to the universal values and rule of journalism and keeping our credibility intact.”

The image Dixit finds the most powerful in the exhibit is of a young woman hugging the body of her policeman husband surrounded by the bodies of his colleagues.

“There are many that are so dramatic that they still make me emotional to look at them,” says Dixit.

“It showed the cost and waste of the war, the effect on civilians even when combatants were killed.”

When Frames of War was first shown to the Nepali people, the war had only been over for a little more than a year. Dixit felt the images may incite anger or renew old pain but instead witnessed a lack of revenge.

“Even among the combatants there wasn’t much residual feeling of “enmity”.

“This was remarkably different from other war zones I have covered, and I think it will help in the reconciliation process in Nepal.”

Dixit is the 2010 Asian Journalism Fellow, sponsored by the Asia New Zealand Foundation, and is a keynote speaker at the Pacific Media Centre’s first Media, Investigative Journalism and Technology Conference which will be held at AUT University on December 4-5.

The Frames of War exhibition, showing some 45 images out of the original selection, will open to the public at 6pm on December 4 at WT005 on the ground floor of the AUT Tower Building, Auckland City campus. It will run for a week.

Courtney Wilson is a final year Bachelor of Communication Studies student journalist on internship with the Pacific Media Centre.

Journalism education highlights
HIGHLIGHTS at the dynamic JEAA conference at the University of Technology, Sydney, conference this week included ABC managing director Mark Scott speaking on the changing nature of news, tweeting the news and what the future holds for journalism. It was a digital optimist's view.

Another optimistic view came from Sophie Black from Crikey in a following industry plenary. While many of the industry training heavyweights gave "boring" overviews out-of-touch with the critical challenges facing global journalism, Black said having an online presence was essential for journalism graduates.

One of the Reportage team covering the conference, Anokhee Shah, reports:

Nick Davies, author of Flat Earth News, and Ginny Dougary were audio-linked from the UK to JEAA2010 for 90 minutes of wit, humour and insight into where journalism practice is heading.

The quality of our output as journalists has declined largely as a result of commercialisation- the interaction between journalism and commerce- and the impact of the internet on the relationship between journalists and the public sphere, says Davies.

Advertisers are moving away from mass-media but the problem with the mass-media on the internet is that people won’t pay to read general news if they can get the story for free.

But the public will pay for information that they do not have access to otherwise [Read on].

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

War reporting, scams, global warming probes among top investigative journalism case studies


Photographer Amrit Gurung presents a copy of the book A People War featuring many of the “peace” photographs in Kunda Dixit’s photojournalism exhibition of the decade-long civil war in Nepal to Hemanta who was portrayed in the same spot on the cover.

Pacific Media Centre


KEY Asia-Pacific, Australian and New Zealand investigative journalists and researchers will gather at AUT University next month for a media “conversation” that will feature diverse issues such as war reporting, scams and global warming probes.

They will also consider the future of independent journalism and map out a strategy for more robust inquiry.

The two-day conference at AUT University on 4/5 December 2010, organised by the Pacific Media Centre, will host an investigative “masterclass” for young journalists, New Zealand’s first seminar on peace journalism, and screen groundbreaking documentaries or multimedia presentations on mining and Kanak independence in New Caledonia, Māori land rights in the Far North, and climate change.

Five leading Pacific Islands investigative journalists are also participating in the conference.

“This is a niche conference and one that features a range of innovative speakers and challenging investigation case studies,” says conference chair Associate Professor David Robie, director of the PMC.

“But there is also a very practical and achievable goal. We hope a group may emerge from this conference to provide more space and support for investigative and probing journalism in New Zealand and the Pacific.”

Television New Zealand Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver is the latest keynote speaker to join the Media, Investigative Journalism and Technology conference. She has broken many stories around the region and investigated many key issues.

She joins Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times and an Asia-Pacific investigative journalist; New Zealand investigative journalist Nicky Hager; and Professor Wendy Bacon, director of the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism and who runs a global environmental investigative journalism programme.

Other Pacific participants include Koroi Hawkins, chief of staff of Television One Solomon Islands; Patrick Matbob of Divine Word University in Madang, Papua New Guinea; Kalafi Moala, publisher of the Taimi Media Network (Tonga); and Shailendra Singh, of the University of the South Pacific.

The PMC is also hosting a masterclass in investigative journalism for student journalists and younger journalists facilitated by a team of international investigative journalists, including Dixit, Bacon and Dr Kayt Davies; and a specialist peace journalism seminar, organised by Dr Heather Devere of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and Rukhsana Aslam, a peace journalism educator from Pakistan.

Freelance war correspondent Jon Stephenson and strategic analyst Dr Paul Buchanan will give insightful papers on New Zealand and the so-called war on terror and embedded journalism.

Exhibitions of photojournalism by a collective facilitated by Kunda Dixit covering the decade-long Maoist civil war in Nepal - "Frames of War" - and Ngapuhi social issues photographer John Miller (featuring the little-known Ngatihine land rights struggle) plus workshops about challenging documentaries by Jim Marbrook and Selwyn Manning are part of the programme.

A seminar about the making of the award-winning film about global warming There Once was an Island: Te Henua e Noho is also featured.

A new Pasifika media portal will be launched at the conference – it will go “live” then and replace the current PMC website: www.pmc.aut.ac.nz

Don't miss this rare opportunity. Registration for the conference is now open.

More information on the conference website (and registration details): www.ciri.org.nz/conference2/index.html
The Pacific Media Watch database is at: www.pacmediawatch.aut.ac.nz
  • Registration for two days: $150
  • Masterclass registration only: $50
  • Contact: Conference organiser Andrea Steward 0273382700

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