Showing posts with label tvnz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tvnz. Show all posts

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fiji honeymooners and headline grabbers


CROZ WALSH has picked up yet another example of media hypocrisy and bias relating to post-coup Fiji. This time an Australian Associated Press report about "honeymooners flocking to Fiji in spite of instability". And who should be the sole expert voice sought for comment? None other than "South Pacific specialist" Professor Brij Lal, a Canberra-based Fiji academic. Indeed, as a social historian yes. But couldn't the news agency also locate an economist or tourism industry specialist for balanced comment? The bias of the news item carried by Television New Zealand's website is quite marked. Read on for Croz Walsh's spin on this item:
Fiji has been picked as the best place in the world to honeymoon, after Hawaii and French Polynesia. They are apparently flocking to Fiji and overall tourist numbers are up. TVNZ reports that "this is despite the presence of a military regime which has been in power since a 2006 coup." Similar negative comment follows.

Then TVNZ ask "South Pacific specialist Professor Brij Lal" what he thought. Prof Lal is an historian who is yet to say one complimentary word about the Baininamara government. He lives in Australia. He has no specialist knowledge of tourism. And this shows. He said Fiji was a popular destination worldwide, thanks [among other things] to marketing of the bottle brand Fiji Water and Oprah Winfrey's visit. What utter .....! Fiji has been a popular tourist destination from Australia and NZ well before there was a Fiji Water brand or an Oprah Winfrey show.

This is not the first time NZTV and RNZI have sought inappropriate (but politically correct) information from Australian sources. Tourism is taught and researched in Fiji and almost all NZ universities. Why did our media not ask an expert in Fiji or New Zealand, rather than a person resident overseas with no tourism expertise? Someone with fewer negative vibes on Fiji?

One suspects these journalists have an address book of preferred sources. [Sorry, Brij. This is not a personal attack. Surely you'd agree there are more appropriate sources than you on this issue.] - Professor Crosbie Walsh on his Fiji: The way it was, is and can be blog
Picture: Fiji Honeymoons.com

Friday, April 16, 2010

Media7 spotlight on reporting of Pacific issues



MEDIA7
turned to the Pacific for a change this week and profiled coverage of the region in the wake of the unveiling of the draft media freedom decree in Fiji. The controversial Barbara Dreaver report on Samoa's "gangs, guns and drugs" also got an airing - with some tart criticisms of the Broadcasting Standards Authority from the panel. Here is Media7's blurb on the programme (running four times over this weekend on digital TVNZ7). Watch it on YouTube - Part 1 and Part 2 - or on TVNZ on demand:
New Zealand television viewers were this week served up the first instalment of the $200-million dollar drama series, The Pacific.

But what about the real life dramas that are being played out in the Oceanic region and the millions of New Zealand dollars and other nations' foreign aid money that is spent to prop up various Pacific nations?


The reporting is patchy at best, given the shrinking budgets of mainstream media and the difficulties inherent in reporting from this sensitive region.


News organisations are finding it hard to report Pacific issues and hold regional governments to account in the face of increasing media censorship and repression.


Some of the problems can be put down to a clash of cultures.
But journalists and editors face a daunting task when reporting on the actions of a military dictatorship, a semi-feudal monarchy and a group of emerging nations where tribal and clan loyalties are often at odds with basic democratic rights.

The Royal Commission into the sinking of the Tongan ferry, Princess Ashika, has opened up an unsavoury can of worms and the latest "media rules" about to be imposed by the Fijian regime will further stifle debate in that country.


Media7 this week surveys the media landscape in the Pacific with David Robie, Barbara Dreaver and Tim Pankhurst joining Russell Brown in the studio.

Dr Robie is director of the Pacific Media Centre and convenor of Pacific Media Watch. Dreaver is a seasoned Pacific affairs reporter who has experienced the heavy hand of a Pacific Island politician on many occasions.


Pankhurst, former
Dominion Post editor and now chief executive of the Newspaper Publishers' Association, is a fierce advocate of media freedom in the face of threats and intimidation, such as we are seeing in Fiji.
  • Media7 is recorded in front of a live audience in the TVNZ Auckland Television Centre on Wednesday evenings at 6pm.

  • Also, hear David Robie commenting on the Fiji media and the proposed draft decree on Radio NZ's Mediawatch, hosted by Colin Peacock and Jeremy Rose.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Samoan 'gangs, drugs and guns' too gung-ho for the BSA

SO THE Samoan government has jumped the gun on the Television New Zealand “gangsta paradise” affair. In its eagerness to win a political point or two over the state-owned broadcaster (which incidentally has just supplied a "Pacific TV" gift of broadcast equipment to Samoa) in its long-standing controversial complaint about TVNZ accuracy, fairness and ethics, the government has itself breached the broadcast industry's watchdog embargo. This is a violation of an important part of the adjudication process, which enables both parties to prepare their response to the orders and to consider an appeal. In fact, Café Pacific wonders what part of the "NOT FOR PUBLICATION" label stamped on each page of the draft ruling, the Samoan government officials did not understand. If it was a court, this would be contempt.

According to TVNZ’s corporate affairs manager Megan Richards, an appeal could well be on the cards. She told Pacific Media Watch that TVNZ had complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about the embargo breach. TVNZ had expected the adjudication to be released on March 29. Richards said TVNZ was "considering an appeal in this case, which has a number of very unusual aspects. TVNZ stands by the substance of the story and the integrity and professionalism of the journalist concerned" – respected Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver.

The BSA ruled against TVNZ on accuracy and balance grounds in its 25-page adjudication against the news item broadcast on ONE News on April 6 last year and also run on Tagata Pasifika . It has reportedly ordered TVNZ to make a public apology, awarded costs of $5000 to be paid to the Samoan government and $2000 to the Crown. But two other complaints over fairness and the impact on law and order were not upheld by the BSA.

Unsurprisingly, TVNZ is spitting tacks over the adjudication. This ruling signals a growing trend for Pacific governments to use the BSA as a means of waving a big stick against stroppy and independent journalists. Fairfax’s Michael Field faced a similar caning from the BSA following a complaint by the Fiji regime's solicitor-general in September 2008.

Pacific governments 2 - Regional journalists 0.

Radio New Zealand International picked up the Samoan press release but ran five paragraphs of the government’s spin with no follow-up comment or balancing interviews. It did not get comment from TVNZ or mention that the government had broken the embargo:
The Samoan government has welcomed a ruling by the New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority, which found that Television New Zealand breached standard broadcasting laws in a news item suggesting the widespread presence of gangs, drugs and gun smuggling in Samoa.

The complaint was lodged by the Samoan government last April year when it claimed that the item tarnished the country’s image and would dissuade tourists from visiting.

In its ruling, the BSA says the report by Barbara Dreaver presented only one perspective and viewers needed information about the gravity of the problem in a wider context and from other perspectives.

TVNZ has been ordered to make a public statement, pay costs to the Samoa government and the Crown.

Samoa’s prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, says he sees the ruling not so much a victory for his government but a victory for responsible and substantive reporting.
But RNZI didn’t mention the prime minister’s further comments:
There have been far too many incidences of unbalanced reporting with
reporters and editors alike bent on producing and publishing half-cooked, sensationalised stories with the sole aim of stirring up controversy.

The ruling by the BSA is an onus for broadcasters and publishers to produce fair, balanced, in-depth and accurate news items.

There are also some very important lessons there for our local editors and budding journalists in how they do their jobs.
The ruling wasn’t to be found on either BSA online or the Samoan government press releases website.

No doubt there will be plenty of clucking in Samoan media circles, but it doesn’t stem the concerns that many of the region's journalists have about the dreadful threats or vindictive witch hunt faced by Dreaver or the hysterically partisan reporting of the issue in some sections of the Samoan press. It would be unfortunate if the BSA has not balanced its ruling with some stern criticism of the culprits in the Samoan media.

Of course, none of these stories below would have much to do with Samoan “gangs, drugs and guns”, would they?

Cops pay social visit to alleged drug lord's house
Drugs and criminal gangs exposed
Bail hearing for Tagaloasa
Filipaina remains in custody
Inquiry report on police boss role submitted

Pictured: RNZI's report of the "ruling"; TVNZ's Barbara Dreaver; and a still from her "gangs, drugs and guns" story. Other background:

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.


Conclusion:
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)?


So please: GIVE FIJI A BREAK!
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]

Sunday, May 10, 2009

'Gangsta paradise' story and the Samoan media vendetta





IF YOU believed the partisan Samoan press about TVNZ’s Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver over the past month, you could be forgiven if you thought she was about to be dispatched on a a witch’s broom to a fiery rendezvous, or simply burnt at a stake outside Aggie Grey’s. She has become Samoan tourism and the media’s public enemy number one. Her April 6 TVNZ report on “guns, gangs and drugs” has been getting a terrible hammering lately in the Apia press and around the media traps. Such is the level of venom, that the issue even forced its way as chief topic at a talanoa session one evening at the UNESCO-funded media freedom conference last week. (A welcome relief from the focus on Fiji). The TVNZ report (and sequel) has generally been branded as a “hatchet job” by Samoa's Newsline, for example, and a Sunday Samoan “editorial” referred to the “evil side of journalism”.

A series of articles, distorted, and – in many cases – clearly defamatory and malicious, have made Barbara Dreaver the target of hostility. Such has been the level of animosity that Dreaver was even reluctant to travel to Apia to take part in this Pacific Freedom Forum debate. She had fears for her safety. How sad and demeaning for Pasifika journalism that one of the people who has worked so hard to build up the Pacific affairs media profile – mostly very positive – in the New Zealand television media scene should be treated in such a vindictive and unprofessional manner. Café Pacific’s David Robie said as much at the Apia talanoa.

The TVNZ programme does have flaws, of course – as much journalism does, once it is put under an intense public forensic microscope. But there is due process to follow here – file a complaint with the Broadcasting Standards Authority and get an independent adjudication based on the facts, not selective and emotive personality attacks. (At least, the Samoan government has finally embarked on this process). How quickly some of the region’s journos descended to the dog-eat-dog level has been a disappointing spectacle. Perhaps some of the Samoan editors have selectively forgotten about “fairness and balance” and they appear to have a perfunctory grasp of media law. Newsline in its May 6 edition even repeated many of the defamatory statements with a frontpage headline claiming “Barbara Dreaver threatens Newsline” (when she is merely trying to get her side of the story heard). Newsline’s Pio Sioa, in an editorial note, offers a lame duck explanation about why the newspaper didn’t run Dreaver’s side of the story in the first place (namely her sworn affidavit of April 22 publicly released by TVNZ in the absence of actually talking to her):
The [daily] Samoa Observer published the affidavit in an issue ahead of [weekly] Newsline and it left little recourse but for Newsline to make reference to it only.
So fairness and balance at Newsline has deteriorated to the level of making a judgment based on what the opposition newspaper has done? Nonsense. Also, maybe nobody told the editor that while a lawyer’s “defamatory” letter is protected by privilege, republishing the statements in the paper is not. Café Pacific notes that Barbara Dreaver has engaged one of New Zealand’s top media barristers, Simpson Grierson’s William Arkel, in her corner. Good luck, you media fellas in Apia, we hope your anti-gangsta vendetta doesn’t take you to the cleaners.

Not everybody in Samoa is deluded by the Samoan pro-tourism press smokescreen. Take this indignant blog posting as a footnote:
Barbara Dreaver [has] exposed a weakness in our culture … dissenting youths who are on fringe of society!!
The clampdown on the Barbara Dreaver [programme] is all about ensuring the reputation of Samoa to tourist is seen as gangsterless and ok under matai control. All for big dollars eh? How about the safety of the locals? None whatsoever is there any media concerns about our people's safety. When the Vaiala government paid pulenu’u (village mayor) and his gang attack innocent women children over disputed lands, the government did not give a sh%*t about the local women and children's welfare! Now everyone's jumping on the bandwagon of tourist safety as a justification for denying Dreavers article on the existence of gangs in Samoa! As a Samoan who had been abused and clamped down by Samoan gangsters led by Samoan public servant, the pulenu'u, I would say, Ms Dreaver exposed the truth about Samoa which some of us have suffered at the hands of government-endorsed gangster like the Vaiala pulenu'u who continues to harass and exert power over helpless women and the disabled ....
- Barbara Dreaver debater!
Picture of Barbara Dreaver by Pacific Media Centre's Alan Koon.

Pacific reporter fights off smear campaign
NZ drug trade fuels Samoa gun smuggling [video 4:51]
Drugs, guns and gangs in Samoa: Barbara Dreaver explains
[video 2:50]
Barbara Dreaver on journalism and integrity


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fiji’s gag on news goes regional

NOT CONTENT with gagging the local media and expelling pesky foreign journalists who have got up its nose, the regime is now picking on the Suva-based regional news agency Pacnews. And like their local media cousins, they’re toeing the line. Well, on the surface anyway. But disgruntled journos can’t be gagged for too long.

Speculation on Pacnews jumping ship to another base – such as Auckland (Radio NZ) or Brisbane (ABC) – as the fledgling agency did after the Rabuka coups in 1987, is unlikely to gain much traction. Radio NZ’s Philippa Tolley, one of the few journos to slip through the regime’s “approval” screening, reported from Suva:
At present, Pacnews is not choosing to include any Fiji stories in its news feed that gets sent out regularly throughout the day. This means it avoids having a censor come into its office to vet stories concerning Fiji. Despite the fact it’s aimed at its regional subscribers, the Fiji government’s spokesperson, Major Neumi Leweni, says if it’s based here it must follow local guidelines: “Well, they are based in Fiji, so they say when you are in Rome you do as the Romans do”.
The Pacific Islands News Association, owner of Pacnews, reckons the agency won’t be bowed by the political crackdown. But president Joe Ealedona, who heads PNG’s National Broadcasting Corporation, says the safety and security of the editorial team is top priority.

Meanwhile, amid the climate of self-censorship, the ether is buzzing again. Civil society might have gone quiet for the moment, but cyber society is doing nicely. And it is good to see a few new blogs operating that are being run by journalists with a bit more respect for facts – instead of the rabid hate blogs that have long ganged up on the regime. Welcome to Fiji uncensored and Coup four point five are among recent players. But for a blog that is actually trying to make sense of this mess with some rational analysis, Croz Walsh’s Fiji is still the best. Two good pieces over at the Pacific Media Centre on the comparisons with Thailand and a certain debate on the Marae programme.

Spare a thought for small NGO groups which are involved in development communication but don’t get the attention the bigger media boys get. They also face censorship – such as the feminist group FemlinkPACIFIC:
As coordinator Sharon Bhagwan Rolls shared, “[We send] our broadcast log and community news collation to the Ministry of Information prior to each broadcast. We are also being intently monitored when we are on air (a community radio volunteer received a phone call when she was on air and was told we were being monitored). I have subsequently had to clarify with the Ministry that they channel all communication to me rather than cause extra anxiety to our young women volunteers who, I have to say, are coping marvelously.” She added: “Even if we are communicating within an eight - 10 kilometre radius, it is an important space that we will work hard to retain. We just hope the rural broadcasts can continue too...Ultimately though, with information and communication channels being tightly controlled rural women will be (are being) further marginalised and isolated.”
Finally, a word of solidarity for Television New Zealand Pacific affairs reporter Barbara Dreaver who has responded to the nasty coconet wireless campaign against her over her controversial “guns, drugs and gangs” story in Samoa with a sworn affidavit. TVNZ backs the accuracy and integrity of her report solidly. And so does Café Pacific. She is one of the journalists who have contributed enormously to boosting serious coverage of Pacific issues in New Zealand.

Cartoon: Malcolm Evans in Pacific Journalism Review.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rabuka’s legacy and the seduction of Bainimarama

ROBBIE ROBERTSON, author of two books on Fiji’s coups and a former professor in governance at the University of the South Pacific, isn’t too impressed with Graham Davis. The Fiji-born journalist’s controversial article about “dealing with the dictator” has won a lot of traction in some quarters. At the very least, it balances much of the weight of media coverage in Australia and New Zealand, which has been so simplistic. But while New Zealand seems to be softening its stance towards the regime, at least to possibly open the door to some future dialogue, Robertson warns against being seduced by regime leader Voreqe Bainimarama merely “because of what he promises”. In a message to Café Pacific, he says: “I fear that even if he delivers, the result may not be what we wish for.” Robertson, who co-authored Shattered Coups about 1987 with his wife Akosita Tamanisau, and co-wrote Fiji: Government by the Gun in the wake of George Speight in 2000, has been so troubled that he penned a letter to The Australian. Here is his reply to Davis:
Fiji’s political kingmaker
GRAHAM Davis ("Dealing with the dictator", Features, 16/4) exhibits a very common fallacy about Commodore Frank Bainimarama's reconstituted coup. Bainimarama's goal of instituting a non-racial system of voting may be a very laudable objective in a country whose recent history has been riven by racial division. But the means chosen to implement that goal is entirely inappropriate.

Many people thought that Sitiveni Rabuka's 1987 coups (and that of George Speight in 2000) had similarly laudable objectives. They were designed to uphold the rights of indigenous Fijians who feared being swamped by Indo-Fijians. In fact, as Davis rightly points out, this was largely a myth perpetuated for more mercenary goals.

The consequence for Fiji was a political storm far worse than today's, but within 10 years it had retreated from ethno-centrism and introduced a new Constitution in 1997 that it could rightly be proud of. Speight in 2000 was a bloody reminder of the danger the Rabuka path would always hold for Fiji if institutions succumbed to its logic.

Fiji emerged from those political storms stronger than ever, with a hugely sophisticated and active civil society, a dynamic free media and a strong legal system. Yes, the old Fijian nationalist Laisenia Qarase was not as wise as he should have been when in office, but his rule was no dictatorship. He eventually agreed to a power-sharing arrangement with the opposition Labour Party as the Constitution required, and that decision was popular. If allowed to continue, it might have transformed Fiji's politics and helped to break down the racial divisions both leading parties still reflect.

In other words, change was already in the air, not least because the purported threat Indo-Fijians posed to Fijian dominance has dissipated. Indo-Fijians comprised nearly half the population in 1987; by 2006 only 37 per cent. It is estimated that their proportion may fall to under 25 per cent by 2020. Under these circumstances, electoral systems will have to change, and such change was already being publicly debated before Bainimarama chose to overthrow the recently elected parliament in which power was being shared for the first time among the representatives of 80 percent of the population.

The danger Bainimarama poses lies not in what he says he will do but what he does. Here is a man who claims he and the military forces he represents have the right to interfere in the political process whenever they, and they alone, choose. This is the Rabuka legacy, and if Bainimarama succeeds in recreating Fiji's democracy in five years' time, he will have confirmed for all time the role of the military as Fiji's political kingmaker.
Robbie Robertson
Meanwhile, seasoned Australian Pacific affairs journalist Sean Dorney has wowed students at Queensland University of Technology. According to Alan Knight's blog DatelineHK, Dorney says the Fiji media are being forced "to buckle under" and censorship is being branded as the “journalism of hope". In New Zealand, the Television New Zealand Maori affairs programme Marae has featured Bainimarama’s elder brother, Sefanaia. Others on the panel were former Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Ltd chief executive Sireli Kini and Nik Naidu, spokesperson for the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji.

Pacific Media Centre news blog has posted an insightful backgrounder about Fiji's woes by advocate against poverty Fr Kevin Barr, who explains the People's Charter process. Also, Violet Cho offers a roundup of reaction. A new media blog, Fijiuncensored.wordpress.com , is focused on Fiji.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gangs, guns, drugs and a Samoan media backlash

BARBARA DREAVER’S exclusive TVNZ report from Samoa this week on gunrunning and drug peddling featuring a group of kids (some masked) has struck a chord in the region. A bit too much in Samoa. One of the young bloods featured in the programme was forced to drop his bravado and apologise in tears. Savali ran a story questioning the integrity of the report. And now TVNZ has issued a statement defending the story as ripples flowed through the Samoan community both in Aotearoa and NZ. Editor Paul Patrick declared:
TVNZ stands by the investigative story it aired on Monday [April 6] night exposing gangs engaged in smuggling drugs and guns into Samoa from NZ and the USA. We believe the story was a very real, accurate and fair portrayal of the criminal activity happening in Samoa and will continue to follow this story as it unfolds. Protecting news sources is of the highest priority to TVNZ News and you cannot underestimate the seriousness with which we take this fundamental journalism ethic on a story such as this – therefore we will not comment on any aspect of the story or how we sourced it, including our news crew’s movements in Samoa.
Tupuola Terry Tavita, writing in Savali, described how since the screening of the One News item, an alleged gang member, Vaitagutu Lefano, interviewed by Dreaver, had claimed they were asked by the reporter to "play act American gangsters". He also claimed the alleged cannabis they had been smoking was instead "just rolled-up tobacco".
The whole episode was staged, claims Lefano. "She told us to act like American gangsters and we thought she was shooting a movie. We didn't know she was doing the news." Not so, says Barbara Dreaver in a telephone interview with Savali. "We took video footage the moment we stepped off the car and those boys were already heavily into it…we also asked them to cover up they faces but they didn’t want to."

On supposed rolled-up tobacco, Dreaver says, "well it didn’t smell like it."
Dreaver describes the knife and axe-wielding youths she interviewed "as little guys and not the major players." "They were just guys who sold drugs." A teary-eyed Lefano, who appears in his teens, made a public apology on TV One last night "for the misery our stupidity had caused the country". "We're not gang members, just a bunch of harmless boys messing around.”
Police Commissioner Papalii Lorenese Neru told Tupuola that the youths' actions on television amounted to public intimidation and were being investigated. The saga reminds Cafe Pacific of an event in Fiji in 1998 when Monasavu landowners - unhappy about the lack of state royalties for the Wailoa dam in the Viti Levi highlands that supplies 80 percent of the country’s electricity - staged an “intimidating” protest. Daubed in warpaint and wielding traditional clubs, spears and machetes, their protest sparked a complaint to the Fiji Media Council against Fiji Television for screening the item. But clearly for the average viewer it was theatre and not at all threatening.

And, finally, Happy Easter!

NZ drug trade fuels Samoa gun smuggling
Guns, drugs and gangs in Samoa: Barbara Dreaver explains

Friday, January 30, 2009

Maire tackles the SIS for breakfast

PACIFIC peace campaigner Maire Leadbeater, author of the groundbreaking book Negligent Neighbour about New Zealand's shameful role over the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, was featured on TVNZ's chatty Breakfast show today. But behind all the light-hearted banter about a bygone era of paranoia, there are still sinister overtones for both NZ and the Asia-Pacific region. Maire was spied on by NZ's Security Intelligence Service (SIS) since the age of 10.
In a relatively new era of "transparency", security files have been handed over on request to a group of "activists and agitators". The move, as The Press noted in an editorial, recalls "a whiff of the musty battles of the cold war". After her Breakfast cameo, when she waved her hefty spook file that must have cost the taxpayers pointless zillions, Maire told Café Pacific:

While it's good that the SIS issue is being debated, the issue is more serious than just about the bad old cold war - "reds under the bed" - days. My file, in common with others, illustrates some quite intensive spying - "sources" planted in meetings, stake outs of conferences and so on.
But there is good reason to believe this undemocratic, wasteful activity is still continuing for some groups and individuals. It's possible that with the establishment of the new police Special Intelligence Branch the respective roles of police and SIS have changed a little.

Looking further afield in the Asia-Pacific region, she says:

Anti-communism is still strong in Indonesia, where the spreading of ideas and writing about Marxism-Leninism has been banned since 1967. The dictator Suharto rose to power by dint of a pogrom that wiped out at least half a million people deemed to be communists. Books are still banned if if they are deemed to be supportive of the PKI - the former Indonesian Communist Party - or if they give a "wrong" analysis of the events of 1 October 1965 and the murder of six army generals which triggered the bloodbath.
Indonesia's Criminal Code contains broad articles giving the authorities license to charge people that they consider to be subversive. For one human rights lawyer in West Papua that meant detention for 15 months and a trial for nothing more than forwarding a text message which alleged that the Indonesian Government was planning to cause harm to West Papuans. Fortunately he has just been acquitted. Those who dare to raise the banned
Morning Star flag or even depict its design on a bag or clothing run the real risk of going to jail.
West Papuans say that in the towns are villagers "intel" are always lurking and listening.
West Papuans say to us "please use your liberty to protect ours". So I guess that is one good reason why we also need to be vigilant about our own freedoms and right to meet and discuss ideas without being spied on!

Pictured: Maire Leadbeater with the Café Pacific publisher at a recent Auckland rally in support of the suffering people of Gaza. Photo: Del Abcede.

CAFCA's secretary Murray Horton - another leading activist who obtained his organisation's SIS files (and then fired off a personal request while a Press reporter was at his office to interview him) - believes New Zealand's security service has behaved in some respects much the same way as communist police states.

Meanwhile,
in other fallout from the SIS papers issue, Helen Sutch, daughter of the late leading public intellectual and civil servant Dr Bill Sutch who was at the heart of NZ's most controversial "spy" case, has condemned The Press in a letter of peddling an "urban myth" about her father. Dr Sutch was wrongly accused by the SIS in 1974 of trying to pass off NZ government information to the Soviet Union. In the high profile case that followed, he was acquitted. Helen Sutch wrote:

The Press continues to besmirch Bill Sutch
I am disappointed that The Press continues to purvey an urban myth regarding Dr W.B. Sutch. This myth, that ''the SIS caught William Ball Sutch passing material to the Soviet Union'' (editorial, Jan 29), was shown at his trial in 1975 to be false, and no evidence has emerged
since then to undermine that finding.
While editorials contain opinion, they should not misrepresent it as based on fact when it is not. Instead, please take note of the following easily verifiable facts:
  • Dr Sutch was acquitted. The SIS did not ''catch him passing material to the Soviet Union''. The transcript of Dr Sutch's trial, which has always been a public document, shows this clearly.
  • The subsequent enquiry by the then Ombudsman, Sir Guy Powles, found that the SIS had broken the law and that Dr Sutch had not.
  • Disquiet at the arbitrary and oppressive nature of the Official Secrets Act, under which Dr Sutch had been charged, and to which Sir Guy and others drew attention, led to its repeal
  • and replacement by the Official Information Act.
If The Press had been interested in the real historical significance of the release of SIS files, it could have highlighted two important developments in the years since 1975.
First is the movement away from a secret, closed bureaucratic world towards a more transparent society in which the presumption under the OIA is that all information should be
publicly available unless strong arguments to the contrary can be made.
The second development relates to the recognition that the SIS needed to be made more accountable.
Greater governance safeguards are now in place aimed at preventing the abuses of power that New Zealand has suffered in the past.
While Wolfgang Rosenberg, to whom your editorial also casually referred, may have kept his job, his career may well have been damaged, and there are many others, such as the distinguished lawyer Dick Collins, who were prevented from following their chosen careers at all.
Helen Sutch
Wellington

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