Tag Archives: David Robie

NZ Media ‘blindfolded’ over West Papua crisis, say critics

from our partners at the Pacific Media Centre

Forkorus Yoboisembut … elected West Papuan “president” at the last week’s Papuan People’s Congress and arrested by Indonesian forces. Photo: EngageMedia

Friday, October 28, 2011

Item: 7692

AUCKLAND(Pacific Media Watch): As tensions escalate in the Indonesian-occupied Melanesian region of West Papua, there is growing criticism over the lack of information in the mainstream New Zealand media about the troubled area.

Last week, the third Papuan People’s Congress was held in Abepura, on the outskirts of Jayapura. It was a peaceful rally of thousands of West Papuans who had gathered to celebrate their culture, hold talks and elect their representatives.

When the Morning Star flag was raised and cries of “merdeka” (independence) were heard by the strong Indonesian military presence, gunshots rang out and violencefollowed.

Deaths and mass arrests
The newly-elected “president” Forkorus Yoboisembut, chairman of the Papuan Customary Council (DAP), was arrested along with hundreds of others and reports emerged of up to six deaths.

On Monday, Indonesian police chief Adj. Comr. Dominggus Awes was gunned downon the tarmac of Mulia Airport. The People’s Liberation Army of West Papua or OPM, were accused of being involved but have since denied it.

And on a completely separate event, at least seven people have died over the past few weeks during the controversial strike over low wages at the US-owned Freeport McMoRan mine.

So far, only the public broadcaster, Radio New Zealand International, and independent media outlets such as Pacific Scoop have paid any attention. In the international pages of the main newspapers, Europe and other parts of the world have featured, but nothing about our own region.

NZ ‘not part of Pacific’
Dr Steven Ratuva, senior lecturer in Pacific studies at the University of Auckland, says New Zealand likes to consider itself a Pacific country, but can’t, as its interests lie elsewhere.

“There is nothing in terms of media coverage that gives the impression that New Zealand is part of the Pacific,” he says.

“It’s a dilemma that New Zealand is facing – on one level it claims to be a Pacific country but the New Zealand Herald has only one Pacific reporter, and TVNZ the same.”

Dr Ratuva sources his information from places such as West Papua from blogs as well as “internet sources outside the mainstream media”.

He says the main reason is politics.

“The [Pacific Islands] Forum, at the last meeting didn’t want to touch it. Indonesia is a significant player in the region and has links with Australia and New Zealand,” he says.

“Papua New Guinea doesn’t want to acknowledge it, even though it shares a border with West Papua, due to its fears of Indonesia.”

Dr Teresia Teaiwa, senior lecturer in Pacific studies, at Va’aomanu Pasifika Victoria University of Wellington, says mainstream print and television media leave a lot to be desired.

‘Inanely insular’
“If it’s not a major crisis or related to a major crisis, don’t expect it to be covered,” she says.

“I’ve stopped reading mainstream newspapers because of how inanely insular they are.

“I was surprised at how little coverage the Occupy Wall Street movement got in theDominion Post a couple of weeks ago. If a significant first world movement isn’t getting any serious attention in our newspapers, how can we expect informed and engaged journalism on issues in the Pacific Islands from New Zealand media?”

Dr Heather Devere from the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies says New Zealand is inward-looking.

“I do think we are more insular here,” she says.

“I’m not sure that it is so much a concerted effort to ignore rather than a genuine ignorance.”

Journalism education
While others say it is mostly economic pressures on newsrooms, Dr Devere says the issue with media goes back to the education of journalists.

“So many students seem to be attracted to the communication discipline as a chance to be a celebrity rather than an investigative journalist,” she says.

“There is very little content in the training so journalists do not have knowledge about the situations on which they have to report.”

Director of the Pacific Media Centre and journalism educator Dr David Robie is even more critical of the current New Zealand media role in informing the public about events in the region.

He says local media rely too much on international and digital syndications and few journalists dedicated to tailoring international news for a New Zealand perspective.

News judgment ‘parochial’
“There are very few genuine international affairs editors in New Zealand media organisations, specialists in global news who have either done the hard yards themselves as foreign correspondents or have expert background knowledge,” he says.

“So news judgment is often weak and parochial.”

He said it is a shame that New Zealand is shown up by other media organisations abroad.

“It’s extremely embarrassing and it makes a mockery of our claim to be part of the Pacific,” he says. “We really need to up our game.

“When a Middle East-based global news service like Al Jazeera find it important enough to send teams to cover New Caledonia and West Papua, for example, it is an indictment of our own coverage and news values that we fail to match this. I cannot recall the last time that I saw an in-depth TV report in New Zealand on the French Pacific.”

Melanesia loses out
Dr Robie says that most Pacific news published in mainstream New Zealand media is from the Polynesia, while Melanesia and Micronesia are largely ignored.

“It is very rare to see good, in-depth coverage of Melanesian and Micronesian affairs in New Zealand media, with the brave and committed exceptions of Pacific specialists such as Barbara Dreaver on TVNZ,” he says. He also praised Radio NZ International coverage.

“Yet two Melanesian nations are the economic ‘superpowers’ in the region – Papua New Guinea and Fiji. Since the fourth coup in December 2006, there has hardly been any serious journalism about Fiji any more other than extraordinarily biased polemics masquerading as journalism about the regime.

“The country’s censorship law and an inflexible regime don’t make it easy, but far better reporting could still be done in spite of the problems.

“In this context, West Papua barely exists. If even neighbouring Papua New Guinea falls below the radar then there is little hope for West Papua getting fair and informed coverage.”

Australia fares better
In the Australian media, Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald has been following the West Papua issue over the last few weeks.

Its coverage has compared with Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat programme. Yet here in New Zealand, no mainstream media has taken it up apart from Radio NZ International.

“I think we are extremely fortunate that there are still a few state-owned broadcasting outfits like RNZI in this country and ABC in Australia that have dedicated Pacific programmes,” says Dr Teaiwa.

“And I’m not sure whether to celebrate or lament this. But often some of the most illuminating stories come from student journalists who have not yet learned to surrender to the wider industry’s demands and values.”

Maire Leadbeater, from the Auckland-based Indonesia Human Rights Committee, and a campaigner for human rights in West Papua, wrote an article in a 2008 edition ofPacific Journalism Review about what she argued was New Zealand’s biggest media blind spot.

If we are unsure that very little has changed in the past three years, perhaps the New ZealandHerald’s approach to West Papua during the Rugby World Cup could clarify the situation:

West Papua‘s moment’

CupShorts took CupShorts jnr to Pt Chevalier playground where we bumped into an off-duty Green Party MP. “Why is the media so obsessed with the World Cup?” she asked. “Big issues are being missed. We just had a delegation here from West Papua and there was no press coverage on them at all.”

A fair point. And one that we’re only too happy to remedy. So, for the record, West Papua is currently part of Indonesia (no IRB ranking). However, if they got independence they might someday hope to rival neighbouring Papua New Guinea (rated 46th in the IRB rankings). Good luck to them.”


Journalists protest over reporter beaten up in Freeport mine clash

Tabloidjubi, with PMC

Leo WandagauLeo Wandagau … wounded in a separate Freeport mine clash when security forces opened fire. He died later in Timika District Hospital. Photo: Jubi

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By a special correspondent in Timika

Dozens of journalists have demonstrated in Manokwari to protest in solidarity with a colleague who was allegedly beaten up by workers of  Freeport-McMoran during a clash in Timika, Papua, as tension worsens at the giant Grasberg copper mine.

Duma Tato Sanda, a journalist working for Cahaya  Papua, suffered from bruises and swelling  in his cheeks, lips and his waist and was punched in the chest.

Sally Pelu, coordinator of the Papuan People’s Solidarity Action for Press Freedom, said:  “Journalists are continually being subjected to acts  of violence and there is no guarantee that we can do our work of  gathering information freely.”

The journalists condemned the violence used against their colleague and called on the DPR, the central legislative council, to support the right of journalists  to conduct their work freely.

The journalists met a member of the DPRP West Papua, Jaxat, who apologised for the fact that many members of the DPRP were absent, because they were involved in other activities.

According to reports, Duma also lost his camera, handphone and motor-bike which were all seized by Freeport workers.

“They beat me , grabbed my camera and took my motorbike,” said Duma.

Trucks burned
When he was attacked he was gathering information about the burning of three trucks belonging to Freeport which had been set on fire by Freeport workers.

The trouble occurred after people heard that three of  their colleagues had been shot dead during a demonstration.

“I said that I was a journalist but nevertheless they beat me and threw stones at me.  Luckily, someone came by on a motorbike otherwise I could have been killed from being beaten by so many people.”

He wadded that he was later chased by about ten people – “my sandals fell off while some people pelted me with stones”.

Johannes Samuel Nussy, the chairman of the Timika Community of  Journalists, also condemned the acts of violence against Duma and said that another journalist working from Radar Timika, Syahrul was also attacked by Freeport  workers in Gorong-Gorong, Timika and was bruised in his face.

“They beat me because they didn’t want journalists to be there.” he said.

Freeport ‘relationship’
According to  Nussy, some journalists in Timika have formed a relationship with Freeport.

“They [the protesting workers] see the work of journalists as  something threatening. They say we are defending Freeport, which is not true. We hope that the workers trade union can urge their colleagues
not to see journalists as a threat.”

The independent Papuan tabloid Jubi reported that Leo Wandagau, victim of a separate clash between security forces and Freeport workers in Gorong-gorong Terminal on October 10 died on Saturday in Timika. He was shot by security member during the riot.

Wandagau was shot in his back (see picture) and treated in Timika District Hospital. Beside Wandagau there are several others who were also wounded in that clash. They are Melkias Rumbiak (36), Ahmad Mustofa,  42; Yunus Nguvuluduan; Charry Suripto, 35; Philiton Kogoya, 34; Alios Komba, 26; and Rudolf Rumbino.

The Workers Union (PUK-SP-KEP-SPSI-PTFI) told Jubinews by email that the family of Wandagau had not given any approval for autopsy.

They said Wandagau looked alright and not in critical condition in the video shot when he was admitted to hospital.

There might be other causes on his death, the family stated which was quoted by the union in their email.

The Freeport mine management did not release any explanation over the shootings.

Spokesman Ramdani Sirait  said nothing about the incident until Jubi reported the news.  (Reported by Victor Mambor, translated for the PMC by Sony Ambudi)

Media freedom report
Meanwhile, Pacific Scoop editor David Robie, who is director of the Pacific Media Centre, today spoke to Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat about the threats to media in West Papua.

A new Pacific media freedom report by the centre’s Pacific Journalism Reviewsays repression in the province has now also reached the news media.

It adds that violence against journalists in West Papua has replaced censorship in Fiji as the most urgent media freedom issue in the region.

“We made a particular feature of West Papua, although, of course, there are major sections in the report that deal elsewhere with Fiji and Vanuatu, in particular, that are ongoing freedom concerns,” Dr Robie said.

The report was co-authored by Pacific Media Watch editor Alex Perrottet and Dr Robie with assistance by West Papua Media’s editor Nick Chesterfield and other journalists, including Giff Johnson, Bob Howarth and Nic Maclellan.

Source: The alternative Papuan tabloid and news portal Jubi.

Pacific media freedom report on West Papua

West Papua new Pacific media black spot

Journalists assaulted in Freeport mine strike

West Papua new Pacific media black spot

Cartoon from the Pacific Journalism Review report. © Malcolm Evans 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

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MELBOURNE (Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat / Pacific Media Watch): A new report on Pacific media freedom says the most serious cases of media freedom violations in the Pacific in the past year occurred in West Papua.

The report by the Auckland-based Pacific Journalism Review says repression in the province has now also reached the news media.

It says violence against journalists in West Papua has replaced censorship in Fiji as the most urgent media freedom issue in the region.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Associate Professor David Robie, director, Pacific Media Centre

ROBIE: But there are very good networks of sources of information and there is also a major media  freedom organisation in Indonesia, the Alliance of Independent Journalists which has a very strong chapter in West Papua and feeds information very much to international media freedom organisations, because it’s not only Papuan journalists that face such repression, but it’s also Indonesian journalists working in the area.

COUTTS: Alright, can you just give us some examples of what’s actually happening, the conditions under which the journalists are now working?

ROBIE: Well, there was a big focus on the troubles in West Papua, in fact really since the early part of August and, of course, last week, at Freeport mine, there has been a shooting of protesters. The mine workers were protesting over the working conditions of the mine, but that was really a focus on the general sort of situation that journalists actually have to report on.

Our report largely dealt with the year which would normally have ended about July, but because of the major situation in West Papua at the time, we also included August. But essentially in the past year, there’ve been two killings of journalists, five abductions or attempted abductions, 18 assaults, including the stabbing of a journalist by two people on a motorbike and so on. And there have been repeated cases of intimidation and aggression against journalists and then, of course, there’s the general pattern of censorship by civil and military authorities.

In West Papua, not only the general sort of situation facing journalists, such as criminal libel, but there is a crime of makar, or subversion, of which is a concern for journalists too.

COUTTS: So that’s on a day-to-day basis and what about the public at large, are they similarly being affected?

ROBIE: Well yes, I mean that’s really a microcosm, if you like, of the broader situation. At the moment, there’s the third Papuan People’s Congress that just opened yesterday in Jayapura and there’s a general mood of dissension right through Papua.

COUTTS: And how did you conduct your research Dr. Robie?

ROBE: There is basically a network of people who have contributed to this report. Alex Perrottet, who is main co-author. He is Pacific Media Watch contributing editor. But we actually had quite a number of people that contributed to this report and they’re named in the report, including Nick Chesterfield, who is from the West Papuan Media network. He’s the editor there.

COUTTS: And the most recent incident was a couple of arrests by Indonesian authorities in Jayapura for being in possession of material that featured the banned West Papuan Morning Star flag of independence?

ROBIE: Yes, and that’s a constant sort of threat against all Papuans. In fact, I believe there’s been a call not to raise the Morning Star flag at this Papuan Congress this week, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens during that period.

COUTTS: Well, it’s a rather large report, West Papua obviously features. What countries did you look at?

ROBIE: Well, we looked at most of the Pacific region with the exception of the American territories, but I think it’s the most comprehensive report that’s actually been on media freedom in the Pacific. It was a 39 page report, but it’s focused largely on the Pacific Island Forum countries, including Australia and New Zealand, of course, but largely focusing on the island countries. But we also looked at the French territories, we looked at East Timor as well as West Papua. We made a particular feature of West Papua, although, of course, there are major sections in the report that deal elsewhere with Fiji, Vanuatu, in particular, that are ongoing freedom concerns.

COUTTS: And how did the French territories rate?

ROBIE: The most interesting thing there, of course, there’s been a development that’s been since the report and that’s the feature of Tahiti Presse, the state-funded sort of newsagency which is for the chop, in terms of budget cut backs and so on. But that’s quite a blow, not only for Tahiti, but also the rest of the Pacific, because the Tahiti Presse actually provided a very good English language service for the region and so that’s really going to hamper the coverage from that part of the Pacific.

In New Caledonia, it’s been more of an issue of the rearrangement of the French media laws and how that’s affecting the territories. But over the past year, there are no particular major incidents involving, say individuals or threats against individuals or such incidents.

So outside West Papua, of course, Fiji remains the overriding concern for the region.

COUTTS: When you look at media freedom, what were the premises, I mean what did you declare was media freedom and that which fell below that particular bar?

ROBIE: Well, we looked at quite a range of issues, we basically looked at areas of censorship, areas of danger and threat to individual journalists, we looked at the legal frameworks affecting all the territories, the report includes quite a chart doing a comparative study of all the territories in the region. We looked at areas such as criminal libel; and particular legal threats that journalists may face. We looked at institutional censorship and we looked at the passage of laws, such as freedom of information. Of course, the Cook Islands is the only Pacific Islands country that has freedom of information legislation, that came in 2009 and it hasn’t been working as well as it might, but at least it’s a chink or opening for the whole region. But in contrast, to say Australia, for example, where there’s been a whole host of reforms and the freedom of information laws that have been generally quite beneficial or in the process of making those changes. It’s been a slow process in the Pacific.

COUTTS: And also there’s the accusation by Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, that she doesn’t think that she’s getting a fair go from one of the media outlets here. Was that something that was included?

ROBIE: Not specifically that, but we did look at quite a lot of the legal changes in Australia and we also looked at the consequences of the phone hacking scandal in Britain, News of the World and with the inquiry that’s being set up in Australia. So we looked at those sort of patterns, we looked at individual arrests and the shield laws, all of those sort of issues were canvassed in Australia.

COUTTS: And because the reason I ask you to define what you determined was media freedom was because there are some countries, some of the smaller countries that the government’s have something to say if their press release aren’t published. So the media outlets have to do it whether they want to or not. Does that come across the path of media freedom or lack thereof?

ROBIE: Yes, well I mean and we’ve particularly looked at the dangers of Fiji, particularly the censorship that takes place since the media decree was imposed and what an extremely poor model that is for the whole region and very threatening to other countries, because let’s face it, we’ve had pressure on journalists, well ever since the 1987 coups, and politicians by and large around the Pacific don’t have a high opinion of the media and have a very poor understanding of the role of the media in any country that is a democracy. And so many politicians have actually looked rather with some admiration at what Fiji has done and would love to have the opportunity to do something similar. So the longer the censorship regime continues in Fiji, well, it’s really a cancer on media freedom for the whole region.

COUTTS: Well, you have a vested interest, of course, recent talk where the next PINA meeting might be held in Fiji, because PNG can’t host it. So I just wonder what that actually says about yourself who’ve been banned and kicked out, Sean Dorney, and Barbara Dreaver ? Three of the region’s senior journalists won’t be able to attend the meeting like that?

ROBIE: Well, I’ve never been banned. I’ve had more problems with the French authorities than the Pacific. I lived in Fiji for five years and was head of the journalism program there. But the point you’re making is actually a very serious one and I think it points to a major division among journalists and in the media industry itself about the role of Fiji and how Fiji should be dealt with. Of course there are those who argue that the Pacific Island News Association should have got out of Fiji long ago and set up somewhere else, where it can actually operate with relative freedom. But there are others who argue that well, “Hang on, we’ve got more chance of actually forcing some kind of change on the regime in Fiji by actually having contact and dialogue and having a chance to actually sort of reason”. And I don’t think those sorts of divisions have really been resolved. The plans for having this conference there in March, next year, I think are very fraught and a lot of dangers involved with this. It will make a mockery of such a conference if many people can’t come simply because they’re going to be barred by the regime.

COUTTS: Now just to wrap it up David. The 39-page report overall, what’s the state of censorship across the Pacific, is it a good or bad one?

ROBIE: Well, it’s a worrying one I’d say, it’s a worrying one, but the report does make a comparison, I guess, and this is where West Papua’s quite important. But you have to put things in context globally and when you look at countries like the Philippines, where journalists are murdered with impunity and you go back to the massacre back in November, 2009. In that sort of context, the Pacific’s not too bad. However, it needs to have a very vigilant campaign by advocacy groups and a constant watch, because essentially politicians are not very favourable with the media and they would like any opportunity to have a clamp down, so the more so the more that this is put under the spotlight, the better.

(cc) Creative Commons

Full Pacific media freedom report

West Papua ‘biggest threat’ to Pacific media freedom, says Pacific Journalism Review report


13 October 2011

West Papua ‘biggest threat’ to Pacific media freedom, says PJR report

The killing and abduction of journalists in Indonesian-occupied West Papua has been highlighted in a special new report on Pacific media freedom over the past year by Pacific Journalism Review.


“By far the most serious case of media freedom violations in the Pacific is in West Papuafar from international scrutiny,” says the journal in an editorial.

The 39-page report on the state of media freedom in the Pacific in 2011 notes that in August, in particular, “sustained repression has also hit the news media and journalists”.

At least two journalists have been killed in West Papua, five abducted and 18 assaulted in the past year.

West Papua has replaced Fiji as the most urgent media freedom issue in the region, says the journal. The report has been published just as regional protests have been voiced over the brutal suppression of a strike at the giant Freeport copper mine in the past week in which at least one person was reported shot dead.

Ten West Papuan activists were arrested by Indonesian authorities in Jayapura last week for being in possession of material that featured the banned West Papuan Morning Star flag of independence.

Poengky Indarti, executive director of the Indonesian human rightsmonitor Imparsial, said recently: “Freedoms of expression, association and assembly are routinely violated in Papua, which seriously fuels tensions. Besides, gross human rights abuses, such as acts of torture, remain unaccounted for.”

This free media research report, compiled by Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Alex Perrottet and Pacific Media Centre director Dr David Robie with a team of contributors, including West Papua Media editor Nick Chesterfield, is the most comprehensive and robust media freedom dossier on the region published in recent years

“The state of Pacific media freedom is fragile in the wake of serious setbacks, notably in Fiji, with sustained pressure from a military backed regime, and in Vanuatu, where blatant intimidation has continued with near impunity,” says the report.

“Apart from Fiji, which has a systemic and targeted regime of censorship, most other countries are attempting to free themselves from stifling restrictions on the press.

“Coupled with governments that are sluggish to introduce freedom of the information legislation and ensure region-wide constitutional rights to free speech are protected, there are limited media councils and advocacy bodies with few resources to effectively lobby their governments.

In New Zealand, another major threat to media freedom has been the consolidation of contemporary transnational corporate ownership patterns.

Researchers Merja Myllylahti and Dr Wayne Hope demonstrate in another special report on global capital and media communication ownership that NZ media corporations treat news as a commodity and news organisations as revenue generators.

This is the third in a series of media ownership papers published in PJR and initiated by Bill Rosenberg’s mapping of media ownership (2007, 2009). This ongoing project has now been adopted by AUT University.
The report authors point to the closure of the 20-year-old influential business and politics newspaper The Independent and the phasing out of the 130-year-old cooperative news agency New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) as key symptoms of the malaise: ‘Consequently, public media space is shrinking as the practice of journalism declines.’

This edition of PJR is themed on “Media, cultural diversity and community”, and includes articles on Australia’s Reporting Diversity Project, the Yumi Piksa community television project in Papua New Guinea, a study of the use of te reo Māori by Fairfax-owned Suburban Newspapers in New Zealand by the Te Rōpu Whariki research team, reporting of Islam in Australia, the Australian country press, and the development of a cross-cultural communications degree in Oman by a New Zealand university.

Book reviews include investigative journalist Nicky Hager’s Other People’s Wars: New Zealand in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror.

This edition, published in partnership with the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney is being published next week on October 20.

Edition editors: Professor Wendy Bacon, Dr Catriona Bonfiglioli and Associate Professor David Robie.
More information on the Pacific Media Centre website: www.pmc.aut.ac.nz


Contacts: Dr David Robie (Pacific Media Centre) + 64 9 921 9999 x7834

Alex Perrottet (Pacific Media Watch) + 64 9 921 9388