Tag Archives: Radio New Zealand International

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.”


Comprehending West Papua: A report on the CPACS conference in Sydney and surrounding events

University of Sydney Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

Comprehending Papua Conference

February 22-23, 2011

Comprehending West Papua: A report on the CPACS conference in Sydney and surrounding events


“We are Melanesian, not Indonesian!” and “Free Filip Karma!” chanted a group of West Papuans from around Australia – some refugees, some studying in Australia on scholarships – who had gathered in front of the Indonesian embassy in Maroubra, Sydney, on February 22, 2011. This demonstration urging Indonesia to free West Papuan political prisoners kicked off a week of events in Sydney bringing together academics and other advocates to focus on the status of West Papuan human rights.


Later that evening, a cocktail reception hosted by the West Papua Project at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), University of Sydney, followed by a dinner for conference participants, marked a merry beginning to a serious conference on Comprehending West Papua (February 23-4), the sixth in a series of conferences on the topic held by CPACS over a decade.


The conference was opened the following day by Emeritus Professor Stuart Rees and a performance group from the West Papuan community in Melbourne, both of whom graced the conference, respectively, with West Papua-centred revolutionary poetry and songs of inspiration. Up to 80 people attended the conference which convened at International House, with presenters from overseas (The Netherlands, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand and Vanuatu), and interstate (Victoria and the ACT). Papers from in absentia participants (Paul Barber and Rosa Moiwend from TAPOL based in Surrey, John Saltford from London and Jim Elmslie from South Australia) were presented on their behalf, and Eben Kirksey, currently based in Florida, addressed the conference via video link.


The conference received good media coverage prompting an op ed in the Sydney Morning Herald by Hamish McDonald (http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/a-worm-inside-the-new-); several ABC radio interviews http://www.abc.net.au/ra/asiapac/stories/m1965274.asx; a New Matilda article (http://newmatilda.com/2011/03/03/does-west-papua-have-publicity-problemINTERVIEW), and coverage by Radio New Zealand International and SBS.


Paper highlights covered new interpretations of self-determination, from Akihisa Matsuno, in light of the concept of legitimate sovereignty (rather than decolonization) that guided the independence successes of East Timor, Kosovo and (soon to be) South Sudan; a presentation by Nick Chesterfield on the opportunities afforded for West Papua by new social media currently carrying revolutions in the Arab world; a spectacular analysis of the Australian Museum’s Sentani bark cloth art production by Yvonne Carrillo-Huffman; the outlaying of precise political goals for achieving independence and for post-independence governance by Jacob Rumbiak; and an astute reappraisal of the anti-Act of Free Choice campaigns that took place in West Papua in the 1960s by Dutch historian Pieter Drooglever. The entire collection of papers will be gathered into a book to be published later this year.


West Papuan political positions were represented by Rex Rumakiek and Otto Ondawame from the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation, Jacob Rumbiak and Herman Wainggai from the West Papua National Authority, and Franzalbert Joku and Nick Messet from IGSSARPRI (the Independent Group Supporting the Special Autonomous Region of Papua Within the Republic of Indonesia). Passions ran high as discussions on the different political positions (essentially support for independence or integration) predictably emerged with so much at stake for all, but a respectful atmosphere reigned and peaceful dialogue between parties transpired.

The conference closed with the launch of a beautiful short film titled Mambefor Dance directed by West Papuan Melanie Kapisa, showcasing two young children learning West Papuan dance from imitating bird of paradise rituals. Dr Jude Philp from the Macleay Museum also generously showed conference participants around the University of Sydney’s West Papua collection donated in the 1970s and housed at Fisher Library. Finally, conference participants signed an open letter initiated by Human Rights Watch to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, requesting that the prohibitive restrictions on access to West Papua be lifted for researchers, NGOs and foreign media.

That evening at the Amnesty International offices in Sydney, Indonesian Solidarity launched a campaign to free West Papuan political prisoners. The launch was addressed by Human Rights Watch’s Andreas Harsono with a powerful presentation documenting Filip Karma’s imprisonment, and John Dowd, QC, President of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Australia. The week closed on Saturday 26 February with the annual national meeting of the Australia West Papua Association at which campaign decisions to support West Papuan self-determination for 2011-2012 were decided upon, together with West Papuan advisers (and members) Rex Rumakiek, Jacob Rumbiak, and Otto Ondawame.


Cammi Webb-Gannon camelliabell at gmail.com;

RNZI: PNG soldiers storm home of suspended West Sepik Police Commander

note: West Papua Media is also following this story closely, but has unable to access its sources on the ground in Vanimo.  We are gravely concerned as to their safety given the current climate of impunity against witnesses of the confused border security operation Sunset Merona..
RNZI may have better success, but this is not a competition.

Please continue to follow this story closely, updates will be made available when sources are able to safely file.

for background, see https://westpapuamedia.info/2011/01/28/png-troops-burn-down-border-west-papua-refugee-camps-as-refugees-flee-to-the-jungle/

RNZI: PNG soldiers storm home of suspended West Sepik Police Commander

Posted at 05:06 on 07 February, 2011 UTC

Papua New Guinea soldiers allegedly stormed the home of West Sepik’s suspended provincial police commander Chief Inspector Sakawar Kasieng and threatened his family yesterday.

The newspaper, The National, reports that the ten soldiers were taking part in a border security crackdown called Operation Sunset Merona in and around the provincial capital Vanimo.

The operation has been underway for three weeks with more than 100 people arrested and detained for alleged illegal movement across the border from Indonesia.

Mr Kasieng says that the soldiers pointed guns at his family, ordering them all to stay indoors without any explanation.

He has been told by police from Port Moresby that he is charged with treason, and is due to be questioned at the police command centre in Vanimo today.

Mr Kasieng was reportedly suspended last month after refusing to allow policemen on Operation Sunset Merona entry into his local police station headquarters after one of his men was allegedly beaten up by a group of visiting task force officers.

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