Friday, September 12, 2014

'I'll not be intimidated ... by cowards,' says Fiji death threat journalist

Fiji Sun's Jyoti Pratibha ...death threats via fake Facebook profiles. Image: Pacific Scoop
THE PARIS-based media freedom advocacy organisation Reporters Sans Frontières and the Pacific Media Centre have condemned threats and intimidation against political reporters covering Fiji’s first parliamentary election campaign since the  2006 coup.

Pacific Media Watch reports from Paris:

Two women journalists – Vosita Kotowasawasa of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) and Jyoti Pratibha of the Fiji Sun newspaper – received death threats on Tuesday over their previous day’s coverage of the cancellation of a live TV debate between the leading contenders for the post of prime minister.

According to Pacific Scoop, a news website affiliated with the Pacific Media Centre, Kotowasawasa received several threatening phone calls while Pratibha was threatened via fake Facebook user profiles.

Both had covered the previous day’s last-minute decision by Ro Teimumu Vuikaba Kepa, the Roko Tui Dreketi and head of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), to pull out of the debate with interim Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Indonesian ‘open door’ policy on West Papua ‘a lie’ as French journos still detained

Two arrested French journalists, Thomas Dandois (centre) and Valentine Bourrat (left), from Franco-German
television channel Arte, are photographed with an unidentified Indonesian immigration official in
Jayapura in Papua province last week. Image: AsiaOne
RECENT claims by Indonesian authorities that there was a fresh “open door” policy over inquisitive journalists wanting to enter West Papua and report “on the level” have turned out to be false.

Hopeful signs through insightful reports (long with intelligence minders) by SBS Dateline’s Mark Davis, Michael Bachelard of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jakarta bureau and AAP’s Karlis Salna that the Indonesian government had indeed seen the light – or at least was having a serious rethink – have turned out to be nothing but a mirage.

In the latest July/August edition of The Walkley Magazine, a Bachelard article featured “Opening the doors to West Papua” about his experience in January 2013 as “the first foreign reporter (excluding travel writers) to be given entry for about 12 months, and the first Australian for significantly longer”. He wrote rather prematurely:
“I hope the Indonesian government sees that these stories have not caused the sky to fall in, because only then will they open up West Papua. Then perhaps, reporting there can become just like any other part of my job.”
However, the detention of two French journalists – who are facing charges of “treason” and “immigration crime” – and a West Papuan tribal leader early last month has made a mockery of the new Indonesian policy.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mounting global pressure against Timor-Leste’s ‘death sentence’ media law

East Timor’s José Belo … courageous fight against "unconstitutional" media law.
Image: © Ted McDonnell 2014
CAFÉ PACIFIC and the Pacific Media Centre Online posted challenges to the controversial ‘press law’ nine months ago when it emerged how dangerous this draft legislation was.

Opposition quickly took off among independent journalists, civil society advocates and eventually media freedom organisations such as the regional Pacific Media Watch and global International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Sans Frontières took up the cause.

Yet even though this law was clearly a much bigger threat to Pacific media freedoms as a regional precedent than the military backed Fiji Media Decree, it took some time for mainstream news media groups to take notice.

And this is mostly thanks to the courageous efforts of Tempo Semanal’s editor José Belo, who is also leader of the fledging Timor-Leste Press Union (TLPU), to bring it to the attention of the global community.

This draconian draft law (not-so-draft as it has already been adopted by the National Parliament and has just been stalled temporarily by the Appeal Court over some "unconstitutional" sections) smacks of the worst repression days of Indonesian occupation and of the Suharto era of media censorship.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

La’o Hamutuk calls for inquiry into Timor GAP ‘mismanagement’ of oil resources

The Suai project on the South Coast ... "liberated" land but confused communities.
Photo: La'o Hamutuk
AN INDEPENDENT Timor-Leste development and social justice agency has called for an inquiry into the Timor GAP corporation established to manage the country’s energy resources for the benefit of its citizens, alleging “poor management” and “possible corruption”.

La’o Hamutuk, which has been monitoring state management of the oil and gas industry reserves and government spending, has sent an open letter to the Court of Appeal president Guilhermino da Silva and other agencies.

The state-owned company Timor Gás & Petróleo, E.P. was established in July 2011 and it began operations three months later - but has never filed an annual report for the past three years as required by law, according to La’o Hamutuk researchers.

“La’o Hamutuk has asked them about this many times, and Timor GAP said that problems with the internal audit of their GAP-MHS subsidiary prevented publication of these reports for more a year,” the development agency said in its open letter.

"We believe that Timor GAP, E.P. may have committed legal violations, maladministration, poor management, and possible corruption, as well as ignoring legal obligations for accountability and transparency."

The letter called for an “external audit” initiated by the "Camara de Contas [Tax and Audit Tribunal] or Parliament".

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Timor-Leste’s Parliament handed ‘humiliating’ defeat over harsh media law

East Timorese journalists raise their hands to approve the Timor-Leste Journalist
Code of Ethics in October 2013. Photo: Tempo Semanal
PACIFIC SCOOP reported this week that East Timor’s Appeal Court had scrapped the country’s draconian new Media Law and sent it back to the National Parliament. The ruling was welcomed with open arms by journalists, foreign correspondents, civil society advocates and democrats.

Problem is that some legal interpretations doing the rounds seem to suggest this isn’t quite the full story. In fact, perhaps, some say, reports “jumped the gun” in suggesting that the court had ruled the law completely “unconstitutional”.

Tempo Semanal, the independent publication run by investigative journalist  José Belo, is probably closer to the mark by saying that parts of the law “violate” the Constitution of Timor-Leste. It is an embarrassing defeat for Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao who had backed the law.

This law is far harsher than the controversial Fiji Media Industry Development Decree imposed by the military-backed regime in Fiji in 2010, which casts a shadow over next month’s election, yet while New Zealand media has had a lot to say about the Fiji media law, it has largely ignored the legislation ushered in by a democracy in Dili.

This is what the Tetum-language Tempo Semanal report said in its stilted English - and the Timor-Leste Press Union, which has been fighting this law from the start, gave a big thumbs-up:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Young reporters offer fresh insights into Pacific 'truths'

REFRESHING to see some younger journos not weighed down by the political baggage of the Asia-Pacific region giving some fresh insights into media challenges - such as Fiji barely a month away from facing its first election in eight years, and also West Papua.

Coup master Voreqe Bainimarama's fleeting visit to New Zealand at the weekend, for the first time since he staged his military putsch in 2006, was crowned by a heady FijiFirst "festival" in Manukau.

Several mainstream media organisations would have us believe that this event was dominated or disrupted by hecklers and protesters.

The truth, unpalatable as it may seem, was actually a resounding success for Bainimarama with most of the 1000 crowd barracking for him, and this was more accurately depicted by Radio Tarana.

A couple of journalists on the Inclusive Journalism Initiative (IJI) programme and Asia-Pacific Journalism course, including a Pasifika broadcast journalist, with a fresh approach, provided a much more balanced and nuanced print story and video report. Well done Alistar Kata and Mads Anneberg!

On a similar theme, Struan Purdie, also at IJI and APJ, filed an excellent report on the realities of media freedom and human rights in the Indonesian-ruled West Papua region. This followed comprehensive and quality news features from Pacific Media Watch editor Anna Majavu. Kudos to you both too!

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