Thursday, December 29, 2011

Oscar Temaru: A New Year message for survival of a free Pacific press

The struggle for justice for Tahiti journalist Jean-Pascal Couraud - "JPK".

LATELY Café Pacific has devoted a lot of attention to the media blackout on the genocide and corporate resources rape of West Papua. This struggle has been on the margins of media consciousness in the region. This open letter by Jason Brown to Tahitian Territorial President Oscar Temaru spotlights an equally marginalised media issue that will hopefully win more exposure in the media in 2012 as our vaka crosses further into the second decade of the millennium. Reasons to keep Māohi media alive and strong:

An open letter to the President of French Polynesia, Oscar Manutahi Temaru

Kia orana M. President,

Fourteen years ago today [15 December 2011], a journalist named JPK disappeared from the island of Tahiti.

To this day, top secret documents remain on file, linked with this journalist, but denied to investigatory judges by a national security commission.

Similar documents also link JPK with a separate investigation into Clearstream, the world's largest bank, a bank for banks. At no time since the era of nuclear testing have people in French Polynesia come closer to the raw power of the French state, a savage mafia "melieu" involving intelligence services, judiciary and diplomacy.

Disappearance of Jean-Pascal Couraud on 15 December 1997 saw the loss of an opportunity to expose hidden back-channels of global finance.

A "secret, and secondary, banking system" as it was described next door in the Cook Islands, by a former prime minister, Sir Geoffrey Henry, during the 1995 Letters of Guarantee scandal. No one believed him then. Few believed JPK later.

A third person met with disbelief is Denis Robert, a man who exposed Clearstream as rotten to the core, reporting on "false assets" of some USD $1.5 trillion.

In famous year
That was in 2001, a year now famous not for that expose, but for the New York start of a so-called War On Terror.

Over the years, at the same time as children, women and men were dying in Afghanistan and Iraq, Clearstream bank kept its legal department busy, filing more than 30 different defamation claims against Denis Robert, serving him with more 600 writs alleging malicious wrongdoing.

Robert kept busy too, writing and releasing The Black Box, and, when that was also pulled from shelves by nervous publishers, retreating to the sanctuary of the arts, writing text for a graphic novel titled The Affair of Affairs.

All three books are of enormous significance to Tahiti because the resulting court cases were only cleared this year, a full decade after the first book of Robert was published. Significant because your Supreme Court stared down the world's biggest bank, telling Clearstream that regardless of the veracity of claims contained in the Robert books, all that concerned the court was whether he had, as an investigative journalist, acted with ethics and according to generally accepted practice.

They found that he had. All 30+ defamation cases, and 600 writs, dismissed. As Robert said, it was:

" A victory for journalism. "

But the victory was much, much bigger than just journalism, and here lays the true significance for Tahiti Nui.

Victory for democracy
Bigger by far is the victory for democracy, and its reinforcement of recognition for the functions and role of the Fourth Estate. This year also sees the 50th anniversary for the mostly well-regarded Colombia Journalism Review. Their anniversary slogan:

" Strong Press . Strong Democracy ."

This slogan might seem a bit ... rich ... coming from a nation that gave us the Global Financial Crisis, for which your country is paying dearly. That hosts secret finance centres so vast Time magazine reports the United States as the most corrupt country in the entire world. A country seeking extradition of Julian Assange, with presidential candidates publicly calling for prosecution or assassination of the Wikileaks founder. Perhaps a more accurate anniversary slogan for CJR might be:

"Weak Press. Weak Democracy."

Therein lies the point of this open letter. I am writing this as an open letter, not to show off a la Anglais. But to report having failed since 1998 to open up links between Tahiti news media workers and their colleagues across the independent Pacific. I did try to present a few proposals, that get occasional official and private interest, but still, after six years, no progress. I am writing an open letter because I did try and be diplomatic and make suggestions to people close with you, and other leaders ... but failed.

And now this, these [Tahitian media] closures.

As leader of French Polynesia, M. President, your party has clearly and transparently stated aspirations towards self-governance, perhaps on the Cook Islands model, but more likely full independence.

Cutting costs
Anyone can understand your administration wanting to cut costs and would, if in your position, understand also the frustration of dealing with a biased press, even losing patience. Just as has happened among governments in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, with news media.

Yet, your administration is stripping itself of an institution that the Supreme Court of France has just recently confirmed as of strategic importance, rightfully beyond the powers of even the biggest multinational threat.

Murdoch may rightfully have his troubles with politicians globally, but it does not mean that BBC News should be in danger of shutting down. Nor is the PBS in the US facing closure. In Australia, the government slammed the door in Murdoch's face, hard, awarding the contract for Australia's world service, the ABN, back to their own state broadcaster, ABC, "permanently."

So seeing Murdoch named and shamed, and the News of the World forced to close its doors ... it might seem like a good idea for French Polynesia too - let's close down Tahiti Nui Television and Agence Tahiti Presse as well! Especially the latter, for its historic bias against Tavini Huiraatira, remember? Back in the bad old days of Systeme Flosse?

Those days are over now, M. President.

I remember my disbelief when it was reported that 20,000 people protested through the streets of Pape'ete, possibly the biggest per capita demonstration across all of our islands. I remember Walter Zweiffel, from ever trustworthy RNZI, showing me shots on his digital, including a shot taken afterwards, among the detrius, of a discarded banner, hand penned, reading :

" La justice française = 4 parpaing ''

French Justice = 4 concrete blocks.

Mafia-style hit
A mafia-style hit. Just like in the movie theatres. Common knowledge that amazing day in French Polynesia was news that JPK had not killed himself, but been killed by local GIP thugs acting under orders from some other thugs, from France, recently "retired" from the DGSE.

A nexus of DGSE heritage centres on Corsica, well known as the birthplace of the French mafia. Just like was shown in the well known movie, The French Connection, and its depiction of the grimy streets of a fave Corsican hang-out since the Second World War, Marseille.

But, wait, of course there is more, is there not M. President?

Corse is, also, home island for a curiously large number of judges and prosecutors on the colonial circuit, courtesy of the world renown Systeme Chirac. Not so much a confetti empire, as a spaghetti melieu. The kind of prosecutor who rings the commissioner of police and tells them to "close the file on JPK. Accept no more evidence."

I remember the delerium of the night of "Taui", when the people of Tahiti Nui confirmed you as their leader, not long after that huge, huge protest. To walk away, now, from that kind of journalist heritage risks insulting that memory. Of Jean-Pascal Couraud, and all his colleagues who worked alongside him, fighting word-for-word with the entire panalopy of the French state, sometimes, literally, hand-to-hand.

Reporters like Reimuna Tufariua, for example.

JPK lost a fight, 14 years ago today, a professional battle turned deadly personal, but, like Reimana knew before, he, too, lost his battle, there was still a news war to be waged, media freedom campaigns to be won. Yet your own municipality broadcaster Te Reo Tefana is a sad shadow of its former self, stripped of resources, long lost as a global influencer.

Dislike for journalists
Among our mutual friends and associates, M. President, your personal dislike for journalists is well known, viewing the task akin to feeding vultures, or so I hear. Thus, you risk falling victim to that most effete of French colonialisms, intellectual snobbery.

Factoid from the US : Four out of five "new" media sites online, like Facebook pages and Twitter profiles, point to "old" media sites like those provided, mostly free, by newspapers, radio and television. No doubt similar ratios apply in French Polynesia.

Fact is, like it or not, mainstream mass media remain the main source of current affairs and governance information among ordinary French Polynesians, as they do, everywhere.

In working towards a newly independent nation, Te Ao Maohi Ou, your presidency must urgently reconsider its reasons for closing down two pillars of your country's Fourth Estate. Days like this I remember the old cliche, "Don't get into Journalism if you want to stay Friends with anyone", but as a journalist I must ask this question, it's my job, sorry about it.

My question to you as President is this:

" If you do not trust the Fourth Estate, and do not trust your own people to run state broadcasting as an integral and fundamental part of an independent democracy, then why should your people trust you ?"

Fear not, M. President, you are far from alone in the world facing this kind of question. In our already independent parts of the Pacific, all of us, politicians, press, pundits, an "arm-chair critic" like me, all of us, one big glorious mess, debating and grappling daily with issues surrounding news media, democracy, and all that stuff about freedoms and human rights.

State broadcasting cuts
I've seen the results of state broadcasting shut down in our own homeland of Avaiki, the Cook Islands. And Samoa. Cutbacks in Papua New Guinea.

An alleged tourism success story, the Cook Islands is slowly polluting itself out of the market, an already unimpressive affair relying heavily on penny-pinching Kiwis and pissed-up Kangaroos. News media based in Rarotonga went from being the most trusted institution in the country in 1998 to least trusted by 2008, thanks to the machinations of former bikie fraudster turned preacher man, George Pitt.

A political hit-man now working his magic in Samoa, his actual homeland, Pitt used multiple conflicts of interest in his favour, and to win repeatedly against competitors.He got an exclusive 10-year broadcasting licence, signed, coincidentially enough, by an acting broadcasting minister, a close mate, while the real minister was out of the country. The Pitt family still run papers, TV and a radio station, but Pitt split from his young wife, and moved to Samoa.

In his absence, PMG has thankfully eased up on a daily diet of slimy innuendo and outright lies.

Samoa sacked its state journalists, and now enjoys less scrutiny around all sorts of legislative misgovernance. Like the land title registration act, one that stripped thousands of matai landowners of all their rights, unilaterally reasssigning those rights to a much smaller group of head matai, by no other mandate or consultation than parliamentary fiat.

Papua New Guinea is paying the price for its ignorance, after spending years listening to Australia rave on about free markets, and forcing the state broadcaster, NBC, to adopt corporate policies, effecting not quite closure, but certainly endless cutbacks to their ability to expose corruption surrounding the resource curse of mineral wealth. A logging company owns one of the two main daily newspapers, while the other is part of the global Murdoch empire, both well known as proponents for extractive industries, and kind of soft on environmental issues.

Australia only woke up in recent years to the wisdom of leaving news media to those kind of players. Around 2005, aid agency AusAID started pouring millions into PNG state broadcasting, to start repairing decades of neglect. Decades of desperation, however, draw their ethical expense.

Funding scandal
The current PNG Media Council is mired in a not-so secret scandal, joining widespread concern, across an island region with a news media in seriously failing health, along with metropolitan partners in New Zealand and Australia.

There is of course a complete media blackout in West Papua, our furtherest Melanesian cousin, mired for decades now in a dystopian genocide.

I've seen cutbacks to state broadcasters right across all our Pacific Islands, on official advice from neo-liberal fundamentalists in New Zealand and Australia, still today pushing a regional trade agenda, that, if passed will strip all our independent islands of social, political and economic autonomy, forever, in favour of transnationals.

It is of no coincidence, Sir, that the first official post held by Roger Douglas, of Rogernomics fame, was as acting Broadcasting Minister in 1972. Cue 1984, and radical changes were made by an allegedly Labour government that remain to this day, including to the state broadcaster, TVNZ, a corporate poodle required to dance for profit, whoever is government of the day.

Today, it's allegedly a National Party government, and they're so hot right now on the TPPA. Possibly means "French" Polynesia going independent, just in time to swap one form of serfdom for another.

Instead of French domination ... try English. Maybe call it Colonialism 2.0 ... an offer you can't refuse !

So yes, cut back on state broadcasting and help starve the people of the very thing they need most to survive endless machinations of the multinationals - independent, investigative information. I strongly suggest considering an alternative.

Watchdogs, not lapdogs
Watchdogs, not lapdogs, of the Press. Attack dogs of the Fourth Estate, if need be. Ever alert.

M. President, you and your people are nuclear veterans.

Survivors, victims of an era of mutually assured destruction, a time of superpowers, and presidential admonishments against the influence, sought or unsought, of the military industrial complex.

In an original draft of that famous speech, M. President, Eisenhower considered adding mainstream news to that mix, referring to a military-industrial-media complex, but went with the shorter version instead.

I remember as a teen feeling disgust, reading the slogan for the 24/7 nuclear air cover that America operated, around the clock, for decades, under the Strategic Air Command.

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

Still sounds so macho, so corny.

So imperialistic.

Bitter truth
As an adult, sadly, I now know the bitter truth of that slogan, and how it applies across all facets of any putative democracy. In aspiring to greater freedoms, Tavini must accept greater responsibility with guardians of those freedoms, starting, not ending, with the Fourth Estate.

We see erosion of those freedoms under the English system, with a toxic media empire under Murdoch, and, indeed, with French journalism, going hand-in-hand with arms dealing.

A desire by Eisenhower to warn against a military-industrial-media complex seems as relevant today as it did then, if not more so. In an allegedly post-nuclear era among independent states, separate and vastly unequal, the only institution that can effectively and efficiently offer that kind of vigil, for all the people, M. President, is a strong, proud and free, homegrown press.

It is your inalienable right right now, M. President, as a French citizen, to demand fair treatment from any news source. It also within your current authority, and power, M. President to empower and promote free, fair and independent information. To help, nay insist, indigenous professionals and practitioners of local news enshrine their own codes of conduct and ethics, and demand local media accountability systems as the only condition, the only quid pro quo.

I've heard arguments about the state keeping hands off the media, that funding news media may even be unconstitutional. This is colonialistic nonsense put about by vested interests. In fact, the constitution of France not only endorses freedoms of the Press, it calls for its plurality. In closing down TNTV and ATN, M. President, you risk offending the spirit if not the letter of that constitutional guarantee.

Don't make the same mistakes we've already made in the independent Pacific. Learn from ours. That's how mistakes are supposed to work.

Don't help people trying to tear down Māohi journalism, help us build up an independent "industry" whose only job is to warn you and your people against all threats, local or foreign.

JPK may be gone. But, as his brother once said, in a funny kind of way, JPK is still doing his job today. Help his colleagues keep doing theirs.

Jason Brown
Avaiki Nius

Friday, December 23, 2011

Correcting the West Papuan media blackout

CURIOUS how much of our media privileges the elite sources, yet attempts to marginalise independent media groups that are providing critical news and analysis on the stories left out of the mainstream news agenda. Take West Papua, for example. While the world’s media grasped the “people’s freedom" digital media with enthusiasm during the Arab Spring in the Middle East, other groups comprising journalists providing far more thorough media coverage and resources in our own Pacific backyard are treated as “activists”. This open letter from the Australian-based West Papua Media editor Nick Chesterfield, written after coverage of the allegations of 17 Papuans being killed by Indonesian security forces in the Paniai area, is a good insight into the media struggle to get West Papua above the radar.

For the record - open letter from West Papua Media

Description of both West Papua Media, and that of independent human rights monitors Elsham as "pro-independence groups" , is both inaccurate, misleading, discrediting, and is highly dangerous to the safety for both our journalists and also for Elsham's human rights investigators.

I cannot speak for Elsham, but like us, they are not pro-independence. They are mandated exclusively to conduct scientific research and analysis of human rights violations in West Papua according to internationally recognised methodologies, and have received significant scientific training internationally to carry out this. They are not part of the pro-independence movement.
West Papua Media is an independent media outlet, focused on bypassing the media blackout of West Papua by reporting factual, verifiable, and real time content and providing it to the world's media. We are all journalists, both professional and traditionally trained, and also from a new generation of citizen journalists.

We provide a clear training programme for our journalists on reporting under repressive contexts, and have long and established relationships with many news organisations globally - including Fairfax. We are both a media agency in the traditional sense, and an outlet in our own right. West Papua Media is overseen by a team of six editors internationally - three of whom are journalists, several sub-editors who also work for major newswires and two human rights workers - and we have an extensive network averaging 10 stringers in sixteen locations in Papua.

Each location is overseen by at least one qualified journalist, all members of the Indonesian Alliance for Independent Journalists, and all of our stringers have been providing consistent, credible and verifiable coverage after training in our Safe Witness Journalism units. Our journalists outside the country are all members of our national journalists' union (AJA/MEAA for myself) and everyone of us holds IFJ membership.

What West Papua Media is not, is "pro-independence". We are journalists, whose sole mandate is to report the news from West Papua, including items that are critical of pro-independence forces, tactics, and policies: a principled position that has occasionally cost us access and relationships to certain sectors of Papuan resistance. Telling the truth of what is happening, by adhering to tried and trusted journalistic methodology , and exposing the truth, is not being "pro-independence". It is doing what journalism used to be about - Giving voice to the voiceless.

While we attempt to seek comment from the killers and plunderers in Papua, they generally do not wish to comment to us. That is their silence, that does not lessen our work as journalists.

By labeling us as pro-independence, which we are not, you are putting our people on the ground at great risk of arrest, torture and murder, and charges of subversion, something which should concern you given the amount of journalists, including our stringers, who were murdered or threatened in West Papua over recent years.

Nick Chesterfield
Papua Media

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2012 to all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

RSF's 10 most dangerous media places - West Papua sidelined

IT'S OFFICIAL. Well, at least that is the implication of the new "10 most dangerous places for media" list published by Reporters Sans Frontieres - the Pacific is actually one of the safest places in the world for journalists. Yet many donors seem to think that a relatively safe region is more deserving for media freedom support than others in the real global hot seat. Even West Papua, which is by far the most dangerous place for journalists in the Pacific, doesn't get close to making the most risky hit list.

The 10 most dangerous places for journalists

2011 in figures: 66 journalists killed (16 percent more than in 2010)
1,044 journalists arrested
1,959 journalists physically attacked or threatened
499 media censored

71 journalists kidnapped

73 journalists fled their country

5 netizens killed

199 bloggers and netizens arrested

62 bloggers and netizens physically attacked

68 countries subject to internet censorship

Reporters Without Borders has this year, for the first time, compiled a list of the world’s 10 most dangerous places for the media – the 10 cities, districts, squares, provinces or regions where journalists and netizens were particularly exposed to violence and where freedom of information was flouted.

Overall, 2011 took a heavy toll on media freedom. The Arab Spring was at the centre of the news. Of the total of 66 journalists killed in 2011, 20 were killed in the Middle East (twice as many as in 2010). A similar number were killed in Latin America, which is very exposed to the threat of criminal violence. For the second year running, Pakistan was the single deadliest country with a total of 10 journalists killed, most of them murdered. China, Iran and Eritrea continue to be the world’s biggest prisons for the media.

The Arab Spring, the protest movements it inspired in nearby countries such as Sudan and Azerbaijan, and the street protests in other countries such as Greece, Belarus, Uganda, Chile and the United States were responsible for the dramatic surge in the number of arrests, from 535 in 2010 to 1,044 in 2011. There were many cases of journalists being physically obstructed in the course of their work (by being detained for short periods or being summoned for interrogation), and for the most part they represented attempts by governments to suppress information they found threatening.

The 43 percent increase in physical attacks on journalists and the 31 percent increase in arrests of netizens – who are leading targets when they provide information about street demonstrations during media blackouts – were also significant developments in a year of protest. Five netizens were killed in 2011, three of them in Mexico alone.

From Cairo’s Tahrir Square to Khuzdar in southwestern Pakistan, from Mogadishu to the cities of the Philippines, the risks of working as a journalist at times of political instability were highlighted more than ever in 2011. The street was where danger was to be found in 2011, often during demonstrations that led to violent clashes with the security forces or degenerated into open conflict. The 10 places listed by Reporters Without Borders represent extreme cases of censorship of the media and violence against those who tried to provide freely and independently reported news and information.

(Listed by alphabetical order of country. Full details on the RSF website)
1. Manama, Bahrain
The Bahraini authorities did everything possible to prevent international coverage of the pro-democracy demonstrations in the capital, Manama, denying entry to some foreign reporters, and threatening or attacking other foreign reporters or their local contacts. Bahraini journalists, especially photographers, were detained for periods ranging from several hours to several weeks. Many were tried before military tribunals until the state of emergency imposed on 15 March was lifted. After months of demonstrations, order was finally restored thanks to systematic repression. A blogger jailed by a military court is still in prison and no civilian court ever reviewed his conviction. Bahrain is an example of news censorship that succeeded with the complicity of the international community, which said nothing. A newspaper executive and a netizen paid for this censorship with their lives.

2. Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
Abobo, Adjamé, Plateau, Koumassi, Cocody, Yopougon ... all of these Abidjan neighbourhoods were dangerous places for the media at one stage or another during the first half of 2011. Journalists were stopped at checkpoints, subjected to heavy-handed interrogation or physically attacked. The headquarters of the national TV station, RTI, was the target of airstrikes. A newspaper employee was beaten and hacked to death at the end of February. A Radio Yopougon presenter was the victim of an execution-style killing by members of the Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) in May. The post-election crisis that led to open war between the supporters of the rival presidential contenders, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, had a dramatic impact on the safety of journalists. During the Battle of Abidjan, the country’s business capital, at the start of April, it was completely impossible for journalists to move about the city.

3. Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Egypt
The pro-democracy demonstrations that finally forced Hosni Mubarak to stand down as president on 20 February began at the end of January in Tahrir Square, now the emblem of the Arab Spring uprisings. Foreign journalists were systematically attacked during the incredibly violent first week of February, when an all-out hate campaign was waged against the international media from 2 to 5 February. More than 200 violations were reported. Local journalists were also targeted. The scenario was similar six months later – from 19 to 28 November, in the run-up to parliamentary elections, and during the weekend of 17-18 December – during the crackdown on new demonstrations to demand the departure of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

4. Misrata, Libya
After liberating Benghazi, the anti-Gaddafi rebels took Misrata, Libya’s third largest city and a strategic point for launching an offensive on Tripoli. But the regular army staged a counter-offensive and laid siege to the city, cutting it off from the rest of the world and imposing a news and information blockade lasting many weeks, during which its main road, Tripoli Street, was repeatedly the scene of particularly intense fighting. The Battle of Misrata highlighted the risks that reporters take in war zones. Two of the five journalists killed in Libya in 2011 lost their lives in this city.

5. Veracruz state, Mexico
Located on the Gulf of Mexico and long dominated by the cartel of the same name, Veracruz state is a hub of all kinds of criminal trade, from drug trafficking to contraband in petroleum products. In 2011, it became the new epicentre of the federal offensive against the cartels and three journalists were killed there in the course of the year. Around 10 others fled the state as a result of the growing threats to freedom of information and because of the inaction or complicity of the authorities in the face of this threat.

6. Khuzdar, Pakistan
The many cases of journalists who have been threatened or murdered in Khuzdar district, in the southwestern province of Balochistan, is typical of the extreme violence that prevails in this part of Pakistan. The province’s media are caught in the crossfire between the security forces and armed separatists. The murder of Javed Naseer Rind, a former assistant editor of the Daily Tawar newspaper, was the latest example. His body was found on 5 November, nearly three months after he was abducted. An anti-separatist group calling itself the Baloch Musallah Defa Army issued a hit-list at the end of November naming four journalists as earmarked for assassination.

7. The Manila, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro metropolitan areas on the islands of Luzon and Mindanao, Philippines
Most of the murders and physical attacks on journalists in the Philippines take place in these three metropolitan areas. The paramilitary groups and private militias responsible were classified as “Predators of Press Freedom” in 2011. The government that took office in July has still not come up with a satisfactory response, so these groups continue to enjoy a total impunity that is the result of corruption, links between certain politicians and organized crime, and an insufficiently independent judicial system.

8. Mogadishu, Somalia
Mogadishu is a deadly capital where journalists are exposed to terrible dangers, including being killed by a bomb or a stray bullet or being deliberately targeted by militias hostile to the news media. Although the Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabaab withdrew from the capital, fighting continues and makes reporting very dangerous. Three Somali journalists were killed in Mogadishu this year, in August, October and December. And a visiting Malaysian cameraman sustained a fatal gunshot injury to the chest in September while accompanying a Malaysian NGO as it was delivering humanitarian assistance.

9. Deraa, Homs and Damascus, Syria
Deraa and Homs, the two epicentres of the protests against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, have been completely isolated. They and Damascus were especially dangerous for journalists in 2011. The regime has imposed a complete media blackout, refusing to grant visas to foreign reporters and deporting those already in the country. The occasional video footage of the pro-democracy demonstrations that began in March has been filmed by ordinary citizens, who risk their lives to do so. Many have been the victims of arrest, abduction, beatings and torture for transmitting video footage or information about the repression. The mukhabarat (intelligence services), shabihas (militias) and their cyber-army have been used by the regime to identify and harass journalists. Physical violence is very common. Many bloggers and journalists have fled the country. Around 30 journalists are currently believed to be detained.

10. Sanaa’s Change Square, Yemen
Change Square in Sanaa was the centre of the protests against President Ali Abdallah Saleh and it is there that much of the violence and abuses against journalists took place. Covering the demonstrations and the many bloody clashes with the security forces was dangerous for the media, which were directly targeted by a regime bent on crushing the pro-democracy movement and suppressing coverage of it. Two journalists were killed while covering these demonstrations. Pro-government militiamen known as baltajiyas also carried out punitive raids on the media. Physical violence, destruction of equipment, kidnappings, seizure and destruction of newspapers, and attacks on media offices were all used as part of a policy of systematic violence against media personnel.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Press freedom - as seen by Double Standards

THIS WEEK Double Standards was hoping to talk about awards for the best journalism of the past year - and it turned out to be the team's strangest interview so far.

As the European economic catastrophe continues, austerity in Greece seems to have turned the clock back thousands of years.

Also the president of the UK's Foreign Press Association tells us about his institution's award and much more.

Thanks Flyhalf for an entertaining tip.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

NZ media 'blind spot' over West Papuan repression

Papuan demonstrators erupt in a short-lived celebration as they raise the banned Morning Star flag on a bamboo pole in Timika in Indonesian-ruled Papua province. Indonesian police and troops opened fire to break up the protest. Photo: Tjahjono Eranius / Photoblog

From Pacific Media Watch: 7761

A media academic specialising in Asia-Pacific affairs condemned New Zealand news coverage on West Papua and other Melanesian issues at a journalism education conference in Australia this week.

Professor David Robie, director of AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre presented a paper called "Creative Commons and a Pacific media 'hub’" in which he offered four recent case studies, including a scathing criticism of NZ media coverage about the Freeport mine strike and brutal crushing of a peaceful Papuan People’s Congress by Indonesian security forces with the loss of up to six lives in October.

“The barriers to free reporting are perhaps a contributing factor to the almost negligible reporting in New Zealand news media of West Papuan issues, apart from occasional snippets about the Freeport mine,” he said at the annual Journalism Education Association of Australia (JEAA) conference in Adelaide.

“A major exception has been Radio New Zealand International, which with very limited resources compared with its Radio Australia cousins, doggedly provides coverage on the legacy of armed struggle in West Papua and Bougainville.

“A major problem is that for the international community the issue of West Papua is ‘settled’ and it is accepted as being an internal problem for the Indonesian authorities rather than an issue of ‘decolonisation’.

Although the so-called 1969 Act of Free Choice had been a “stage-managed sham” by Indonesia after it had invaded the former Netherlands colony bordering Papua New Guinea and was widely condemned as the “Act of No Choice”, most media in Australia, NZ and the Pacific currently virtually ignored the issue, he said.

It was left to international news media agencies to report on developments in West Papua – often from at a distance and their reports failed to gain much traction in the media of the region.

'Shameful' reporting
“It is shameful that the NZ and regional news media fail to cover the ongoing human rights atrocities and disturbances with the seriousness they deserve," he said

“The ongoing West Papua crisis is a greater threat to Pacific security than the Fiji issue.”

In a content analysis of a two-week period between the start of the military crackdown on October 19 until November 2, 2011, it was found that Pacific Scoop published 66 percent of the total of 99 news stories carried by main NZ news media websites about the West Papua crisis.

Pacific Journalism Review published a media freedom report by Dr Robie and Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Alex Perrottet in the October edition which strongly covered West Papuan media issues.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

East Timor’s Santa Cruz massacre - reflections 20 years on

An American social justice and development campaigner who has devoted much of his life to the East Timorese cause and lives in the independent nation, reflects on the struggles since the Santa Cruz massacre in Dili on 12 November 1991. Photo:La’o Hamutuk

By Charles Scheiner in Dili

TONIGHT, I’m honored to be with so many young Timorese people who believe in justice and independence. Twenty years ago, brave people just like you peacefully demonstrated against the Indonesian occupation of your country. Nobody paid them, or ordered them, or told them it would be safe or easy.

The Santa Cruz protesters inspired people around the world, including me. I was in New York, and I heard about the massacre on community radio. Although I already knew about Indonesia’s illegal occupation here, and about the criminal support my US government was giving to it, I hadn’t done much to stop it.

A month after the Santa Cruz massacre, I and some other friends organised a peaceful protest at the Indonesian Mission to the UN. We didn’t risk being shot or tortured, but we knew we had to speak out in solidarity with the heroes of Santa Cruz who risked and lost their lives in the struggle for self-determination.

It was much easier for us than it was for your parents – but it was also hard, because so many other Americans didn’t know or care that our government was complicit with Indonesia in committing crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste.

Our demonstration grew into a movement – the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) – that had more than 15,000 members and 25 chapters all across the United States by 1999.

Through public education, lobbying, demonstrations, outreach, coalition-building and every other kind of nonviolent action we could think of, we turned US policy around.

Washington had provided most of the weapons and training for the Indonesian military from 1975 until 1991, but pressure from American citizens cut it off.

Door opened
By 1998, the United States gtovernment had abandoned Suharto and was supporting self-determination – helping to open a door for the people of Timor-Leste to finally end Indonesia’s occupation.

It’s 12 years later now, 20 years after the Santa Cruz massacre and the founding of the East TimorAction Network.

East Timor has been independent for nine years. You have your own government, your own leaders, your own political debates, your own successes… and your own mistakes.

I feel privileged to live here during this period, traveling that journey with you. Building a peaceful, democratic nation, with economic and social justice for its entire population, may be even harder than throwing out the Indonesian army and police.

We are still far from some of our goals. In particular, the foreigners responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against the Timorese people have not been held accountable.

These were international crimes – the Indonesian invasion of Portuguese Timor (RDTL after 28 November 1975, but Indonesian aggression started before that) violated international law, as did the thousands of massacres, tortures, rapes, killings and other crimes that were part of the occupation.

When people are ordered or paid by one government to commit crimes against people in another country, those are international crimes. When other governments, including my own, give political, military, diplomatic or financial support to these crimes, they also become criminals.

Apology to Timorese
As a US citizen (I am not yet a Timorese citizen, but hope to become one), I have to apologise to the people of Timor-Leste because I and my fellow Americans took so long to stop our government from supporting crimes against you, while tens of thousands of Timorese people were killed.

As a human being, I join the Timorese people – including survivors and victims’ families – in calling for an end to impunity for crimes against humanity.

A hero of my country – ex-slave Frederick Douglass – once said that “Power never concedes anything without a demand.”

If we want justice, we have to demand it – it will not come by itself.

As you know, there was progress a few years ago. Between 1999 and 2005, Commissions of Inquiry established by the United Nations, Indonesia and Timor-Leste recognised the international nature of the huge crimes committed here and called for the prosecution of those who perpetrated them.

During UNTAET, the UN Serious Crimes Unit indicted nearly 400 people for crimes committed during 1999, bringing 87 to trial and convicting 84. But everyone brought to trial was Timorese, and none of them are still in prison.

None of the people who murdered Santa Cruz protesters 20 years ago were Timorese.

Larger problem
A larger problem is the 300 people indicted by the SCU who have never been arrested because Indonesia is sheltering them. And even more fundamental, no action has been taken against those who directed and executed the 99 percent of occupation-related crimes committed during its first 23 years.

Those perpetrators were carrying out criminal policies of the Suharto dictatorship, and most of them were soldiers following orders from Jakarta, shooting guns made in the United States, flying bombers from Britain or the US, getting political support from Australia or Malaysia or France.

The United Nations says there must never be impunity for Crimes Against Humanity. In 2002, nations from all over the world established the International Criminal Court to try such crimes when national processes are unwilling or unable to – but unfortunately it has no power to judge crimes committed before the court was set up.

In 2005, this global consensus was reflected by a UN Commission of Experts, who concluded that an international tribunal should be created if judicial processes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste fail to achieve justice for crimes committed during Indonesia’s occupation of Timor-Leste.

But today, the UN runs away – they and the other responsible governments and agencies say that Timor-Leste’s government has the responsibility but not the will to end impunity.

For some of us – Timorese and foreigners – the struggle is not over. We draw courage from people like Argentinian justice activist Patricia Isasa, who visited here last month. She campaigned for 33 years before her torturers and kidnappers were finally sent to prison.

Here, our justice campaign is only 12 years old. Although the UN, other governments, and some Timorese politicians prioritise diplomatic relations with formerly hostile nearby governments over justice, and although some say economic development is more important than accountability, there is no need to choose.

Criminal masterminds
Relations between democratic states can go well even while criminals are brought to justice. People’s economic lives – including victims of past crimes — can improve at the same time that masterminds of those crimes are brought to court. There is no need to choose among economic, social and criminal justice.

We, citizens of countries from around the world who support Timor-Leste’s people, will continue to demand that our governments and the United Nations keep their promises that impunity can never be accepted.

Today, ETAN issued a press release calling “for the US and other governments and the United Nations to commit to justice for the victims and their families. The 1991 massacre was a major turning point in Timor-Leste’s struggle for liberation.

“When we saw and heard about the Indonesian military shooting down hundreds of peaceful, unarmed student protesters, we knew we had to do something to stop the killing. The Santa Cruz massacre inspired many around the world to work for justice for the East Timorese people.”

Earlier this week, former General Taur Matan Ruak said: “Justisa sei iha” (there will be justice).

President Jose Ramos-Horta hopes that a courageous, young Indonesian prosecutor may bring high-level criminals to court five or ten years from now.

But it will never happen if we don’t continue to demand it. People in Timor-Leste, together with our friends in Indonesia, the United States and around the world, should see today’s anniversary as an opportunity – and a challenge – to renew our commitment to struggle for justice.

Since neither the Indonesian nor Timor-Leste governments are yet ready to end impunity, it is up to us.

Obrigado. A luta continua!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Papuan church no longer a safe haven

The Church has traditionally been seen as a non-partisan player in Papuan politics. In this statement, Father Neles Tebay tells of his fear that the Church is no longer respected as a safe haven for all Papuan citizens. Indonesian military and police shot directly at participants of the third Papuan People’s Congress as they tried to escape from a church property on the afternoon of 19 October 2011. Father Tebay, rector of the Fajar Timur School of Theology in Jayapura, tells how he heard Indonesian military (TNI) officers shouting, “We’ve got a runner … shoot!” as they ransacked the church property looking for congress participants. (Photo and story: Engage Media):

ON WEDNESDAY, 19 October, at around 9.00am, armed police officers, Mobile Brigade officers and TNI soldiers arrived to the Fajar Timur School of Theology in Pansers (army tanks), patrol cars and trucks.

They patrolled around the school…

They didn’t tell the campus that they were coming. It made us feel very uneasy and we suspected that trouble was looming. We didn’t want to get dragged in to the mess, so we decided to send home all staff at 10.00am.

At around 11.00am, a fully armed joint security team entered the theology campus. They went around at will without notifying anyone from the campus or the seminaries. They rested in a hut, but students and staff asked them not to disturb the study areas. After [a while], they retreated back to the mountains.

In the afternoon, around 3.30pm, several soldiers and officers entered the buildings that housed the theology students, saying that they were looking for the congress participants who had fled the scene. They broke doors, went inside the computer lab and ransacked the place.

A soldier said, "Bring those computers for evidence". Windows were smashed also. A student begged and said, "Please don’t, this is the house of the mission". Many other students were scared and hid in the back room. Several congress participants who had managed to take shelter at the campus hid in the bathrooms. When they tried to escape, I could hear the soldiers shouting, "We’ve got a runner … shoot!".

Standing in shock
When the soldiers were approaching the back room where students were hiding, there was a command: "There is boundary! There is boundary! Stop action! Retreat!". Then it went silent. After waiting a while, the students were brave enough to leave the room and headed for the house of the head teacher. One of the students was barely standing as he was in shock.

Meanwhile, also at 3.30pm, Father John Jehuru OSA, rector of the Inter-diocesan Seminary, was in his study room when a bullet came flying through his window. He had been watching the events unfold in Zakeus Field from afar. The bullet came close to him, barely a metre from his body.

The soldiers also went into other buildings. They went into the building that houses seminary students from the districts of Manokwari and Sorong. They yelled at the students: "Is this the house of the mission? Where are those priests? Those stupid priests! The priests who hid the fleeing participants!"

In the building that housed seminary students from Merauke, the soldiers apprehended a student by the name of Agus Alua who happened to be standing outside when the soldiers came. Windows were shattered with bullets. The soldiers that went into this house came in from the mountains. It is unclear whether these were the same soldiers who were at the house earlier, at 11.00am in the morning.

The soldiers chased the fleeing congress participants to the housing complex. They shot tear gas. One solider went inside one of the houses and found a lady hiding underneath the bed. The soldier asked: "Who are you?" She said: "I live here!", the soldier said: "Just get out, don’t be afraid", and the lady, as she got out, from under the bed said, "I’m not afraid of you, sir, but I’m afraid of your bullets and tear gas". The soldier left the house.

The Sang Surya Monastery gave refuge to many of the congress participants. Chair of the Papuan Customary Council (and congress-elected President) Forkorus Yaboisembut and Dominikus Surabut were resting there after the congress ended.

Father Gonsa Saur, head of the seminary housing, was awakened by the gunfire. He put on his Fransiscan robe and walked out. There uniformed soldiers and several plain-clothes officers were about to enter the house when he blocked them. They managed to go in anyway and the father saw the men were carrying rifles and pistols. Due to pressure, the father asked the guests of the house to leave the rooms, several did, but others were still hiding inside.

Violent assaults
Father Gonsa said to the soldiers: "you can take them, but please don’t hurt them". The soldiers kept their word … until they left the housing complex, where they began to punch and kick the congress participants.

President-elect Forkorus Yaboisembut was pulled violently and yelled at by armed plain-clothes officers. A woman was also pulled out from the seminary housing.

One soldier suddenly went up to the second floor. Father Gonsa asked him to come down. Around 10 unidentified persons came of the rooms and surrendered themselves. The soldier told them to squat. There were three women among the apprehended persons.

The Yohanes Maria Vianey Seminary was also used as a refuge for participants. Three soldiers in separate occasions pointed their guns to Father Yan You’s head as head of the seminary. They said: "You are hiding them!". Father Yan said: "Just kill me, shoot me, come on!".

The soldiers broke doors, entered rooms and violently pulled out those in hiding. Seminary students asked the soldiers not to hurt the apprehended congress participants. But a student who was trying to help a participant, who’d been shot, was hit with the butt of a rifle. The student fractured his arm, and his nose swelled after he was hit by a rubber stick. He was also detained for a night at the police station and hospitalised for his injuries.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kiwi media crusade against Les Bleus

AFTER the All Blacks’ achievement of finally winning the World Rugby Cup against a French revolution 8-7 last weekend after 24 years of self-absorbed angst, a sour mood has overtaken the post-final wave of euphoria. And the New Zealand media is deservedly taking the flak for it – especially the New Zealand Herald. In the eyes of many French rugby scribes, the Herald and other media have been waging a vengeful and vindictive smear campaign against France, Les Bleus and coach Marc Lièvremont who has now bowed out from his four-year tenure. The relentless and bitter campaign has been obvious to anybody following the relationship between NZ and French rugby. Of course, it has nothing to do with the embarrassing losses in 1999 and 2007 – or being within a whisker of pulling off perhaps the greatest humiliation of all, a Gallic sacking of the Mt Eden fortress and snatching of the World Cup from under our noses. As Ross Hastie noted in Planet Rugby:

The Fédération Française de Rugby did Lièvremont a massive disservice by naming his successor, another former Bleu, Philippe Saint-André, before the team had even left for New Zealand. As a result, journalists with a score to settle were giving free rein to fire away while the players were given licence to ignore what they didn't want hear from their boss.

But to the credit of the Herald, it has actually run a story highlighting French media criticism aimed at itself. Along with other critical accounts of the NZ media bias, this balanced commentary by Gordon Campbell is refreshing:

RWC Fallout - By Gordon Campbell

One of the rationales for the massive expenditure on the Rugby World Cup – at a time when for instance, every hospital in the country is being run into the ground – is that the tournament is serving as a valuable showcase for New Zealand to the world. Well, if that is the case, could Keith Quinn and his anonymous sources in the All Black camp please shut the f***up with their campaign to vilify the French team?

The rest of the world admired the French efforts in the final. The efforts being made to the contrary are only underlining to the world – and to the other 50 percent of New Zealanders who are not obsessed with rugby – that the All Blacks and their fans can be just as ugly and graceless in victory, as they are in defeat.

About this alleged eye gouging by the French centre Aurelien Rougerie ….no one laid an official complaint that an eye gouging occurred. The player allegedly gouged – Richie McCaw – is not saying that he was deliberately eye gouged. In fact, in the Guardian, McCaw said this about French captain Thierry Dusautoir:

Dusautoir showed what he was made of last night. Every time I have played against him he has had one hell of a game. He has been around a long time and he inspires his team by the way he plays.

That surely, should be the end of it. If you’ve got the evidence, you front up. Instead, some anonymous elements within the All Blacks camp have taken the back door route – they’ve avoided fronting up, while using Keith Quinn as a conduit for allegations of foul play. The attempt to smear Dusautoir has been particularly contemptible, and looks like petulance at him being named man of the match, and IRB player of the year.

Apparently Dusautoir’s sin was that he was “close” to the incident, and did nothing about it. Yep, three minutes before the end of a RWC final, Dusautoir has an over-riding obligation to be offering solicitous comfort to Richie McCaw. Good grief. If McCaw got an eye injury this was no less accidental – and did far less lasting damage – than McCaw’s knee to the face of French flyhalf Morgan Parra [which broke his nose – Café Pacific], far earlier in the game.

According to the French, their team members felt unable to leave their hotel on the night of the victory for fear of being attacked by celebrating All Black fans. (What would have happened to them if the French had won doesn’t bear thinking about.) Later, a photographer harassed the team at a private function and after being ejected tried to shoot photos through the restaurant window – and all the subsequent headlines were about the angry response to this cretin by one French player. Right.

We have lavished millions on this RWC – largely to the benefit of a fortunate few bar owners and hoteliers. No doubt, some business advantages will occur downstream in the wake of this tournament – but you can bet that RWC Minister Murray McCully won’t be ordering an opportunity cost analysis on whether this huge RWC spend-up really was the most effective way of promoting New Zealand as a business and tourism destination.

Footnote: The New Zealand Herald, which prominently featured the Quinn allegations also carried a highly selective story headlined “World Media Reacts : NZ Nailed It” that began with a largely positive report from the Guardian’s Robert Kitson. To get to Kitson, the Herald had to ignore the article in the same issue by the Guardian’s chief sports writer Richard Williams. For the record, here’s what Williams said:

All New Zealand did was win, which was presumably all they wanted to do in order to end their famous 24-year drought. They had hosted the tournament beautifully but when it came to the showdown they derived disproportionate benefit from home advantage, including a few free gifts from a referee who spent the first half infuriating even neutrals by giving virtually every decision to the men in black.

France’s fans were unable to make themselves heard in a stadium draped in black but their team’s display was full of spirit, generosity, creativity and adventure… and were hugely unfortunate not to become the first side from their nation to capture the Webb Ellis Cup.

The All Blacks were grim, pragmatic and joyless: a caricature of a stereotype. Nothing they did in the 80 minutes truly illuminated the game. Their try was a gimme, tinged with a hint of obstruction, and they never came close to scoring another…"I’m tremendously sad but tremendously proud, too,” [coach Marc
Lièvremont] said during a dignified post-match press conference. He made no reference to the collision between Richie McCaw’s knee and the temple of Morgan Parra in the 11th minute, which forced the early removal of France’s own influential flyhalf.

For the Guardian’s overview article on how New Zealand had successfully hosted the tournament, go here. It ends with this paragraph, which should also be kept in mind alongside the hosannas of praise for our hosting of the RWC, when assessing the tournament’s tourism legacy:

Abiding memory : A nation so immersed in their sport that it was possible to watch rugby 24 hours a day even if the down side was trying to dodge questions about England in every bar and restaurant visited. It was almost possible to forget the rip-off prices. Almost.

Rugby World Cup: France denied by a fate that once defied New Zealand

Self-taught videographer Jared Brandon says he is "blown away" by the success of his video on the World Cup final - the agony and the ecstasy as NZ defeats France 8-7.  Vimeo link to Jared's video.

Decisions went against France, the better side, in the final – just as they did for the All Blacks in 2007

By Paul Rees on The Guardian's SportBlog

DIMITRI YACHVILI summed up 45 days of Rugby World Cup 2011 when asked a few hours after the All Blacks had lifted the Webb Ellis Cup whether he thought the better team had lost the final.

The France scrum-half had predicted after the All Blacks had convincingly beaten France in the group stage that the two sides would meet again in the final. "We had the luck against Wales in the semi-final, but not tonight. The referee did not want us to win but you have to say that the best team in the tournament won."

France had a legitimate grievance with referee Craig Joubert and his two assistants, just as New Zealand had with Wayne Barnes and his two touch judges in the 2007 quarter-final in Cardiff. The decisions went the way of the hosts. What goes around comes around, as it is said, which is bad news for those countries that will never be able to stage the tournament.

France were outstanding in defeat, led by the indomitable Thierry Dusautoir and Imanol Harinordoquy, two players who unquestionably deserved to be in the final. The All Blacks had the ideal start, scoring a try after 12 minutes, but as Piri Weepu wasted penalty opportunities, a combination of nerves and resolute opponents reduced New Zealand to virtual all-out defence.

Much had been made of the All Blacks' determination to learn from their failed campaigns of 2003 and 2007 but France also had players who had missed out in those years, even though it passed without comment in the build-up. Their resolve was as hard as New Zealand's, but their quest for the World Cup had not become an obsession and the final was an occasion to enjoy rather than endure.

Veterans took the edge
Veterans like Nicolas Mas, Lionel Nallet, Yachvili and Aurélien Rougerie all got the better of their opposite numbers and France's loose trio was the more effective back row unit. The All Blacks had to defend a one-point lead for 32 minutes, and if Richie McCaw's influence as an open-side was compromised by the foot injury that has plagued him for most of the tournament, his fighting spirit ensured there was no choking this time.

The All Blacks will go to England (and maybe Wales) in 2015 with, as the chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Union Steve Tew put it, King Kong off their backs, even if they still have to win the World Cup on foreign soil. There was a fear that this tournament would fail because New Zealanders, so desperate for an end to 20 years of World Cup heartache, would be too wrapped up in their own obsession to embrace 19 visiting teams and more than 100,000 supporters.

From the moment that Tonga arrived in Auckland and were welcomed by some 10,000 supporters, that concern melted away. Everyone knew here what the World Cup meant: inclusiveness. Those who were around in 1987 recalled an inaugural event that was underwhelming, shared as it was with Australia. A crowd of some 20,000 turned up for the opening match at Eden Park between the All Blacks and Italy, media interest was muted and it hardly sparked a tourist boom.

The Rugby World Cup is now big business but New Zealanders also grasped that rugby union being their best export, this was a chance to showcase a country that is, for most of the major rugby playing nations, on the other side of the world. And they did it superbly.

The France hooker Dimitri Szarzewski may not have been allowed to take his young children on to the Eden Park pitch after the semi-final against Wales and one of Graham Henry's sons had the police called when he tried to join his father on the field after Sunday's trophy presentation, but this has been a tournament when the officious have taken a holiday.

Volunteer army
An army of 6,500 volunteers, clad in aquamarine World Cup jackets, has been on call around the two islands to help visitors at airports, in towns and cities and in and around the stadia. Some gave up their holiday entitlement to do the unpaid work and they all contributed richly to the undoubted success of the tournament, something for England to take on board in 2015.

Using choirs to lead the singing of the national anthems was another idea that worked perfectly. New Zealand has done the little things well, making the fears of some on the International Rugby Board that it was not just a financial mistake to bring the tournament here unfounded. The only question is when – not if – it will return.

The colour was provided in the group stage. The tier two and three nations complained, rightly, about the short turnovers they had to endure between matches, something that will change in 2015, if only because the broadcasters like the idea of the top countries playing in midweek, but they all had their moments, even Namibia who showed flashes in their opening match against Fiji.

The schedule became too much for most of them, but Russia continued attacking to the end, becoming the first side since Wales in 1987 to score three tries against Australia in the World Cup. They did not have a line-out and their defence was not the tightest, but they looked to move the ball.

Romania had one of the best scrums in the tournament, Japan were dangerous in broken play, Canada and the United States were organised and Georgia showed glimpses of life beyond a 10-man game.

Fiji disappointing
Fiji were a disappointment, politics blighting their campaign, but Tonga defeated France and Samoa might have made the quarter-finals. Their Gloucester centre, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, twittered against any perceived slight, and more, but at least one of his complaints may have been taken on board by the International Rugby Board.

He was angry that Samoa's final group match against South Africa was refereed by a Welshman, Nigel Owens. It was a game that was likely to have a bearing on Wales's progress to the quarter-finals and the fuming Sapolu felt that nationality should have been taken into account when the appointment was made. Italy had the same grievance in their penultimate group game against the United States, which was refereed by George Clancy of Ireland, the Azzurri's final opponents.

The International Rugby Board is considering shaking up the process of appointing referees. The power currently lies with a committee which is chaired by a Welshman, David Pickering, but there is a proposal to achieve greater transparency by having an independent chairman.

The knockout stage gripped without stimulating. England were sent home early having been fortunate to beat both Argentina and Scotland, whose ambition to play expansive rugby was not matched by their ability to do so; Ireland failed to take advantage of their epic victory over Australia and fell to Wales; age caught up with South Africa and the Pumas took it to the All Blacks.

The semi-finals and final yielded a mere four tries, but they were not a repeat of the kicking contests of 2007. The intensity was at times frightening and rugby union at the top level has become a place where footballing skill shows itself infrequently. The stand-out players in the tournament were mostly sevens and eights reflecting the way the breakdown has come to dominate the game.

Rightful winners
New Zealand were the rightful winners, unbeaten throughout and overcoming the loss of their leading back, Dan Carter, in the group stage. With McCaw limping through the knockout stage, they looked vulnerable.

Four years ago they may have cracked, but by persevering with the coaching team that took them to the 2007 World Cup, they had insured themselves with experience. And that, in the final reckoning, is what helped them in the final minutes when they were one kick away from another World Cup inquest.

France had felt guided by destiny all tournament, a notion quickly disabused on Sunday by some of the decisions that went against them, but fate, in exactly the same manner it defied them in 2007, was with the All Blacks.

Graham Henry, the redeemer redeemed.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fighting over the corpse of Gaddafi like vultures

AFTER NATO – The death of Muammar Gaddafi as a wounded prisoner of war. Disturbing images on Al Jazeera. A war crime?


By Pepe Escobar
They are fighting over the carcass as vultures. The French Ministry of Defense said they got him with a Rafale fighter jet firing over his convoy. The Pentagon said they got him with a Predator firing a Hellfire missile. After a wounded Colonel Muammar Gaddafi sought refuge in a filthy drain underneath a highway - an eerie echo of Saddam Hussein's "hole" - he was found by Transitional National Council (TNC) "rebels". And then duly executed.
- Brazilian journalist Pepe Escobar’s last book was Obama Does Globalistan (2009). Read his full article here and his “Roving Eye” columns at the Asian Times.


By Gordon Campbell

THE DEATH of Muammar Gaddafi – either from wounds inflicted by a NATO air strike, or (more likely) from summary execution on his way to hospital – cancels the option of an international war crimes trial. Doubtless, such a trial would have given the Libyan dictator a useful platform from which to harangue the court, and to reveal embarrassing details of the lucrative deals he’d signed in the past with the same Western governments who eventually sent their warplanes to depose him.

No doubt, Gaddafi alive would have been a disruptive figure on the landscape of the new Libya. The trial of Slobodan Milosevic didn’t set an inspiring precedent for how the rule of law is likely to operate in such cases, Yet for all their flaws, such trials are the only alternative to the extra-judicial killings and assassinations (eg Osama Bin Laden, Anwar Al-Awlaki) that are fast becoming the West’s preferred modus operandi.

Also, there was a faint hope that Gaddafi on trial could have been the focus of a truth and reconciliation process in which the Libyan people who suffered at his hands could have confronted the humbled tyrant in a courtroom, and told their stories. More to the point, Gaddafi dead removes a source of national unity. Hostility to Gaddafi is just about all that is holding together the various Libyan rebel militias.

That lack of unity is a product of Gaddafi’s 40-year personality cult, which crushed any semblance of civil society. Now, all the tribal factions that Gaddafi manipulated so skilfully will have to be represented in a government of national unity. As the Stratfor intelligence think tank has pointed out, it is already clear that the Libyan Transitional National Council that the West recognises, enjoys little respect or authority among many of the rebel fighters:
The NTC is one of several political forces in the country. Since the rebel forces entered Tripoli on August 21, there has been a steady increase of armed groups hailing from places such as Misurata, Zentan, Tripoli and even eastern Libya itself that have questioned the authority of leading NTC members. These groups have been occupying different parts of the capital for two months now, despite calls by the NTC (and some of the groups themselves) to vacate.

In other words, the TNC has only a shaky clam to authority beyond Benghazi. At the same time, the outside world is expecting the TNC to honour the dodgy contracts for Libya’s oil reserves that Gaddafi signed, and not to let matters like internal politics or morality get in the way:

There have been repeated questions over the status of business contracts and agreements involving Russian companies, which have been signed by the Gaddafi regime, and whether they will be honoured. They generally involve oil or gas development and exploration, but also include railways and military cooperation….

Last month the Russian Foreign Ministry recognized the Transitional National Council of Libya as the current authority, adding that it expected existing contracts to be honoured.

“At present the Transitional National Council is analysing the contracts, signed by the Gaddafi regime, in order to establish whether or not they are transparent. I do not think the new Libyan government will begin with the evaluation of contracts with Russia by political criteria,” Margelov said, adding that it would be more correct for the new government to analyse the contracts from a technical and economic perspective.
Now, the real problems begin.

- Independent New Zealand journalist Gordon Campbell can be read on his Scoop Media blog and on his Werewolf netzine.
BEFORE NATO – Independent images of the Gaddafi regime and reasons why the West had to ensure the crushing of a maverick Arab voice.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Can Les Bleus break the Eden Park rugby hoodoo?

Dimitri Yachvili leads a victory parade after defeating England 19-12 in the quarterfinals.

By Francois Mazet and Sylvain Mouillard

A bunch of "sans culottes'' - the French republican revolutionaries of 1792 who beheaded king Louis XVI - will replay their Valmy on Sunday against a coalition of Anglo-Saxons, led by the lords of the game, the All Blacks.

There is no argument from the French about Richie McCaw's side deserving to win the World Cup. They are the best team, play great rugby and it would be a reward for New Zealanders who have been great hosts throughout the tournament. And as rugby fans, we would be perfectly fine with the All Blacks lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy.

But competition is not about deserving to win. Why would professional sports have any morality when society does not? The only true thing is that, at the end of the day, the winner is always right.

The French might not have deserved to beat Wales last Saturday. There was nothing to be proud of. But France, in their sporting history, have suffered enough bad nights, unfair calls and stolen games to, for once, be content with victory.

The world's press could do nothing worse than labelling this French team "thieves''. Coach Marc Lièvremont will put up a handful of articles in the changing room at Eden Park on Sunday and remind his players the last team who won there had blue jerseys on. If there is one squad which can break the Eden Park hoodoo, it's Lievremont's dirty XV.

Despite having guided France to the final, Lievremont's legacy will be easy to conclude: World Cup-winning coach or absolutely nothing.

After four years in charge, the former second division coach is a long way from the promise he made when he got the job. He vowed to revitalise French pass-and-run rugby. But it's almost impossible to build an attacking team in French rugby because of the war between the clubs and the national team that sees the clubs wield power over players. It took time for Lievremont to understand this.

There were rumours of disarray in the French camp during the tournament. Far from it. It was only the result of the clash between a straightforward guy, who verbalises publicly everything that goes through his mind, and players who were, for a long time, too shy.

After several notorious losses, the latest against Tonga in pool play, it seems Les Bleus now completely assume that French flair is a myth. It was mostly the violence of Franck Tournaire and Cedric Soulette in the rucks that led to victory in 1999 and Thierry Dusautoir's 38 tackles in 2007. This French team have also decided the only important thing is winning.

The backbone of French rugby has always been the feeling of "one against all''. That is how Les Bleus beat the All Blacks in 1999 and 2007. They were scared, they ware ashamed, they were shattered and they rose from it, stuck together and reversed the course of history. Lièvremont knows that only too well - he was in the team 12 years ago.

It is probable that the torrent of harsh words from the press in New Zealand, Australia and the UK will only make the French resolve stronger.

Lacking respect for your opponent is the worst insult in rugby. France have paid for it several times, including a few weeks ago against Tonga. They would love nothing more than to prove a lot of people wrong.

Francois Mazet and Sylvain Mouillard are reporters for Liberation newspaper, RFI and RMC radios, and website.

Brutal crackdown against pro-independence West Papua congress

Indonesian military preparing for the crackdown against participants at the Third Papuan People’s Congress. Photo: West Papua Media

FOUR KILLINGS at the Freeport McMoRan copper mine strike last week, protests by journalists after one was beaten up and this week’s opening fire by Indonesian forces at the Third Papuan People's Congress have put the spotlight on media freedom and freedom of expression in West Papua. A new report published yesterday by Pacific Journalism Review examines media freedom across the South Pacific and it is grim reading. Amid the confusion and chaos in Jayapura this week, reports are emerging in West Papua Media, Pacific Scoop and other news sources of a growing toll from this repressive crackdown. Here is a dispatch from Jayapura by Jakarta Globe reporters Banjir Ambarita, Markus Junianto Sihaloho and Ezra Sihite in Jajapura:

Six people have been found dead a day after Indonesian security forces fired shots while breaking up a pro-independence rally in Papua, a human rights advocate reported.

The bodies of two of the dead, identified as university student Matias Maidepa and Papua Land Defenders member Yacop Sabonsaba, were found on Wednesday behind the military headquarters in Padang Bulan, Abepura.

“On October 20, 2011, four civilians were also found dead around the venue of the Papua Congress, but their identities remain unknown,” said Matias Murib, deputy chairman of the Papua office of the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM).

Some 300 people were detained by the Papua police, though many of them had nothing to do with the demonstration held in a field in Padang Bulan, Matias said.

“Many among the hundreds of people detained were not involved in the congress, and only happened to by passing by the area when they were arrested,” he said.

He added that he had received reports that hundreds of armed soldiers and police were out in force on the streets of Manokwari, some 740 km west of Jayapura, the Papua capital.

He cited an unconfirmed report that a man identified as Martinus Yeimo had been killed by a member of the police’s Mobile Brigade (Brimob) in Enarotali, a town in Paniai district….

[Police chief] Wachyono said Selfius Bobby, a social media activist and organiser of the Papua Congress, had been arrested, bringing the number of accused over the rally to six.

Police have said all six accused would face charges of violating articles 110, 106 and 160 of the Criminal Code.

Besides Selfius, the other accused are Forkorus Yoboisembut, chairman of the Papuan Customary Council and declared president of the Democratic Republic of Papua at the congress, Edison Gladius Waromi, his prime minister, August Makbrawen Sananay Kraar, Dominikus Sorabut and Gat Wenda.

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