Monday, June 30, 2014

USP’s attempted gag over media freedom issues stirs international protests

USP protagonists (from left): Acting journalism coordinator and journalism fellow Pat Craddock,
deputy vice-chancellor Dr Esther Williams and journalism lecturer and author
Dr Matt Thompson. Montage: Fijileaks
Café Pacific is on holiday with the publisher looking for “summer” somewhere in western Ireland. But this blog couldn’t stay on hold any longer with all the current shenanigans going on at Fiji’s University of the South Pacific. 

Beleaguered journalism academics Pat Craddock, the acting regional media programme leader who is a New Zealand broadcaster and has long experience at USP and is widely respected on campus, and Australian author, educator and journalist Dr Matt Thompson, have stirred a hornet’s nest in administration circles over the past week because of their frank and defiant talking about media and freedom of speech issues in Fiji. 

The controversy has stirred condemnation by Amnesty International and sparked a column by Roy Greenslade in The Guardian. In the latest statement by Craddock, published by Fijileaks, he has refused to be “silenced” by the university: 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pacific media 'too cosy' with political power, says author

From Pacific Media Watch

The Pacific Media Centre's director, Professor David Robie, has called for more emphasis on critical development journalism in the Asia-Pacific region.

Speaking on ABC's Media Report, Dr Robie said there was a tendency globally - and not just in the Pacific -  for journalism to be a "bit too cosy with political power".

"Agendas are often set in the media based around press galleries and what's seen as priorities by governments, whereas critical development journalism is really a proclamation - if you like - for ordinary people getting their values and their needs investigated and getting some sort of result from policy changes," Dr Robie told presenter Richard Aedy.

Discussing the state of media freedom in the Pacific, Dr Robie said West Papua was the most neglected region in the Pacific in terms of media coverage, mainly because there was "virtually no ready access into West Papua by journalists".

To report from West Papua without being sanctioned by the Indonesian government was risky for journalists, and even more so for their contacts and sources, added the author of the recently published Don't Spoil My Beautiful Face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bad news from East Timor as media faces petro fund 'guided democracy' gag

Timorese students protest over Australian spying in its efforts to manipulate Timor-Leste's oil industry
... free speech at risk under the new media law. Photo: Global Voices
By Tempo Semanal editor/publisher José Antonio Belo

SADLY, I have bad news to report from East Timor. It is not yet clear how long my colleagues and I will be able to freely report the news. But readers should know, things are not what they seem in the glowing press releases from Government Palace in Dili.

The government, through its members in the national Parliament, is taking steps to limit basic freedoms held by Timorese citizens.

East Timor is now a vibrant and peaceful young democracy, but a few weeks ago it took a significant step backwards towards the days of the Suharto regime, when Indonesia occupied East Timor for 24 years between 1975 and 1999.

On May 6, the national Parliament of East Timor passed a law to regulate the media and freedom of expression in East Timor. The law has yet to be promulgated by the President of the Republic, Taur Matan Ruak, although it was sent to him to pass last week.

The law is not only undemocratic but is also in violation of the constitution. The constitution gives rights to the media and citizens for freedom of expression in articles 40 and 41, but the new law seeks to limit, restrict and in some cases terminate those rights.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Timor-Leste raises bar in media suppression with new law

Graphic from the latest edition of Index on Censorship with a profile on the new law.
Image: Shutterstock/Index on Censorship
JOURNALISTS and civil society critical of the flawed Fiji mediascape in the lead-up to the first post-coup general election in September should also be up in arms over the attempts to muzzle the press in Timor-Leste.

A new law passed by the National Assembly in Dili early last month raises the Asia-Pacific bar in suppression tactics against probing media.

The law, not yet endorsed by the president, severely limits who can qualify to be “journalists” and could potentially curb overseas investigative journalists and foreign correspondents from reporting from the country as they would need advance state permission.

It also sidelines independent freelancers and researchers working for non-government organisations in quasi media roles.

In a fledgling country where the media has limited resources, media officers and other researchers working for NGOs have been providing robust reporting and analysis of the country’s development progress – especially over the oil producing industry.

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