Saturday, December 3, 2016

Carry on Fidel Castro’s global legacy, says Cuban ambassador

Cuban ambassador to New Zealand Mario Alzugaray during his passionate tribute to Fidel Castro
at Auckland Trades Hall tonight. Video clip: Café Pacific

By David Robie 

CUBAN revolutionary leader Fidel Castro’s contribution to global social justice and dignity, and to developing nations worldwide – including the Pacific, was praised in New Zealand tonight.

Activists, politicians, academics, journalists, teachers, trade unionists and community workers were among about 100 people gathered at the Auckland Trades Hall to hear Cuban Ambassador Mario Alzugaray and other speakers give tributes to Castro’s life.

Alzugaray challenged the audience to continue Castro’s half century of struggle for a better society: “The best way to remember Fidel is to carry on his legacy and keep it alive.”

The ambassador said Castro had social justice at the core of his ideals and action.

“He was an internationalist since the very beginning,” Alzugaray said. “He was involved in every movement connected to the anti-imperialist struggle in Latin America.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Media coverage of war atrocities opens debate on INFOCORE research

Media is going through a "tremendous transformation as a result of the ever-changing, global media landscape". Video: Euronews

By Elena Cavalione of Euronews

IN A world torn apart by conflicts old and new, the issue of the media’s role seems to have growing importance.

Media coverage of atrocities committed during wars is opening up debate on the power images have to influence public opinion and political decisions.

INFOCORE is an international research study funded by the 7th European Framework Programme of the European Commission. It brings together experts from the Social Sciences to investigate the media’s role in violent conflicts in three regions: the Middle East, the Balkans and Central Africa.

Romy Frohlich from Ludwig Maaximilians University in Munich explains that journalism is under a state of tremendous transformation as a result of the ever-changing, global media landscape.

“What we see so far”, she says, “is that this change in journalism does affect or had an effect on the power balance within the shaping of public discourse, for example the relation between journalism and political actors or journalism and propaganda and public relations.”

Monday, September 19, 2016

Philippines president’s ‘hit man’ allegations spur renewed calls for killings probe

Time magazine and Singapore Sunday Times reports on Philippines 'killing fields'. Image: David Robie

By DAVID ROBIE in Manila

MOUNTING calls for the Philippines president to be investigated over the allegations of human rights violations deepened over the weekend with revelations by a confessed hit man that at least 1000 extrajudicial killings had been ordered when the president was mayor of the southern city of Davao. 

Fresh reports featuring the allegations were included in a cover story in the latest Time magazine, the Singapore Sunday Times and a new inquiry by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism into the so-called “Davao Death Squad”.

It is only 80 days since President Rodrigo Duterte was sworn into office, and the PCIJ reports that he now “commands an armed contingent that is a hundred times bigger than it was in Davao, and his ‘enemy’ a thousand times more numerous”.

More than 3000 people have reportedly been killed so far in the so-called Project Tokhang – or “Double barrel” -  war on drugs. The president has also called for a six-month extension on his policy, claiming that the drugs business is largely "operated by people in government".

Time magazine branded its report the “killing season” in the Philippines with a subheading of “Inside President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs”.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The ‘nuclear free’ Vanuatu girl with the enchanting smile

Riding out from Aneityum Island to the grass airstrip for the return flight back to Tanna.


She had the most enchanting smile, even though she had lost her baby teeth. Her toothless grin turned out to be perfect for the role.

The five-year-old girl had her face painted with a black anti-nuclear symbol – different motifs on both her cheeks.

Beside her was a neatly sketched poster: “No nukes: Please don’t spoil my beautiful face”.

This was the scene in Port Vila’s Independence Park in 1983 during the region’s second Nuclear-Free and Independent Pacific Movement conference.

It was during the heady days of nuclear-free activism with Vanuatu, the world’s newest nation only three years old and founding Prime Minister Walter Hadye Lini leading the way.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

‘That day I saw the power of media, and how it can be tragic’

University of Papua New Guinea's Emily Matasororo ... in the background, images of heavily armed police
shortly before they opened fire on peaceful students. Image:" Del Abcede/PMC


SURPRISING that a conference involving some of the brightest minds in journalism education from around the world should be ignored by New Zealand’s local media.

Some 220 people from 43 countries were at the Fourth World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) conference in Auckland.

The range of diversity alone at the Auckland University of Technology hosted event was appealing, but it was the heady mix of ideas and contributions that offered an inspiring backdrop.

Topics included strategies for teaching journalism for mobile platforms – the latest techniques; “de-westernising” journalism education in an era of new media genres; transmedia storytelling; teaching hospitals; twittering, facebooking and snapchat -- digital media under the periscope; new views on distance learning, and 21st century ethical issues in journalism are just a representative sample of what was on offer.

Keynote speakers included Divina Frau-Meigs (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle) with a riveting account on how "powerful journalism" makes "prime ministers jump", the Center of Public Integrity’s Peter Bale (a New Zealander) on the need to defend press freedom, and Tongan newspaper publisher and broadcaster who turned “inclusivity” on its head with an inspiring “include us” appeal from the Pacific,"where we live in the biggest continent on planet Earth".

Sunday, June 19, 2016

UPNG students speak out - their own story, video of the police shootings

AN EXCLUSIVE video created by the University of Papua New Guinea's Student Representative Council about the events on 8 June 2016 involving the shooting of at least 8 UPNG students by police officers outside of their Waigani campus in Port Moresby.

Hospital authorities denied news reports of deaths, but confirmed at least 23 people had been treated for gunshot wounds, four with critical injuries

The students were assembling at the campus for a peaceful march to Parliament to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill to face an investigation into corruption allegations.

The narrator is Kenneth Rapa, president of the SRC, and he explains the sequence of events leading up the police opening fire on the students with gunshots and tear gas.

Story on Asia Pacific Report

More reports at APR

Friday, June 10, 2016

History repeats itself with tragic impact in Papua New Guinea

Student footage as the Papua New Guinean police tried to arrest the leader, Kenneth Rapa, moments before opening fire on the crowd. Video: Cafe Pacific on YouTube


BARELY had the whiff of teargas and gunshot smoke drifted away from the University of Papua New Guinea campus this week when the blame game started in earnest with the O'Neill government pointing the finger at the parliamentary opposition and also international media.

The media were blamed for initial reports by some reputable international brands that up to four people had been killed. There were no deaths, but four of the 23 people reported to be injured were taken to Port Moresby General Hospital critically wounded and stabilised.

It could have been an even worse tragedy.

Sadly, the scenes of chaos shown on campus and chaotic news reports are not uncommon.

I lived in Papua New Guinea for five years during the 1990s when I headed the journalism programme at UPNG.

There were at least two occasions when I was there when police came onto campus - a provocation in itself as there is an understanding that police don't do that, if not actually illegal - and fired teargas at protesting students.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Standoff in PNG: Students take on Prime Minister Peter O'Neill

An NBC News report on May 17 - a useful backgrounder, but much has happened since.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's "I will not resign" reply to UPNG and Unitech student presidents over their "stand down" petition - May 23

By Bal Kama

Students at the University of Papua New Guinea are the latest in a long list of those in the firing line for denouncing the leadership of PNG’s seemingly impregnable Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

The students have been on strike against the government since the end of last month. Students from the University of Technology and Divine Word University are also boycotting classes.

The UPNG students want O’Neill to resign from office and have demanded the police commissioner not suppress criminal investigations against the PM.

The students have threatened to withdraw en masse from their studies if the Prime Minister refuses to go. [Editor: He refused on Monday].

But what are their ultimate chances of success? Will O’Neill give in?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

West Papua: The crackdown aftermath - finding a dignified solution

The arrests of more than 1600 protesters in West Papua earlier this week are part of a broader systematic oppression of Papuans by the Indonesian government. Pictured are many detained protesters in the Mobile Brigade compound at Kotaraja, Jayapura.  Photo: Tabloid Jubi

OPINION: By Rev Benny Giay
LAST MONDAY, Indonesian police arrested more than 1600 people in Jayapura, Papua. They were rallying in support of a coalition of groups representing West Papuans’ aspirations for independence.

The police stopped the protesters, who were heading to the local parliament, forced them to board military trucks, and took them to the Mobile Brigade compound.

The protesters were demonstrating their support for the United Liberation Movement of West Papua's (ULMWP) bid to gain full membership in the grouping of Melanesian countries, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

The ULMWP holds observer status in the group, which consists of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. Last year, Indonesia was granted associate membership.

To prevent further violent mistreatment of protesters, together with several Papuan councillors and church leaders, that day I [May 2] went to the Mobile Brigade’s compound to negotiate with the security forces to release the detainees peacefully.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pacific human rights advocacy as a ‘mindful’ journalist

Pacific Media Centre's Professor David Robie and Tongan publisher, broadcaster and communications adviser
Kalafi Moala at the human rights forum in Nadi, Fiji. Image: Jilda Shem/RRRT

(Note: This commentary is extracted from David Robie's notes as part of a multimedia keynote presentation at the Enhancing a Human Rights-based Approach to News Reporting Forum in Nadi, Fiji, 13-15 April 2016 . The notes were written originally to go with a series of slides and embedded video clips).

SOME of you perhaps may be mystified or puzzled about why I have included the term ‘mindful’ journalism in the title of this presentation. I’ll explain later on as we get into this keynote talk. But for the moment, let’s call it part of a global attempt to reintroduce “ethics” and “compassion” into journalism, and why this is important in a human rights context.

Human rights has taken a battering in recent times across the world, and perhaps in the West nowhere as seriously as in France on two occasions last year and Brussels last month. After the earlier massacre of some 12 people in the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January, there was a massive wave of rallies in defiance and in defence of freedom of speech symbolised by the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie – I am Charlie.

Investigators in both Belgium and France worked on the links between the two series of attacks and have made a breakthrough in arresting two key figures alleged to be at the heart of the conspiracy, Salah Abdeslam and Mohamed Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian-Morrocan suspected to be the “man in the hat” responsible for the bomb that didn’t go off at Brussels airport.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Polar bear mojo for Greenpeace captain’s environmental thriller

A pensive Peter Willcox at a detention hearing at the Kalininskiy Court in Saint Petersburg in 2013 before being set free. Originally charged with "piracy" with a penalty of up to 15 years, Willcox faced the prospect of languishing in a Russian jail for the rest of his life. Image: Igor Podgorny/Greenpeace

Review by David Robie

WHEN Anote Tong, the former president of Kiribati, a collection of 33 tiny atolls sprawling across the Pacific equator in the frontline of climate change, believed he wasn’t being listened to, he thought of a simple strategy – polar bears.

By comparing himself and his country’s meagre population of 102,000 to the endangered creature, he suddenly got more headlines.

The endangered polar bear … anecdote for former President Tong,
FB mojo for Peter Willcox. Image: Still from Greenpeace video
And he got the idea after having just seen a polar bear in the wild.

“I drew a comparison that what happens to polar bears will also be happening to us in our part of the world,” he explained.

Tong feared that the bears in their Arctic habitat, like the people of Kiribati in the Pacific, were in danger of losing their homes in the near future.

Today the polar bear is the mojo adopted by Greenpeace skipper Peter Willcox on his Facebook page.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Kurdish hacker targets Fiji police, military websites - offline all day

11:05am This page replaced the homepage of the RFMF, Fiji Police, and Fiji Immigration websites this morning. Image: Newswire Fiji
SIX hours after this hacking was reported by Newswire Fiji, Café Pacific checked and found these Fiji websites still "defaced, offline or under repair ..."
By Allison Penjueli of Newswire Fiji

Websites belonging to the Republic of Fiji Military Force (RFMF), Fiji Police Force and the Immigration Department were today “defaced” apparently by a Kurdish hacker known for his anti-ISIS views.

In the attack, MuhmadEmad uploaded a picture of the Kurdish flag along with the words, “KurDish HaCkerS WaS Here” and “HaCKeD by MuhmadEmad, Long Live to peshmarga.” This was a reference to the Kurdish army of Peshmerga, which has been fighting to defend its homeland from the so-called Islamic State force based in Iraq.

Fiji police spokesperson Inspector Josaia Weicavu said the force was aware of the hack and was working to rectify it.

An RFMF spokesperson was unaware of the incident when contacted, but said he would look into the issue.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mystery of the 1983 Vanuatu “nuclear free” girl finally solved

June Keitadi (left), now Warigini, with Del Abcede grating coconut at a chance meeting on Aneityum Island
on Christmas Day 2015. Photo by David Robie


So the mystery is finally over. In 1983, I took this photo of a young ni-Vanuatu girl at a nuclear-free Pacific rally in Independence Park, Port Vila. She was aged about five at the time.

June Keitadi with her family's "No nukes" placard
at Independence Park, Port Vila, Vanuatu,1983. 
On the left (yellow tee) is her mother Annie Weitas. 
Photo: David Robie
She was just a delightful happy painted face in the crowd that day. But her message was haunting: “Please don’t spoil my beautiful face” had quite an impact on me. When monochrome and colour versions of this photo were published in various Pacific media and magazines, a question kept tugging at my heart.

“Who is she? Where is she from and what is she doing now?”

Her placard slogan became the inspiration for my 2014 book, Don’t Spoil My Beautiful Face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific, published by Little Island Press in New Zealand.

I would have loved to have named her in the book with the cover image of her. So this spurred me onto to more determined efforts to discover her identity.

First of all I posted the photo – and a Hawai’ian solidarity video that also showed the little girl, discovered by Alistar Kata – on my blog Café Pacific last October 10. Almost 1100 people viewed the blog item, but no tip-offs.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Jane Kelsey: All pain, no gain – why not a TPP-free zone?

Café Pacific
video of the TPP protest in Auckland this week by Del Abcede/PMC

OPINION: By Professor Jane Kelsey
In New Zealand, we dared to declare ourselves nuclear-free in the 1980s – dire warnings that ditching the Anzus alliance would make us a pariah, isolated and ridiculed never came to pass. Instead, we were celebrated as a small, independent nation with the guts to decide our own future. Why can’t we do the same with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

The National government ignored widespread opposition from ordinary New Zealanders when it signed the secretly negotiated deal. Doubtless we’ll continue to be fed the old Anzus line that New Zealand can’t afford to not to be at the table.

National’s glitzy new “TPP fact” page is bad wine repackaged in new bottles. Here’s a few facts they don’t tell you: The projected economic gains of 0.9 per cent of GDP by 2030 are within their own margin of error, even before costs are factored in and disregarding unrealistic modelling.

More than 1600 US companies, the most litigious in the world, will gain new rights they can enforce through private offshore tribunals if/when regulation damages their value or profits.

The agreement guarantees foreign states and corporations a right of input into regulatory decisions, which Maori, trade unions, small businesses and local government would not have.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Asia Pacific Report - a new venture for independent journalism

Alistar Kata's video about the Pacific Media Centre.

By David Robie

Comments from the and video launch in Auckland tonight.

OUR new adventure really began back in 2007 when Selwyn Manning joined the Pacific Media Centre as the founding advisory board chair, but really took a big leap forward when he initiated the Pacific Scoop concept and we developed that together, launching it at the 2009 Māori Expo.

Over the next six years, Pacific Scoop played an inspiring role in independent journalism alongside the main Scoop Media website, providing a range of Asia and Pacific stories and analyses.

A significant core of this project was its role as the official output from AUT’s postgraduate Asia Pacific Journalism course. We have sent students all over the Pacific on key story and research assignments over the years. Some of these stories have won awards.

While at AUT, Selwyn did two innovative postgraduate honours degrees – producing ground-breaking documentaries for both, Morality of Argument and Behind the Shroud, which are featured on AsiaPacificReport.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2015: The year Charlie Hebdo was hailed, blasted and misunderstood

This picture taken on January 18, 2015 shows a giant half-broken pencil
near the headquarters of French satirical newspaper  
Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Image: Joël Saget/AFP/France 24
By Benjamin Dodman in France 24

IN THE 12 months since the gruesome attacks on its Paris office, Charlie Hebdo has been praised, mourned, cursed and debated by a global panel of commentators, politicians and religious zealots - most of whom have never read it it, let alone understood it.

By all accounts it has been a tumultuous year for the satirical weekly – one that began with carnage, brought the cash-strapped paper fame and scrutiny, and left its traumatised survivors holed up in a bunker with more subscribers than they ever dreamt of having.

Charlie had been a household name in the French media landscape, its notoriety surpassed by that of its most illustrious cartoonists, including Jean Cabut (known as Cabu) and Georges Wolinski, two icons of French popular culture, both of whom were murdered a year ago by jihadist gunmen, along with six other staff members.

And yet its actual readership, barely reaching the tens of thousands, was a tiny – and shrinking – minority in a country where few people still read the papers, least of all in print.

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