Thursday, December 26, 2013

7 Greenpeace Arctic oil campaigners finally allowed to leave Russia

Greenpeace campaigners Dimitry Litvinov and Arctic Sunrise skipper Peter Willcox (right)
outside a St Petersburg immigration office. Photo: Moscow Times

AS THE last Greenpeace activist detained in the Arctic 30 protest received notification today that he was cleared of all charges under a recently passed amnesty, several other international activists who had already been granted amnesty have received permission to leave Russia.

The news marks the end of a saga that has seen activists of 19 different nationalities spend several weeks in Russian detention despite an international outcry over the case and Western demands to release the suspects.

Twenty-eight Greenpeace activists, as well as a Russian photographer and a British videographer, were charged with "piracy" - which was later changed to "hooliganism" - for staging a protest against oil drilling at Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Barents Sea in September.

As of today, seven members of the group had been granted visas from the Federal Migration Service, while others expected to receive their visas by the end of the week.

Activists from countries that share a visa-free regime with Russia - Ukraine, Brazil, Turkey and Argentina - were allowed to leave the country immediately.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas and blessings for 2014!

A GROUP of Balinese show off some Christmas cheer outside their store in the urban neighbourhood of Tuban, near Ngurah Rai international airport - named after an independence revolutionary hero. Images are in David Robie's Bali 2013 gallery.

Merry Christmas to all our loyal Café Pacific readers  ... and have a good year in 2014.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'Scary' Caveman delivers the rugby knockout - officials see red

THE "Caveman" rugby star Sebastien Chabal has been a real knockout this week. He hit the headlines in France over for this KO blow on number eight Marc Giraud during the second division ProD2 match between Lyons and Agen at the weekend.

Giraud was carried off on a stretcher. Now aged 35, the former French icon is still playing rugby, plying his sporting prowess with Lyons in France.

He built a reputation for not only looking like one of the scariest men in the sport, but playing like it too, famously breaking All Black Ali Williams' jaw and knocking out Chris Masoe.

Not too long ago he announced that this would be his final season of rugby due to his body starting to feel the aches and pains that come with playing professionally for so long.

He clearly hasn't lost any of the competitive spirit though, as was seen, and felt by Agen eighthman Giraud.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tear gas, hidden truth and news media 'fudging' over East-Timor

Timorese protesters condemn Australian policy over the Timor Sea oil and gas reserves issue
and call for justice over the disputed maritime boundary. Photo: La'o Hamutuk
Quote from the Timor-Leste development and resources watchdog La'o Hamutuk over the recent news agency 'false report' on a demonstration over Australian duplicity over the Timor Sea disputed oil and gas industry:

Why are the world's media so eager to report lies about violence committed by people from Timor-Leste, but so reluctant -- in the past and still today -- to report truthfully on those who commit violence against them?

This was from a recent article posted by the NGO on its blog over allegations of fabrication by a news agency stringer and condemning media reluctance to correct the facts.


ANALYSIS: ON Thursday, 5 December, about 20 students and activists peacefully protested across the street from the Australian Embassy in Dili to urge Australia to respect Timor-Leste's sovereignty and rights to its undersea oil and gas.

In their statement (original Tetum), they urged Australia to "stop stealing and occupying the Timor Sea, but show your good will as a large nation which follows democratic principles to accept a maritime boundary based on international legal principles."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fiji torture series wins Pacific Media Watch editor trauma journalism prize

Torture of the captured Fiji fugitive being filmed on mobile phones.
Photo: Pacific Media Watch/Freeze frame from video
A MULTIMEDIA news report series about the torture of a fugitive prisoner and his suspected accomplice by Fiji prison officers has won a Pacific Media Watch editor a coveted international prize in trauma journalism.

Daniel Drageset, a Norwegian journalist interned at the Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre and a postgraduate student in the School of Communication Studies, won the Dart Asia-Pacific Centre for Journalism and Trauma Prize for reporting on violence, disaster or trauma in society at the 2013 Ossie Awards for student journalism in Mooloolaba, Queensland, this week.

Drageset has been contributing editor of the PMC’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project for the past year, and has also been a student intern editor on the associated independent Pacific Scoop news website.

Judge Cait McMahon, director of Melbourne's Dart Asia-Pacific Centre, said Drageset’s winning Fiji entry had showed an “impressive investigation into alleged police torture”.

“Daniel had to straddle important ethical issues and clarify potential bias of sources to produce an impressive piece of reporting,” she said.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mandela, Indonesia and the liberation of Timor-Leste

Australian and English cricket fans observe a minute's silence for the passing of a global
icon of freedom and justice. Photo: Gurtong Trust
Nelson Mandela, who became one of the world's most beloved statesmen and a colossus of the 20th century when he emerged from 27 years in prison to negotiate an end to white minority rule in South Africa, has died. He was 95. His death closed the final chapter in South Africa's struggle to cast off apartheid, leaving the world with indelible memories of a man of astonishing grace and good humor. - Al Jazeera

In July this year, on the occasion of hs birthday, journalist ABOEPRIJADI SANTOSO wrote this tribute to Mandela’s role in Timor-Leste independence. 

WHEN he turned 95 years old, the late South African president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela may have reflected on his struggle and his contribution with great satisfaction more than anyone else could. Popularly known as Madiba, he became an icon of freedom, reconciliation and hope the world over.

Much less known is his legacy to help liberate the people of Timor-Leste.

In 1955 Mandela lauded the historic Asia-Africa Conference held in Bandung. Two leading members of the African National Congress (ANC) - including his close ally Walter Sisulu - were there to represent their country.

Indonesia continued its support for the movement and provided the platform for the Asian struggle against apartheid, which Mandela respected.

Mandela, fond of batik shirts, loves Indonesia and visited four times: 1990, 1994, 1997 and 2002. The first time he came he visited the site of Bandung conference and said he was inspired by the Asia-Africa Conference and Sukarno's role.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Australia condemned over 'stolen' oil, gas and Timor Sea 'neocolonial greed'

Timorese protest in Dili over Australian 'greed' over the Timor Sea boundary issue.
Photo: Juvinal Dias/La'o Hamutuk
An alternative view to the mainstream media coverage on the Timor Sea issue. A statement from the Movement against the Occupation of the Timor Sea, a Timor-Leste activist group that has been smeared by a false AFP report about a demonstration across the road from the Autralian Embassy in the East Timorese capital of Dili on December 5:

FOR MANY years, Australia has been stealing the oil and gas from the Timor Sea, in an area which belongs to Timor-Leste under international legal principles.

Sadly, Australia has shown its manner and its greed to make our small and poor country in this region lose our resources and sovereignty.

After it became aware of the oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea, Australia supported Indonesia for more than two decades as it committed genocide against the people of this land, stealing and using its strong economic and political power to trample us, making themselves rich by leaving us in poverty.

A few days ago, the Australian government used its intelligence service to seize documents from Timor-Leste's lawyer in the CMATS (Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea) arbitration case, and to put pressure on a "whistleblower" so that he could not testify.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Taking on the challenge of Timor-Leste's media in transition

Tempo Semanal's Joe Belo ... exposing corruption. Photo: David Robie/PMC

TIMOR-LESTE newspaper editor and investigative journalist Jose Belo is no stranger to controversy, legal threats or the inside of a prison cell.

He was imprisoned and tortured by the Indonesian occupation forces for a period during the 24 years of illegal occupation of Timor-Leste while smuggling out reports to the world from the beleagured resistance movement.

Five years ago he was threatened with a seven-year prison sentence for criminal defamation over allegations of corruption against the then justice minister.

This prompted a high-profile international appeal by journalists, academics and media freedom campaigners to then President Jose Ramos-Horta to have the case dropped.

Threats are common over Belo's campaigns to root out corruption and nepotism in his fledgling Asia-Pacific state - the world's newest nation barely a decade old.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

End petro 'shoddy deals' with East Timor by maritime boundary justice, says advocate

Timor-Leste's government "palace" in the capital Dili ... seeking a fair deal over
the Timor Sea maritime boundary. Photo: David Robie/PMC
Report by The Independente in Dili
AUSTRALIA should stop "short-changing" Timor-Leste with "shoddy deals" over oil and gas and establish permanent maritime boundaries with its island nation neighbour, says a Timor Sea justice advocate.

Tom Clarke, spokesperson for the Timor Sea Justice Campaign, says it is high time the Australian government stopped "jostling" Timor-Leste over the temporary boundary.

In a strongly worded statement, Clarke kept up his criticism of the Australian government's strategy of manoeuvring Timor-Leste into temporary resource-sharing agreements over oil and gas extraction in the Timor Sea, arguing such contracts were not a long-term solution.

"Only permanent maritime boundaries - established in accordance with current international law - can put this matter to rest," he said.

"Prime Minister [Tony] Abbott has a chance to cement Australia's strong relationship with Timor-Leste by agreeing to permanent boundaries that would ensure Timor-Leste is not being short-changed through shoddy deals regarding oil and gas resources."

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Remembering East Timor's Kraras massacre 30 years on

Police, military perimeter guards and the public watch
the 38th independence anniversary parade at the
"widows village" of Kraras. Mobile photo: David Robie/PMC

ON 28 November 1975, Timor-Leste made its fateful unilateral declaration of independence. A week later, a paranoid Indonesian military, fearful of an upstart "leftwing" neighbouring government, staged its brutal invasion and 24 years of repression and massacres followed.

On 17 September 1983, the infamous massacre of at least 300 civilians (probably a far higher number) took place at the village of Kraras and Wetuka River near Viqueque.

This heralded the end of the so-called ceasefire between Indonesian and Falintil forces and led to the long guerrilla struggle against Jakarta's harsh rule.

This week, the people of Kraras - the "village of widows" - proudly hosted the 38th anniversary of Timor-Leste independence; the real date, not the "rewritten" post-UN date. They also honoured the 30th anniversary of the Kraras massacre.

The massacre has been graphically portrayed in Timor-Leste's first feature film, Beatriz's War, and it was fitting that this movie should be screened to thousands of Timorese in an open-air arena at the independence festival this week.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Read draft media law first, East Timor's print adviser tells critics

Otelio Ote, former Timor Post editorial director and now government print media adviser,
is upbeat over the Timorese media future. Photo: David Rbie/PMC

TIMOR-LESTE'S national print adviser has one piece of advice for critics of the controversial planned media law - read the draft document first before jumping to conclusions.

Otelio Ote, who until his state media office appointment in mid-July was editorial director of the Timor Post daily newspaper and is still a part-time editor there, is optimistic about the proposed legislation.

"The law isn't about control of the media, it's about shoring up the status of the media and making journalism more professional in this country," he says.

Ote revealed that the government plans to set up a national news agency in Timor-Leste next year, the first time the country has had one since Australian freelance journalist Roger East was commissioned to do the job immediately before the Indonesian invasion in December 1975.

East was murdered by invading soldiers after investigating the deaths of the so-called Balibo Five in a human rights atrocity - five Australians, Britons and a New Zealander who were reporting for two televison channels from the border town on pre-invasion Indonesian incursions.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

East Timor's Independente champions genuine 'free press'

Independente's editorial director Mouzinho Lopes de Araujo ... living up
to the "people's freedom" motto. Photo: David Robie/PMC

WHILE the Timor-Leste media industry was rejuvenated by a national congress last month that voted on a new code of ethics, one of the country's most independent chief editors has warned against the risks of a "media council elephant".

Mouzinho Lopes de Araujo, editorial director of Timor-Leste's newest paper, the Independente, is proud of the progress of the country's fledgling media but says there are still many problems to address.

"There are many impediments to a free press in Timor-Leste," he says. "We don't really have a free press in this country. The press is all about what the government is doing and celebrations."

A draft media law is currently before the national Parliament and it is widely feared that a journalist licensing system and criminal penalties could be imposed as in Fiji and mooted in Papua New Guinea.

"The government is only interested in getting its own agenda across in the media, not what the people want," Lopes says.

Honouring the Matebian massacre victims in East Timor

Student candles for the victims of the Matebian massacre in Timor-Leste.
Photo: Belo Dutay
By Celestino Gusmão for Café Pacific 

University students from Timor-Leste's eastern Baucau district gathered this week to commemorate the 1979 Matebian cave massacre in a month of events focused on protest against the impunity over atrocities during the illegal Indonesian occupation.

At the place at Foho Matebian on the slopes of the mountain of that name where the students lit candles, Indonesian forces used bombs to seal off the inhabitants of an entire village inside a cave with a rockfall.

Even if people had survived the rocks, they would have died of starvation trapped in the cave.
Until now, their remains are buried behind the rocks.

It is in this area during 1978/9 when the majority of the Timor-Leste population abandoned the struggle against Indonesian forces and instead took up a guerrilla struggle.

The Fretilin leadership was disorganised but took up armed struggle in the hills until Indonesia reluctantly agreed to a referendum on independence in 1999.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

East Timor's Hera Power Plant - mega-project or 'mega problem'?

The new jetty and entry post at Hera Power Plant near Dili - just across the road
from the electricity producer. Photo: David Robie/PMC
THE TIMOR-LESTE capital Dili's main heavy oil power plant at Hera, about 15 km on the eastern side of the city, still remains at the centre of controversy.

A fact-based page by the advocacy group La'o Hamutuk (Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis) cites many critical performance reports and is headed: "Mega-project or mega problem?"

Little has been in the public domain in recent months, but according to review documents cited by LH last year, the supervising consultancy ELC/Bonifica said in a report in January 2012 on the construction phase:

"The overall performance of the Contractor CNI22 [Chinese Nuclear Industry Construction Company No. 22 [responsible for the high-voltage national transmission grid], remains poor in particular for the quality of finishing works. Despite of continuous warnings done by the Consultant [E/B], the situation does not improve."

A separate report also said three (out of seven) generating sets from the Hera plant were operating, using diesel fuel unloaded at Tibar port to the west of Dili.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

ADB signs new US$50m loan for Timor-Leste roads plan

Asian Development Bank resident representative Shane Rosenthal and deputy director general
of the Pacific department Noriko Ogawa at the media conference in the new
Resident Mission in Timor-Leste. Photo: David Robie/PMC
 THE ASIAN Development Bank has signed a US$50 million loan with the Timor-Leste government in the latest segment of the Asia-Pacific nation's road upgrade programme.

Timor-Leste currently has plans for about 600 km of road reconstruction - almost half of the national grid - at a cost of around US$1 a kilometre.

It is planned to have a national network of "reliable, safe" roads that are also "climate change proof", ADB officials told local media.

The latest loan agreement signed by ADB's deputy director-general of the Pacific department, Noriko Ogawa, and Finance Minister Emilia Pires covers a 117km stretch across the rugged interior between Manatuto and Natarbora.

Many roads in Timor-Leste, especially in remote areas and also between the capital Dili and some main towns, are currently risky and prone to erosion and flooding.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan - being a hero for each other

The devastation in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan on Iloilo in the Philippines.
Photo: SBS/AFP
Reflections by Joan Cybil Yao

I NEED to tell you: Typhoon Haiyan was worse than any of us could ever have imagined. The Philippines receives 20+ typhoons every year - floods, landslides and partly-blown off roofs are par for the course.

Believe me when I say we have never before seen the likes of Yolanda /Haiyan.

I need to tell you: Everyday, I read the news and reports from the field, thinking we've reached the bottom of suffering and despair, only to find new depths.

Just when I think my heart can't break any further from the stories of loss and tragedy, something new turns up to break it all over again.

I need to tell you about the bodies decomposing on tree branches, under piles of rubble from collapsed houses, in churches, on the sides of roads, wrapped in blankets or straw mats.

I need to tell you that the news cameras cannot show their faces - features frozen in fear as they died.

I need to tell you about the storm surge - the 6-metre wall of water that rose out of the sea, rushed several kilometres inland and crashed over every building and house by the coastline.

You need to understand that our nation is made up of 7107 islands; nearly everything is by the coastline.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Change economic direction or face 'bleak' future warning for Timor-Leste

The La'o Hamutuk logo sign outside the development advocacy group's office
in Bebora in the Timor-Leste capital of Dili. Photo: David Robie
THE INDEPENDENT Timor-Leste development advocacy group La'o Hamutuk has called for an urgent review of national budget planning priorities for next year or the country will face a "bleak" future.

The Asia-Pacific nation's oil and gas revenues are predicted to dry up by 2020 - six years earlier than has been previously thought.

"We have only six years to develop our non-oil economy and markedly increase domestic revenues, which is an urgent national challenge," La’o Hamutuk said in an open letter to the national Parliament.

As well as greater emphasis on "human infrastructure" development, the advocacy group also called for more transparency around the budget debate and better consultation with civil society.

Earlier this year the 2013 budget process dropped the traditional plenary debate in favour of a closed door ad-hoc committee review.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

'Don't abandon your East Timor responsibility,' ANTI tells world

A journalist in a Timor-Leste Press Club t-shirt pays his respects with flowers at the Santa
Cruz tomb of Sebastiao Gomes whose killing by Indonesian soldiers
triggered the 1991 mourner protest and massacre. Photo: David Robie
A COALITION of 21 peace, social justice and human rights advocacy NGOs has warned the international community not to 'abandon their responsibility" to prosecute serious crimes by the Indonesian military during the 24-year illegal occupation of Timor-Leste.

East Timor declared independence in 1975 but Indonesia invaded in December that year and brutally occupied the country for the next quarter of a century.

In a statement issued to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Santa Cruz cemetery massacre of at least 270 mourners by Indonesian soldiers in the capital of Dili on 12 November 1991, the Timor-Leste International Tribunal Alliance (ANTI) declared that "truth and justice" were the foundations for a developing democracy in the Asia-Pacific state.

Condemning the "depravity" of the illegal occupation of Timor-Leste by Indonesian forces, ANTI said the "impacts of impunity continue to haunt the Indonesian and Timorese people".

ANTI included demands for:

Friday, November 8, 2013

'Embedded' Ben on the ground with Afghanistan's Pacific 'freedom operation'

Task Force Guam leaders present photojournalist Ben Bohane (centre) with a special award after Bohane recently embedded with the Guam Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment. After years of covering conflict throughout the Pacific, Bohane ventured to Afghanistan to cover Pacific Islanders serving Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo: Sgt Eddie Siguenza]

Sergeant Edward Siguenza reports from Camp Phoenix in Afghanistan for the Guam News

Benjamin "Ben" Bohane's strides are long, perfectly fitting his 6-foot-3 thin Australian frame.

So when he walks with genetically short-statured Pacific Islanders -- as he did as an embedded photojournalist with the Guam Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment throughout October -- he immediately established conflict with his military escorts.

"Hey, slow down," a 5-foot-7 Guam soldier shouts as they prepare to board a plane to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. "Take smaller steps. The plane's not going anywhere without us."

Bohane turns around and notices his 10-foot lead.

"Sorry mate," he proclaims in his Australian tone. "Size 12 shoes. I was born with big feet."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Scandinavian media and press freedom travels

A light-hearted moment for a police squad during a demonstration in Vilnius. Image from
the Lithuanian National Press Agency exhibition at the Helsinki Town Hall, Finland.
Photo: David Robie
CAFÉ PACIFIC’S publisher David Robie has been travelling widely on sabbatical across Scandinavia and France in the past few weeks, meeting media freedom campaigners (such as at Reporters Sans Frontières), giving guest lectures at journalism schools such as at Stockholm University and the Danish School of Media and Journalism, and on various research projects.

David Robie 'reading' Norway's
Aftonbladet Söndag.
Some of his images can be seen on his Facebook page and watch for other reports at the Pacific Media Centre.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Russia fails to attend tribunal hearing on 'piracy' seizure of Arctic Sunrise

The seized Arctic Sunrise under Russian Navy guard in Murmansk Harbour.
Photo: Greenpeace
FOLLOWING a hearing at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), where the Netherlands brought a case seeking the release of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and its crew, Greenpeace International general counsel Jasper Teulings has praised the Dutch government for its "strong stance for rule of law" over the widely condemned seizure of the environmental campaign ship.

"The Dutch government argued its case extremely strongly," Teulings said.

The Arctic Sunrise Tribunal at International Maritime Court/
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS)
in Hamburg. Photo: Greenpeace
"The Netherlands is taking a strong stance in support of the rule of law and the right to peacefully protest. Greenpeace International applauds the Dutch decision as flag state of the Arctic Sunrise in taking the necessary legal steps to gain the release of the ship and the Arctic 30.

"Greenpeace International is confident that the Tribunal will take appropriate account of the fundamental rights of the Arctic 30, and the impact of their detention on those rights, in reaching its eventual decision."

The Russian Federation did not attend today's hearing in Hamburg, Germany, and the sitting was closed following the presentation of the Dutch government's oral argument.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Spotlight Vanuatu: Ben Bohane, Black Islands: Spirit and War in Melanesia

West Papua: An OPM guerrilla with cassowary headdress during an independence flag-raising ceremony
in the Highlands, 1995. © Ben Bohane

Thank you Pacific Media Centre and IPA

Australian photographer/writer Ben Bohane’s new monograph Black Islands: Spirit and War in Melanesia is the manifestation of his vision to document the culture, wars and islands beyond the borders of Australia. The book is the culmination of Bohane’s dedication to photograph under-reported Pacific issues and history. By Tamara Voninski of IPA.

PROFILE: From your perspective as an Australian photographer and writer based in Vanuatu, is Australia a continent island or part of the Pacific Islands? Why?

I have always been slightly troubled by this notion that Australia is a continent, as if we are removed from our immediate geography. The reality is, if we choose to see it the way earlier generations of Australians did – that Australia is just a big Pacific island, forever connected by the blood and song lines of our indigenous people and our long relationship with our immediate Melanesian neighbours. Modern multicultural Australia has forgotten the importance of the Pacific islands and our shared identity and destiny with it. Just look at the map. Australians have become so globalised that they have forgotten their own backyard, yet for a photojournalist like myself, there are incredible stories here that need to be told to Australians, instead of our news constantly dominated by the wars of the Middle East and the “boom” of Asia.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Activist charged with illegally screening No Fire Zone doco about Sri Lanka's 'Killing Fields'

Callum Macrae, filmmaker and journalist, has been at the forefront of a campaign to bring the government of Rajapaksa to the International Court of Justice for crime against humanity. spoke to Macrae about his film.

 From The Nation in Kuala Lumpur
A HUMAN rights activist has been charged at the magistrate's court in Kuala Lumpur with the screening of a controversial documentary, which was not cleared by the Film Censorship Board, on the alleged atrocities by the Sri Lankan army during the country's civil war.

An excerpt from the documentary was shown at AUT University in Auckland last week with the launching of the Asia-Pacific Human Rights Coalition (APHRC) in association with the Pacific Media Centre.

An Amnesty International spokesperson and other activists spoke at the Auckland meeting.

Lena Hendry, 28, a Komas programme coordinator, claimed trial to screening the film No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Jalan Maharajalela, at 9pm on July 3, 2013.

She was charged under the Film Censorship Act 2002 and is liable to a maximum fine of RM30,000 (about NZ$11,000) or three years jail, upon conviction.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

US military's 'Asia Pivot' strategy condemned at Philippines summit

The Real News video on the controversial "US Pivot" policy.

 From The Real News

ACTIVISTS holding a key international conference in the Philippines this month opposing greater planned United States military presence in Asia, have accused the US of being responsible for rapes, killings and environmental destruction that go unpunished.

Dyan Ruiz, a co-producer of a Real News programme about the conference, has warned of the impact of a new wave of US militarisation in Asia.

The International Conference on the "US Pivot" to Asia-Pacific: US Militarism, Intervention and War was attended by nearly 60 delegates from 13 countries, including Australia, Japan, the Philippnes and South Korea.

Renato Reyes Jr, secretary general of Bayan, a Philippine progressive political organisation and a lead organiser of the conference, said: "It's high time that the people in Asia [should] be allowed to determine their own course and to chart own direction and their own foreign policy free from any dictates of the United States.

Producer Ruiz said: "Despite the support of their own respective governments, the delegates see US military intervention as a violation of their countries' sovereignty.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tribute to the ‘female Pied Piper’ of Pacific nuclear justice

Darlene Keju's groundbreaking 1983 address to the World Council of Churches in Vancouver, Canada.

Darlene Keju: Pacific health pioneer, champion for nuclear survivors
By Giff Johnson, 2013.
USA, Charleston, SC: Book link.

By Celine Kearney for the Pacific Media Centre

Don’t Ever Whisper is Giff Johnson’s biography of his wife Darlene Keju-Johnson, a Marshallese woman who reached out to a global audience about the health effects of US nuclear tests on her people, including cancers and birth deformities. At the same time, the book documents Marshallese politics and the duplicity of US administrations that allowed the Marshall Islands and the people to be used for nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s, conducting studies out of sight of mainstream media.

US government policy was that Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap and Utrick were the only radiation affected atolls, but this deliberately covered up fallout dangers.

Don’t Ever Whisper is also a case study of how a fiercely committed, energetic and optimistic young woman developed a group of youth health workers, Youth to Youth in Health (YTYIH), part of the Ministry of Health’s health promotion programme, working as peer educators on inner and outer islands.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Indonesian police fire teargas on peaceful West Papua rally, arrest 21

Police fire teargas on protesters in Jayapura. Photo: Jubi/Arnold Belau
From Tabloid Jubi in Jayapura (translated from Bahasa)

POLICE have fired teargas on dozens of West Papuan peaceful demonstrators marking International Democracy Day at Waena in the capital of Jayapura.

Tabloid Jumi said 21 people were arrested at the rally, organised by the local chapter of the West Papua National Committeee (KNPB)

"We gave a five-minute warning for the KNPB to disband because this demo did not not permission from us," said Wakapolresta Jayapura Kiki Kurnia to Wim Rocky Medlama, a KNPB spokesperson.

When the protesters did not retreat, Jayapura police seized the demonstration command car and this triggered chaos.

The police fired tear gas over the demonstrators’ heads.

Friday, September 13, 2013

West Papua supporters hail 'sacred mission' as success

WEST PAPUA Freedom Flotilla supporters have uploaded a video of their secret ceremonial "sacred mission" in Papuan coastal waters earlier today on YouTube. A SBS report cited activists hailing the mission as a success. Here it is.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Indigenous leaders from Australia, West Papua meet in secret at sea

Photo: West Papua Freedom Flotilla

From the West Papua Freedom Flotilla

EVADING the Indonesian navy, two tiny boats met near the Australia-Indonesia border to ceremonially reconnect the indigenous peoples of Australia and West Papua.

The ceremony was the pinnacle of a 5000km journey beginning in Lake Eyre, in which sacred water and ashes were carried and presented to West Papuan leaders.

While the Freedom Flotilla’s flagship, The Pog, sailed towards West Papua, the world watched its progress via a live satellite tracker onboard the vessel, providing a much needed distraction for the clandestine ceremony to take place in an undisclosed location off the south coast of Papua.

The cultural exchange of Indigenous elders was held in secret, due to threats made by Indonesian government ministers and military officials who had stated that the navy and air-force would “take measures” against the peaceful protest, and had not ruled out the use of lethal force.

Soon to be Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had also stated that Indonesia may do “whatever it wishes” to stop the peaceful protest.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Say fromage! AFP 'self-censorship row' highlights thin-skinned politicians

A visitor takes a picture of the artwork entitled "Travesty" depicting Valdimir Putin
and Dmitry Medvedev at an exhibition in St Petersburg, 15 August 2013. Photo: IOC/R
By Milana Knezevic of Index on Censorship/IFEX

FRENCH news agency AFP has been caught up in a self-censorship row after attempting to retract a photo of President Francois Hollande flashing a gormless smile. The whole debacle has gone viral, forcing AFP to make a statement denying they had caved to government pressure.

Rather, they cited internal editorial guidelines "not to transmit images that gratuitously ridicule people". However, politicians are not strangers to banning (or trying to ban!) images that make them look a bit silly.

You'd think that Vladimir Putin, used to being in the public eye, captured in completely random and non-staged situations like this, wouldn't mind being the inspiration for some fine art.

That turned out not to be the case when a St Petersburg gallery exhibited a painting of Putin and PM Dmitry Medvedev - the former sporting a fetching pink negligee, the latter a black lace push-up bra.

Russian police raided the gallery and removed the picture in question, as well as three others depicting Russian political leaders. The reason given was that the images 'violate existing legislation'.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Damning indictment of nuclear testing in the Pacific

Nuclear Exodus - Rongelap Islanders on board the Rainbow Warrior. Photo/video: David Robie


The legacy from US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands has provided a media backdrop to last week's 44th Pacific Islands Forum in Majuro. Here is a short documentary made by David Robie and his Aroha Productions team and broadcast by Television New Zealand.

The item was published in the New Zealand Listener as a documentary preview on 2 May 1987 before the film was screened on TVNZ's Tagata Pasifika:

By Pamela Stirling, editor of the NZ Listener

The Rongelap Islanders of Micronesia have been described as the first victims of World War Three.

Many of them remember March 1, 1954, as the day it "snowed" on their atoll, as deadly fallout dusted down from a 15 megaton thermonuclear test, codenamed Bravo, held on Bikini Atoll.

Since then Rongelap people have suffered leukaemia deaths, cancers, thyroid tumours, miscarriages, deformed children and births described as "jellyfish" babies.

A noted American researcher has predicted that everyone who was aged under 10 when the contamination occurred will die of cancer.

This award-winning, 12-minute film tells the story of their contamination, and of their evacuation three decades later by the peace ship Rainbow Warrior to Mejato Island, 150 km away. Scripted and co-produced by Pacific affairs writer David Robie, Nuclear Exodus is a damning indictment of the nuclear machine.

Monday, September 9, 2013

French rugby success gives hope to the marginalised

Mourad Boudjellal  ... the 'rugby emperor' of Toulon, champion of European rugby
and of the French marginalised. Photo:

By COLIN RANDALL of The Nation

On the morning after the French rugby club Toulon won Europe's Heineken cup final in May, the club's owner, Mourad Boudjellal, depicted the victory as a source of pride for people, like him, of immigrant

Aiming his remarks at Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far right, anti-immigrant Front National, Boudjellal, the son of an Algerian father and Armenian mother, said: "Let's hope Marine takes note.

"When access to culture and knowledge is given to the children of immigrants and they are trusted, they get to do a few things for their country and city," he told the French television channel BFMTV.

"When you do not hold them back, they can do good things."

As François Hollande launches his initiative to alleviate unemployment, poverty, poor housing and crime in the shabby suburbs where much of the immigrant community lives, he arguably needs such role models to show success in life, from modest beginnings, is possible.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fossil fuel industry 'needs to back down - not the Pacific' on climate change

Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Daniel Drageset interviews Marshall Islands Journal editor
Giff Johnson in Majuro.

By Michael Sergel of Pacific Scoop and the AUT journalism programe

CLIMATE CHANGE is top of the agenda in Majuro as the Pacific Islands Forum meets for the 44th time.

The Marshall Islands is calling for strong committed action on preventing and responding to climate change, as it welcomes delegates from 16 member states (minus suspended Fiji) to the renewable village that will play host to the next four days of talks.

Marshall Islands Forum Minister Phillip Muller said the Majuro Declaration was about “tangible action” rather than a “you-go-first” approach to climate policy.

“In the Pacific, we cannot afford to wait. We want the Forum to set the stage for a new, bolder approach,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in June.

“We call on not just governments but also intergovernmental organisations, the private sector and civil society to sign on to our declaration with their own measurable commitments aimed at averting a climate catastrophe.”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

PNG money laundering - 59 charged over corruption, alleges Today Tonight

By James Thomas of Today Tonight

Billions of dollars in foreign aid going to PNG are being siphoned off by corrupt politicians and officials - and into Aussie companies.

The Australian property market, casinos, and the banks are playing host to millions of dollars in foreign aid allegedly being siphoned off by corrupt Papua New Guinea politicians and officials.

The money trail ends up in Australian companies, caught up in the multi-million dollar corruption ring.

Sam Koim, head of PNG's Anti-Corruption Task Force, is on a mission to lift the lid on billions of dollars of dirty money leaving PNG to be laundered in Australia.

About 59 people have already been charged with corruption offences in PNG, and it is alleged much of their illegally obtained money is spent in Cairns.

Koim says Australia contributes about $500 million to the PNG budget, and 40 percent of that budget is lost to corruption annually.

Friday, August 23, 2013

West Papua activists will 'rot in jails' if Freedom Flotilla not helped

Aboriginal elder Kevin Buzzacott in silhouette with the West Papuans' Morning Star
- banned by Indonesian authorities - and Aboriginal flags on
the West Papua Freedom Flotilla.
CAMPAIGNERS on board the West Papua Freedom Flotilla will ‘rot in jail’ if the Australian government doesn't help them if they get into trouble, says Aboriginal elder Kevin Buzzacott.

The objective is “to free our brothers and sisters up there with all the bad stuff that’s happening”, Buzzacott says in an exclusive audio interview on YouTube with the Pacific Media Centre's Daniel Drageset, reporting for Pacific Media Watch and Pacific Scoop.

The flotilla has gathered a range of pro-independence campaigners on the journey going from Lake Eyre in northern South Australia, via New South Wales and the Queensland coast, across the Torres Strait to Daru in Papua New Guinea and finally Merauke in West Papua, where the flotilla is scheduled to arrive early next month.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Australian authorities have informed the Freedom Flotilla that local laws and penalties will apply in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

“We’ve given them this warning. Therefore, should they end up in prison as a result of breaching the law of Indonesia or Papua New Guinea we’ve got no obligation to give them consular support,” Carr said, according to

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sneak preview on Solomon Islands documentary in progress - help needed

By Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka

THIS is a sneak preview of a documentary about the Solomon Islands conflict that Larry Thomas from Fiji and I have been working on for years.

We started filming in early 2003, prior to the deployment of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). We went back and did more filming after the RAMSI intervention.

We are now in the editing stage and looking for funds to complete the film. If you have ideas on where and how to access funds to complete this important film, please let me know.

This film will contribute a lot to the history of the Solomon Islands conflicts and the aspirations of Solomon Islanders.

In filming, we travelled to Malaita, Western Solomons and around Guadalcanal.

Friday, August 9, 2013

'Cry Freedom: Mandela's Legacy' - new Peter Cronau investigation on ABC

Cry Freedom: Mandela's Legacy. Photos by Louie Eroglu/ACS
Four Corners TV report by Matt Carney and Peter Cronau

NELSON MANDELA promised a South Africa based on freedom and equality. But as the country's former leader lies in hospital critically ill, the nation he fought to create is slowly disintegrating.

Violence is commonplace, unemployment is out of control and the ruling ANC government is accused of rampant corruption.

Next on Four Corners reporter Matthew Carney goes to South Africa to try and understand the forces that threaten to pull the "rainbow nation" apart. What he finds after nearly 20 years of ANC in government is a tiny black elite have enriched themselves at the expense of a poor black majority.

For the poor not much has changed... 18 million people live on less than $2 a day.

The Marikana mine massacre illuminates the massive contradictions and difficulties confronting the country.

On 16 August last year, 3000 miners gathered to protest substandard wages. The police opened fire killing 34 people and wounding another 78.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Café Pacific now on YouTube

A NEW VIDEO channel has been opened by Café Pacific on YouTube with a variety of Pasifika media, human rights and environmental resources. Find it here.

Media academic seeks stronger journalism empowerment over climate change

The Hungry Tide, one of the documentaries featured in Professor David Robie’s Suva paper on Pacific journalism’s own challenges of adaptation to environmental changes. Trailer: Ronin Films

By Sherita Sharma in Suva

A former USP academic says global environmental challenges – especially in the Pacific region – give the opportunity for deliberative journalism to help Pacific communities become empowered.

At a symposium organised during the recent 12th Pacific Science Inter-Congress, Professor David Robie, based at the Auckland University of Technology and a former head of USP Journalism, talked about a variety of issues stemming from the challenge of environmental reporting in the Pacific.

In his presentation, Deliberative journalism, environmental risk and media credibility, Dr Robie explored traditional media values and Pacific journalism’s own challenges of adaptation to environmental changes.

Deliberative journalism is issues-based reporting, and looking at daily news as issues and not merely events.  In the Pacific context, reporting on environmental issues such as climate change have become more prevalent, with countries such as Kiribati and Tuvalu bearing the brunt of these global challenges.

Dr Robie was speaking at a parallel social sciences symposium entitled “Oceans and Islands: ‘Failed states’ and the environment in the Pacific”.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Behind The Shroud - Ahmed Zaoui case exposé finally on TV


By Selwyn Manning

Tonight for the first time on New Zealand television the public will be told why and how the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) got the Ahmed Zaoui case so wrong. What can we learn from those mistakes?

Should the SIS, GCSB and our intelligence aparatus undergo significant reform? This documentary explains what the government refused to reveal.

FaceTV Sky channel 83 @ 8pm.

Behind The Shroud reveals for the first time secret testimonies of witnesses who appeared before the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s secret hearings into the Ahmed Zaoui case.

This testimony is highly relevant today as we all debate how we as New Zealanders can all take a role in resisting gross abuses against our civil liberties and the excessive use of the state’s intelligence agency powers.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Australia complicit in PNG's Bougainville blight

Pacific conflict: Associate Professor Tarcisius Kabutaulaka, of the University of Hawai'i, and others speak about conflict and transition. How can conflict-affected countries break cycles of violence, low trust or weak institutions? A Praxis panel seminar series.

OPINION by Ellena Savage of Eureka Street

THE PNG Solution is in breach of international law. It doesn't serve the best interest of the asylum seekers it will affect.

And Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship is taking grossly insufficient responsibility for the safety and security of its detainees on Manus Island.

But the PNG Solution is just another in a long line of "border control" solutions which are in breach of legality and morality. There is nothing new about it.

Much has been made of PNG's poverty and gender-based violence, but even more disturbing is its military and police human rights record.

Evidence of abuses in the form of a military blockade, massacres, rape and torture during the Bougainville Crisis, the civil war that spanned the 1990s, are well-documented.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Powerful documentary on NZ military in Afghanistan poses tough questions

AWARD-WINNING filmmakers Annie Goldson (Brother Number One, An Island Calling), and Kay Ellmers (Canvassing the Treaty, Polynesian Panthers) present the feature version of He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan.

It will be screened - full-length - for the first time at the New Zealand International Film Festival on Sunday.

Originally airing in a broadcast version on Māori Television, the film has been extended adding substantial more content.

Following non-embedded journalist Jon Stephenson into Afghanistan, the documentary discusses the role and legacy New Zealand troops have played in that beautiful war-torn country.

Revelations have surfaced that Stephenson was spied upon by US agencies while he was working in Afghanistan, and that as an investigative journalist, he was called a "subversive" by New Zealand's own Defence Force gives the film a currency - even urgency - begging the question of what the role of the media is within our democracy.

Using a range of Kiwi and Afghan voices, He Toki Huna asks why New Zealand became involved in the war, why it stayed so long, and why the public have learned so little.

He Toki Huna challenges the rosy picture presented by most media reports, which have side-stepped the realities of combat and death in a conflict that has dragged on for 10 years.

Jake Bryant's footage captures the extraordinary landscapes of Afghanistan.

Monday, July 29, 2013

NZ Defence Force’s paranoia about journalism 'subversives'

Cartoon source: Bryce Edwards blog
By Gordon Campbell on Scoop

IF THE thousands of people who marched on the weekend against New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bill (GCSB Bill) wanted further justification for their concerns, the Defence Force has just provided it with bells on.

The mindset that treats journalists as being threats to security on a par with foreign hostiles, activist groups, criminal hackers and dishonest staff is an excellent illustration of why the surveillance powers bestowed by the Bill are so dangerous.

A Defence Force that treats the normal querying of the status quo by the Fourth Estate as being essentially treasonous in nature, has gone off the reservation, and is out of control.

Give it the power to do so, and such an organisation will readily use the surveillance powers in the GCSB Bill to substantiate its persecution complex.

It is already doing so. This isn’t just a theoretical danger, glimmering somewhere off in the future.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

French nuclear tests 'showered vast area of Polynesia with radioactivity'

The French Licorne thermonuclear test at Moruroa Atoll on 3 July 1970. Photo: CTBTO
Flashback to a story earlier this month: Declassified papers show extent of plutonium fall-out from South Pacific tests of 60s and 70s was kept hidden, reports French paper

By Angelique Chrisafis in Paris for The Guardian

FRENCH nuclear tests in the South Pacific in the 1960s and 1970s were far more toxic than has been previously acknowledged and hit a vast swath of Polynesia with radioactive fallout, according to newly declassified Ministry of Defence documents which have angered veterans and civilians' groups.

The papers, seen by the French paper Le Parisien, reportedly reveal that plutonium fallout hit the whole of French Polynesia, a much broader area than France had previously admitted. Tahiti, above, the most populated island, was exposed to 500 times the maximum accepted levels of radiation. The impact spread as far as the tourist island, Bora Bora.

Thousands of veterans, families and civilians still fighting for compensation over health issues have insisted France now reveals the full truth about the notorious tests whose impact was kept secret for decades.

From 1960 to 1996, France carried out 210 nuclear tests, 17 in the Algerian Sahara and 193 in French Polynesia in the South Pacific, symbolised by the images of a mushroom cloud over the Moruroa atoll.

Friday, July 26, 2013

NZ protesters condemn GCSB ‘spy bill’ and spooks centre with Pacific targets

A young mother with a ‘nothing to hide’ placard during the ‘spy bill’
protest in Auckland today. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
Thanks to the Pacific Media Centre's report on Pacific Scoop

THOUSANDS of protesters took to the streets in New Zealand today to demonstrate against a government communications agency accused of spying on Pacific nations, including Fiji, and proposed law giving it greater powers to spy on NZ citizens.

More than 1000 people protested in central Auckland outside the Town Hall, including internet millionaire Kim Dotcom who is a vocal opponent of NZ's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

Big crowds gathered in protest staged in 11 other cities and downs against Prime Minister John Key's proposed "spy bill", which would give extra powers to the GCSB.

The legislation is likely to be passed in Parliament after United Future's Peter Dunne confirmed earlier this week that he would back the controversial bill after changes that have been widely condemned as "window-dressing".

Once passed into law, the bill would extend the powers of the GCSB to allow it to provide information for the New Zealand Police, Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The horrors of PNG's Manus Island - by a whistleblower

TONIGHT'S SBS Dateline programme has an exclusive insight - Manus Whistleblower - into the horrors of life within Australia’s refugee centre at Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Reporter Mark Davis speaks to a detention centre whistleblower, who has explosive allegations of detainees being sexually abused and tortured by other asylum seekers.

With no facilities to segregate or remove the abusers, Mark hears of the desperation for those continually being abused while waiting months for their asylum applications to be processed … attempted suicides and self-harming are said to be an "almost daily" occurrence.

The allegations come as the Australian government announces all asylum seekers arriving by boat will be processed and resettled in Papua New Guinea, with the Manus centre to be expanded.

Dateline's whistleblower interview follows Mark’s disturbing story two months ago about life at Manus Island, when Australian officials at the detention centre went to great lengths to stop him filming.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A ‘dirty war’, NZ military cover-up and the vindication of a journalist

 Trailer for the Jeremy Scahill film Dirty Wars about the hidden truth over America's covert wars.

INDEPENDENT investigative journalist Jon Stephenson called it a “moral victory”. The Herald on Sunday described it as a “vindication” in an editorial.

And for many New Zealand journalists it was a humiliation of the military even before the defamation case was over.

Although the jury couldn’t make up its mind on whether it was defamation, the NZ Defence Force chief, Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones, had already conceded the factual issues, the smear webpage against Stephenson had been removed and the military had pledged to make public statement accepting the journalist’s version of events in his reports of New Zealand’s role in the “dirty war” in Afghanistan.

An independent journalist had taken on the might of the Defence Force with its battery of lawyers and legal resources – and won.

Jon Stephenson’s credibility was intact, the Defence Force’s credibility in tatters. But at what price?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Is Australia's new Asia-Pacific asylum policy the harshest in its history?

Australian protesters rail against the new Rudd asylum-seekers policy outside the
Sydney Town Hall today. Photo: Peter Boyle/Socialist Action
FOLLOWING Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's announcement, asylum seekers who arrive in Australian waters by boat will no longer have the chance to be settled in Australia.

Instead, asylum seekers arriving by boat will be held in an expanded facility at Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and those who are found to be genuine refugees will be settled in PNG under a surprise agreement with the Peter O'Neill government in Port Moresby.

Announcing the changes yesterday, Rudd admitted it was "a very hardline decision".

 Protests in Sydney greeted the new policy.

The Conversation spoke to three policy analysts for their response to Rudd's announcement:

ALISON GERARD, senior lecturer in justice studies at Charles Sturt University, Bathurst: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's "Pacific Solution #3" is irreconcilable with our international refugee obligations. Like other proposals put forward by this government, it is likely to be robustly contested in court as a breach of basic human rights.

Rugby - sorry, football's - Le Choc match more than crunch charity winner

Toulon's Pierrick Gunther tackles Olympique Marseille's Mathieu Valbuena
in the hybrid football/rugby charity match. Photo: AFP
SURELY this could only happen in France. And with the balmy Mediterranean air massaging the brain. Olympique Marseille, one of France's top football teams, has defeated European rugby champions Toulon in a a hybrid rugby/football charity match by - yes, one point.

And then as a side-piece of entertainment, co-referee Eric Cantona showed why he is "still the king" by lobbing over a trick rugby penalty goal that scraped the crossbar.

The other co-referee was former France coach Marx Lievremontwho almost steered Les Bleus to a shock World Rugby Cup win over the host New Zealand All Blacks in 2011.

This mad entertainment at Toulon's Stade Felix Mayol last Thursday was billed "Le Choc".

Thanks to Chris Wright of Who Ate All the Pies website for the report:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rainbow Warrior, state terrorism and 'paranoid' French politicians

 Total Recall interview with David Robie by programme host Sam Bloore.

Thanks to Pacific Media Watch:

PACIFIC MEDIA CENTRE director Professor David Robie has spoken out about the 1985 Rainbow Warrior state terror attack in a recent interview on the Newstalk ZB programme Total Recall.

July 10 marked the 28th anniversary of the French attack, which Professor Robie wrote about in his 1986 book Eyes of Fire and also Blood on their Banner on Pacific independence struggles in 1989.

"The whole attack was outrageous in the first instance. It's just inconceivable that an attack like that could have been launched against a major nation in the world, a peaceful nation," Dr Robie said.

"It's bad enough that they did that, but then the French government at the time also blackmailed New Zealand over trade."

Dr Robie was on the Rainbow Warrior voyage more more than two months as a journalist, but had left the ship three nights before it was bombed in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour.

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