Category: Global

  • Pacific Media Watch

    Many platitudes about media freedom and democracy laced last week’s Pacific International Media Conference in the Fijian capital of Suva. There was a mood of euphoria at the impressive event, especially from politicians who talked about journalism being the “oxygen of democracy”.

    The dumping of the draconian and widely hated Fiji Media Industry Development Act that had started life as a military decree in 2010, four years after former military commander Voreqe Bainimarama seized power, and was then enacted in the first post-coup elections in 2014, was seen as having restored media freedom for the first time in almost two decades.

    As a result, Fiji had bounced back 45 places to 44th on this year’s Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index – by far the biggest climb of any nation in Oceania, where most countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have been sliding downhill.

    One of Fiji’s three deputy Prime Ministers, Professor Biman Prasad, a former University of the South Pacific economist and long a champion of academic and media freedom, told the conference the new Coalition government headed by the original 1987 coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka had reintroduced media self-regulation and “we can actually feel the freedom everywhere, including in Parliament”.

    The same theme had been offered at the conference opening ceremony by another deputy PM, Manoa Kamikamica, who declared:

    “We pride ourselves on a government that tries to listen, and hopefully we can try and chart a way forward in terms of media freedom and journalism in the Pacific, and most importantly, Fiji.

    “They say that journalism is the oxygen of democracy, and that could be no truer than in the case of Fiji.”

    Happy over media law repeal
    Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Information and Communication Technology Timothy Masiu echoed the theme. Speaking at the conference launch of a new book, Waves of Change: Media, Peace, and Development in the Pacific (co-edited by Professor Prasad, conference chair Associate Professor Shailendra Singh and Dr Amit Sarwal), he said: “We support and are happy with this government of Fiji for repealing the media laws that went against media freedom in Fiji in the recent past.”

    Fiji Deputy Prime Minister Manoa Kamikamica
    Fiji Deputy Prime Minister Manoa Kamikamica . . . speaking about the “oxygen of democracy” at the opening of the Pacific International Media Conference in Suva on 4 July 2024. Image: Asia Pacific Media Network

    But therein lies an irony. While Masiu supports the repeal of a dictatorial media law in Fiji, he is a at the centre of controversy back home over a draft media law (now in its fifth version) that he is spearheading that many believe will severely curtail the traditional PNG media freedom guaranteed under the constitution.

    He defends his policies, saying that in PNG, “given our very diverse society with over 1000 tribes and over 800 languages and huge geography, correct and factful information is also very, very critical.”

    Masiu says that what drives him is a “pertinent question”:

    “How is the media being developed and used as a tool to protect and preserve our Pacific identity?”

    PNG Minister for Information and Communications Technology Timothy Masiu
    PNG Minister for Information and Communications Technology Timothy Masiu (third from right) at the conference pre-dinner book launchings at Holiday Inn, Suva, on July 4. The celebrants are holding the 30th anniversary edition of Pacific Journalism Review. Image: Wansolwara

    Another issue over the conference was the hypocrisy over debating media freedom in downtown Suva while a few streets away Fijian freedom of speech advocates and political activists were being gagged about speaking out on critical decolonisation and human rights issues such as Kanaky, Palestine and West Papua freedom.

    In the front garden of the Gordon Street compound of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC), the independence flags of Kanaky, Palestine and West Papua flutter in the breeze. Placards and signs daub the walls of the centre declaring messages such as “Stop the genocide”, “Resistance is justified! When people are occupied!”, “Free Kanaky – Justice for Kanaky”, “Ceasefire, stop genocide”, “Palestine is a moral litmus test for the world” and “We need rainbows not Rambos”.

    The West Papuan Morning Star and Palestinian flags for decolonisation fluttering high in downtown Suva
    The West Papuan Morning Star and Palestinian flags for decolonisation fluttering high in downtown Suva. Image: APMN

    ‘Thursdays in Black’
    While most of the 100 conference participants from 11 countries were gathered at the venue to launch the peace journalism book Waves of Change and the 30th anniversary edition of Pacific Journalism Review, about 30 activists were gathered at the same time on July 4 in the centre’s carpark for their weekly “Thursdays in Black” protest.

    But they were barred from stepping onto the footpath in public or risk arrest. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly Fiji-style.

    Protesters at the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre compound in downtown Suva in the weekly "Thursdays in Black" solidarity rally
    Protesters at the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre compound in downtown Suva in the weekly “Thursdays in Black” solidarity rally with Kanaky, Palestine and West Papua on July 4. Image: APMN

    Surprisingly, the protest organisers were informed on the same day that they could stage a “pre-Bastllle Day” protest about Kanaky and West Papua on July 12, but were banned from raising Israeli’s genocidal war on Palestine.

    Fiji is the only Pacific country to seek an intervention in support of Tel Aviv in South Africa’s case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague accusing Israel of genocide in a war believed to have killed more than 38,000 Palestinians — including 17,000 children — so far, although an article in The Lancet medical journal argues that the real death toll is more like 138,000 people – equivalent to almost a fifth of Fiji’s population.

    The protest march was staged on Friday but in spite of the Palestine ban some placards surfaced and also Palestinian symbols such as keffiyehs and watermelons.

    The "pre-Bastille Day" march in Suva in solidarity
    The “pre-Bastille Day” march in Suva in solidarity for decolonisation. Image: FWCC

    The Fiji NGO Coalition on Human Rights in Fiji and their allies have been hosting vigils at FWCC compound for Palestine, West Papua and Kanaky every Thursday over the last eight months, calling on the Fiji government and Pacific leaders to support the ceasefire in Gaza, and protect the rights of Palestinians, West Papuans and Kanaks.

    “The struggles of Palestinians are no different to West Papua, Kanaky New Caledonia — these are struggles of self-determination, and their human rights must be upheld,” said FWCC coordinator and the NGO coalition chair Shamima Ali.

    Solidarity for Kanaky in the "pre-Bastille Day" march
    Solidarity for Kanaky in the “pre-Bastille Day” march in Suva on Friday. Image: FWCC

    Media silence noticed
    Outside the conference, Pacific commentators also noticed the media hypocrisy and the extraordinary silence.

    Canberra-based West Papuan diplomacy-trained activist and musician Ronny Kareni complained in a post on X, formerly Twitter: “While media personnel, journos and academia in journalism gathered [in Suva] to talk about media freedom, media network and media as the oxygen of democracy etc., why Papuan journos can’t attend, yet Indon[esian] ambassador to Fiji @SimamoraDupito can??? Just curious.”

    Ronny Kareni's X post about the Indonesian Ambassador
    Ronny Kareni’s X post about the Indonesian Ambassador to Fiji Dupito D. Simamora. Image: @ronnykareni X screenshot APR

    At the conference itself, some speakers did raise the Palestine and decolonisation issue.

    Speaker Khairiah A Rahman (from left) of the Asia Pacific Media Network
    Speaker Khairiah A Rahman (from left) of the Asia Pacific Media Network and colleagues Pacific Journalism Review designer Del Abcede, PJR editor Dr Philip Cass, Dr Adam Brown, PJR founder Dr David Robie, and Rach Mario (Whānau Community Hub). Image: APMN

    Khairiah A. Rahman, of the Asia Pacific Media Network, one of the partner organisers along with the host University of the South Pacific and Pacific Islands News Association, spoke on the “Media, Community, Social Cohesion and Conflict Prevention” panel following Hong Kong Professor Cherian George’s compelling keynote address about “Cracks in the Mirror: When Media Representations Sharpen Social Divisions”.

    She raised the Palestine crisis as a critical global issue and also a media challenge.

    "Palestine is a moral litmus test for the world" poster
    “Palestine is a moral litmus test for the world” poster at the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre compound. Image: APMN

    In his keynote address, “Frontline Media Faultlines: How Critical Journalism Can Survive Against the Odds”, Professor David Robie, also of APMN, spoke of the common decolonisation threads between Kanaky, Palestine and West Papua.

    He also critiquing declining trust in mainstream media – that left some “feeling anxious and powerless” — and how they were being fragmented by independent start-ups that were perceived by many people as addressing universal truths such as the genocide in Palestine.

    PJR editorial challenge
    Dr Robie cited the editorial in the just-published Pacific Journalism Review which had laid down a media challenge over Gaza. He wrote:

    “Gaza has become not just a metaphor for a terrible state of dystopia in parts of the world, it has also become an existential test for journalists – do we stand up for peace and justice and the right of people to survive under the threat of ethnic cleansing and against genocide, or do we do nothing and remain silent in the face of genocide being carried out with impunity in front of our very eyes?

    “The answer is simple surely . . .

    “And it is about saving journalism, our credibility, and our humanity as journalists.”


    Professor David Robie’s keynote speech at Pacific Media 2023.  Video: The Australia Today

    At the end of his address, Dr Robie called for a minute’s silence in a tribute to the 158 Palestinian journalists who had been killed so far in the ninth-month war on Gaza. The Gazan journalists were awarded this year’s UNESCO Guillermo Cano Media Freedom Prize for their “courage and commitment to freedom of expression”.

    Undoubtedly the two most popular panels in the conference were the “Pacific Editors’ Forum” when eight editors from around the region “spoke their minds”, and a panel on sexual harassment on the media workplace and on the job.

    Little or no action
    According to speakers in “Gender and Media in the Pacific: Examining violence that women Face” panel introduced and moderated by Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) executive director Nalini Singh, female journalists continue to experience inequalities and harassment in their workplaces and on assignment — with little or no action taken against their perpetrators.

    Fiji journalist Lice Movono speaking on a panel discussion about "Prevalence and Impact of sexual harassment on female journalists"
    Fiji journalist Lice Movono speaking on a panel discussion about “Prevalence and Impact of sexual harassment on female journalists” at the Pacific International Media Conference in Fiji. Image: Stefan Armbruster/Benar News

    The speakers included FWRM programme director Laisa Bulatale, experienced Pacific journalists Lice Movono and Georgina Kekea, strategic communications specialist Jacqui Berell and USP’s Dr Shailendra Singh, associate professor and the conference chair.

    “As 18 and 19 year old (journalists), what we experienced 25 years ago in the industry is still the same situation — and maybe even worse now for young female journalists,” Movono said.

    She shared “unfortunate and horrifying” accounts of experiences of sexual harassment by local journalists and the lack of space to discuss these issues.

    These accounts included online bullying coupled with threats against journalists and their loved ones and families. stalking of female journalists, always being told to “suck it up” by bosses and other colleagues, the fear and stigma of reporting sexual harassment experiences, feeling as if no one would listen or care, the lack of capacity/urgency to provide psychological social support and many more examples.

    “They do the work and they go home, but they take home with them, trauma,” Movono said.

    And Kekea added: “Women journalists hardly engage in spaces to have their issues heard, they are often always called upon to take pictures and ‘cover’.”

    Technology harassment
    Berell talked about Technology Facilitated Gender Based Violence (TFGBV) — a grab bag term to cover the many forms of harassment of women through online violence and bullying.

    The FWRM also shared statistics on the combined research with USP’s School of Journalism on the “Prevalence and Impact of Sexual Harassment on Female Journalists” and data on sexual harassment in the workplace undertaken by the team.

    Speaking from the floor, New Zealand Pacific investigative television journalist Indira Stewart also rounded off the panel with some shocking examples from Aotearoa New Zealand.

    In spite of the criticisms over hypocrisy and silence over global media freedom and decolonisation challenges, participants generally concluded this was the best Pacific media conference in many years.

    Asia Pacific Media Network's Nik Naidu
    Asia Pacific Media Network’s Nik Naidu (right) with Maggie Boyle and Professor Emily Drew. Image: Del Abcede/APMN

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • By Patrick Decloitre, RNZ Pacific correspondent French Pacific desk

    More armoured vehicles and firetrucks have been delivered for Kanaky New Caledonia’s security forces, including police and firemen.

    The France-freighted shipment consignment arrived aboard a cargo vessel, the Calao, the French High Commission announced on Thursday.

    It contained 10 more armoured vehicles for the security forces, as well as 15 other vehicles said to benefit local firefighters.

    The fire-fighting trucks will be delivered to the local Civil Security department.

    “This is to pursue efforts to secure [New Caledonia] . . . It will be used to renew or replace equipment that has been damaged, including trucks and armoured vehicles,” French High Commissioner in New Caledonia Louis Le Franc said during a media briefing.

    The 10 new armoured vehicles, known as Centaur, will be added to six others that were already deployed in New Caledonia since last month.

    On board the same vessel, another batch of light armoured vehicles, dedicated to “exploration”, are described as bearing “reinforced windows” to protect passengers against bullets.

    While efforts are ongoing to remove the numerous roadblocks in Nouméa and its suburbs, in the Northern Province, three French gendarmes have been injured and sustained bone fractures after their car was targeted and hit by a vehicle used by rioters, the French High Commission said.

    New vehicles for New Caledonia firefighters
    New vehicles for New Caledonia firefighters. Image: French High Commission

    One of the gendarmes has since been medically evacuated.

    The incident took place in Houaïlou, in the north of the main island of Grande Terre.

    Earlier incidents, especially in urban areas, involved home-made Viet Minh-like traps such as manhole covers being removed and dissimulated under branches, while sharp iron rods had been sealed inside the hole.

    Several gendarmes who were tricked and fell into the hidden hole suffered serious injuries to the legs.

    In other instances, especially on the roadblocks where French security forces are still trying to clear traffic access, gas bottles have been converted into explosive devices after being fitted with homemade remote-controlled detonators.

    Saint Louis church presbytery destroyed by fire
    Over the past few days, another hot point has been the village of Saint Louis, in the township of Mont-Dore (near Nouméa), where one rioter was killed earlier this week after firing gunshots to the gendarmes, who later retorted.

    The death toll from the unrest is now 10.

    On Thursday night, Saint Louis’s Catholic Mission, which had been set up in 1860 by the Marists, was set on fire and the presbytery (which had been occupied by rioters for the past few days) has been completely destroyed.

    The Marist Brothers and Sisters had earlier been evacuated by French security forces.

    Violent unrest has been ongoing in New Caledonia since mid-May, when riots, looting, arson, broke out.

    This was initially in protest against a French government project to amend the Constitution and modify the rules of eligibility for local elections, a change perceived by the pro-independence movement as a bid to dilute the political strength of indigenous Kanak voters.

    The riots, the worst since a quasi civil war erupted during the second half of the 1980s, have since caused the deaths of eight civilians and two French gendarmes.

    Several hundred businesses and private residences were also set on fire and destroyed, for a total cost of some 2.2 billion euros (NZ$3.9 billion), according to the latest estimates.

    As a result, several thousand employees have lost their jobs.

    Two indicted women released – in home detention

    Indicted Frédérique Muliava walked out of jail on Wednesday 10 July, 2024 in Riom, France
    Indicted Frédérique Muliava walked out of jail last Wednesday in Riom, France. Image: NC la 1ère/Quentin Menu

    Last month, a group of pro-independence activists was indicted and flown to metropolitan France, where they are now serving pre-trial detention in several jails.

    They are facing a range of charges, revolving around allegations of “organised crime”.

    The arrests prompted a fresh upsurge in violence.

    Last Wednesday, the only two women in the group, Frédérique Muliava (chief-of-staff of pro-independence figure and New Caledonia Congress President Roch Wamytan) and Brenda Wanabo (described as communications officer of the controversial pro-independence “CCAT” – field actions coordination cell) have been allowed to leave their jail, located respectively in Riom (near Clermont-Ferrand) and Dijon (eastern France).

    Pending their trial before a French court, the two will however remain under home detention in the same cities and wearing electronic monitoring bracelets.

    This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • ANALYSIS: By Denise Fisher

    The voters in the second round of France’s national elections last weekend staved off an expected shift to the far-right. But the result in the Pacific territory Kanaky New Caledonia was also in many ways historic.

    Of the two assembly representatives decided, a position fell on either side of the deep polarisation evident in the territory — one for loyalists, one for supporters of independence. But it is the independence side that will take the most from the result.

    Turnout in the vote was remarkable, not only because of the violence in New Caledonia over recent months, which has curbed movement and public transport across the territory, but also because national elections have been seen particularly by independence parties as less relevant locally.

    Not this time.

    The two rounds of the elections saw voters arrive in droves, with 60 percent and 71 percent turnout respectively, compared to typically low levels of 35-40 percent in New Caledonia. Images showed long queues with many young people.

    Voting was generally peaceful, although a blockade prevented voting in one Kanak commune during the first round.

    After winning the first round, a hardline loyalist and independence candidate faced off in each constituency. The second round therefore presented a binary choice, effectively becoming a barometer of views around independence.

    Sobering results for loyalists
    While clearly not a referendum, it was the first chance to measure sentiment in this manner since the boycotted referendum in 2021, which had followed two independence votes narrowly favouring staying with France.

    The resulting impasse about the future of the territory had erupted into violent protests in May this year, when President Emmanuel Macron sought unilaterally to broaden voter eligibility to the detriment of indigenous representation. Only Macron then called snap national elections.

    These are sobering results for loyalists.

    So the contest, as it unfolded in New Caledonia, represented high stakes for both sides.

    In the event, loyalist Nicolas Metzdorf won 52.4 percent in the first constituency (Noumea and islands) over the independence candidate’s 47.6 percent. Independence candidate Emmanuel Tjibaou won 57.4 percent to the loyalist’s 42.6 percent in the second (Northern Province and outer suburbs of Noumea).

    The results, a surprise even to independence leaders, were significant.

    It is notable that in these national elections, all citizens are eligible to vote. Only local assembly elections apply the controversial voter eligibility provisions which provoked the current violence, provisions that advantage longstanding residents and thus indigenous independence supporters.

    Independence parties’ success
    Yet without the benefit of this restriction, independence parties won, securing a majority 53 percent (83,123 votes) to the loyalists’ 47 percent (72,897) of valid votes cast across the territory. They had won 43 percent and 47 percent in the two non-boycotted referendums.

    Even in the constituency won by the loyalist, the independence candidate, daughter-in-law of early independence fighter Nidoïsh Naisseline, won 47 percent of the vote.

    These are sobering results for loyalists.

    Jean Marie Tjibaou
    Jean-Marie Tjibaou, founding father of the independence movement in Kanaky New Caledonia, 1985. Image: David Robie/Café Pacific

    Independence party candidate Emmanuel Tjibaou, 48, carried particular symbolism. The son of the assassinated founding father of the independence movement Jean-Marie Tjibaou, Emmanuel had eschewed politics to this point, instead taking on cultural roles including as head of the Kanak cultural development agency.

    He is a galvanising figure for independence supporters.

    Emmanuel Tjibaou is now the first independence assembly representative in 38 years. He won notwithstanding France redesigning the two constituencies in 1988 specifically to prevent an independence representative win by including part of mainly loyalist Noumea in each.

    A loyalist stronghold has been broken.

    Further strain on both sides
    While both a loyalist and independence parliamentarian will now sit in Paris and represent their different perspectives, the result will further strain the two sides.

    Pro-independence supporters will be energised by the strong performance and this will increase expectations, especially among the young. The responsibility on elders is heavy. Tjibaou described the vote as  “a call for help, a cry of hope”. He has urged a return to the path of dialogue.

    At the same time, loyalists will be concerned by independence party success. Insecurity and fear, already sharpened by recent violence, may intensify. While he referred to the need for dialogue, Nicolas Metzdorf is known for his tough uncompromising line.

    Paradoxically the ongoing violence means an increased reliance on France for the reconstruction that will be a vital underpinning for talks. Estimates for rebuilding have  exceeded 2 billion euros (NZ$3.6 billion), with more than 800 businesses, countless schools and houses attacked, many destroyed.

    Yet France itself is reeling after the snap elections returned no clear winner. Three blocs are vying for power, and are divided within their own ranks over how government should be formed. While French presidents have had to “cohabit” with an assembly majority of the opposite persuasion three times before, never has a president faced no clear majority.

    It will take time, perhaps months, for a workable solution to emerge, during which New Caledonia is hardly likely to take precedence.

    As New Caledonia’s neighbours prepare to meet for the annual Pacific Islands Forum summit next month, all will be hoping that the main parties can soon overcome their deep differences and find a peaceful local way forward.

    Denise Fisher is a visiting fellow at ANU’s Centre for European Studies. She was an Australian diplomat for 30 years, serving in Australian diplomatic missions as a political and economic policy analyst in many capitals. The Australian Consul-General in Noumea, New Caledonia (2001-2004), she is the author of France in the South Pacific: Power and Politics (2013).

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • Asia Pacific Report

    The Fiji NGO Coalition on Human Rights and other protesters took to the streets of Fiji’s capital Suva yesterday in a rare demonstration demanding freedom, decolonisation and human rights in Kanaky New Caledonia and West Papua.

    The peaceful “pre-Bastille Day” protest came after recent events in Kanaky New Caledonia led to 10 deaths and a heavy build-up of French police and paramilitary forces.

    It also followed ongoing human rights abuses and violations by Indonesia in West Papua.

    “As France commemorates Bastille Day on July 14 and celebrates their own principles of ‘liberty, equality, and fraternity’, its own action in the Pacific contradicts the national day,” said West Papuan activist Rosa Moiwend of the Pacific Network on Globalisation.

    Rosa Moiwend and Asia Pacific Media Network's Del Abcede in Suva
    PANG’s Rosa Moiwend of West Papua and Asia Pacific Media Network’s Del Abcede of New Zealand in Suva . . .  French actions in Pacific “contradict Bastille Day” principles of liberty. Image: APMN

    “French colonisation of Pacific territories and its continued acts of suppression in Māohi Niu and Kanaky New Caledonia are quite the opposite of what the French revolution achieved.

    “Today, they are symbolic of the Bastille and the monarchy oppressing and abusing the people and denying their right to self-determination in their own lands,” she said.

    The May riots and unrest in Kanaky New Caledonia has led to 3500 security personnel being deployed from France.

    “At best, this is based on the severely misguided notion that the challenges of the decolonisation process can be resolved by force,” Moiwend said.

    France’s true objectives ‘disguised’
    “However, it is becoming clearer that the restoration of order and peace is just a disguise for France’s true objectives — a deliberate retrenchment and extension of colonial control.”

    Liberation for Kanaky, Palestine and West Papua.
    Liberation for Kanaky, Palestine and West Papua. Image: FWCC

    Almost two months after the outbreak of violence, tensions remain high and there is serious concern about the continuing restrictions on Kanaks.

    Widespread reports of atrocities and police brutality against Kanaky youth have angered protest groups across the Pacific.

    French authorities have extradited seven indigenous Kanak activists to prisons in France while awaiting trial on “conspiracy” charges over the rioting.

    “French President Emmanuel Macron must be responsible for the current state of Kanaky New Caledonia,” said PANG in a statement.

    “Blaming Kanak leaders and having them arrested and detained in France is a coverup and tactic to assert power. We call on President Macron to release the Kanak leaders and allow them legal representation.”

    Olivia Baro from the Pacific Conference of Churches added that the issue of West Papua and the ongoing human rights abuse must not be forgotten, and Indonesia must be held responsible.

    West Papuan voices ‘silenced’
    Indonesia’s ongoing influence on the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum has continued to silence the voices of West Papuans.

    As Pacific peoples, we will continue to stand in solidarity with West Papua and their right to self-determination.

    “As we commemorate the Biak massacre this month and remember the many lives lost in West Papua, the continuous suppression of West Papua by Indonesia is a similar struggle to Kanaky New Caledonia, Palestine and many human rights struggles globally,” said Baro.

    Despite restrictions set by authorities to prevent Palestine flags and banners at the march, the coalition stands in solidarity with our brothers, sisters and families in Palestine.

    The Fiji NGO Coalition on Human Rights in Fiji and their allies have been hosting vigils at the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre compound for Palestine, West Papua and Kanaky every Thursday over the last eight months.

    The call on the Fiji government and Pacific leaders to support the ceasefire in Gaza, and protect the rights of Palestinians, West Papuans and Kanaks.

    “The struggles of Palestinians are no different to West Papua, Kanaky New Caledonia,” FWCC Coordinator and NGOCHR Chair Shamima Ali.

    “These are struggles of self-determination, and their human rights must be upheld.”

    Fiji police at Parliament yesterday on watch for the Pacific human rights protest
    Fiji police at Parliament yesterday on watch for the Pacific human rights protest. Image: Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • Fijivillage News

    As an economy, Fiji has paid a “very high price for being unable to protect freedom” but people can speak and criticise the government freely now, says Deputy Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad.

    He highlighted the “high price” while launching the new book titled Waves of Change: Media, Peace, and Development in the Pacific, which he also co-edited, at the Pacific International Media conference in Suva last week.

    Prasad, a former University of the South Pacific (USP) economics professor, said that he, in a deeply personal way, knew how the economy had been affected when he saw the debt numbers and what the government had inherited.

    Professor Prasad says the government had reintroduced media self-regulation and “we can actually feel the freedom everywhere, including in Parliament”.

    USP head of journalism associate professor Shailendra Singh and former USP lecturer and co-founder of The Australia Today Dr Amrit Sarwal also co-edited the book with Professor Prasad.

    While also speaking during the launch, PNG Minister for Information and Communications Technology Timothy Masiu expressed support for the Fiji government repealing the media laws that curbed freedom in Fiji in the recent past.

    He said his Department of ICT had set up a social media management desk to monitor the ever-increasing threats on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and other online platforms.


    Fiji Deputy Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad speaking at the book launch. Video: Fijivillage News

    While speaking about the Draft National Media Development Policy of PNG, Masiu said the draft policy aimed to:
    The new book, Waves of Change: Media, Peace, and Development in the Pacific
    The new book, Waves of Change: Media, Peace, and Development in the Pacific. Image: Kula Press
    • promote media self-regulation;
    • improve government media capacity;
    • roll out media infrastructure for all; and
    • diversify content and quota usage for national interest.

    He said that to elevate media professionalism in PNG, the policy called for developing media self-regulation in the country without direct government intervention.

    Strike a balance
    Masiu said the draft policy also intended to strike a balance between the media’s ongoing role in transparency and accountability on the one hand, and the dissemination of developmental information, on the other hand.

    He said it was not an attempt by the government to restrict the media in PNG and the media in PNG enjoyed “unprecedented freedom” and an ability to report as they deemed appropriate.

    The PNG Minister said their leaders were constantly being put in the spotlight.

    While they did not necessarily agree with many of the daily news media reports, the governmenr would not “suddenly move to restrict the media” in PNG in any form.

    The 30th anniversary edition of the research journal Pacific Journalism Review, founded by former USP Journalism Programme head Professor David Robie at the University of Papua New Guinea, was also launched at the event.

    The PJR has published more than 1100 research articles over the past 30 years and is the largest media research archive in the region.

    Republished from Fijivillage News with permission.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • By Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor, RNZ Pacific manager

    A group of regional and international media representatives met at a forum in Fiji last week to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities facing journalists in the Pacific.

    The three-day conference brought together people from the media industry, academics, civil society, and other interested parties.

    A budding Fiji journalist Shivaali Shrutika said that newsrooms needed to evolve with the times.

    “Transformation is important, wherever you are, and this is my observation,” she said.

    “But in any space we work, particularly in mainstream media, we are reaching out to the communities that we want to become the voice for, but first we need to work on ourselves to be better people to understand them and then portray their minds and their thoughts to our audiences.”

    She said every journalist and person involved in the newsroom should have a positive environment to work in.

    “Because in journalism there is pressure, and there are deadlines in that space, it is important to have positive energy and a flexible environment to work in where everyone’s work is appreciated, especially for those trying as it is important to help boost people’s confidence and create those spaces.”

    The next generation of Pacific journalists at the Pacific media conference in Fiji
    The next generation of Pacific journalists at the media conference in Fiji with an organiser, Monika Singh (third from right). Image: Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor/RNZ

    Lack of support
    She said some young journalists left the profession due to a lack of support from more experienced reporters.

    “Young journalists need this as they are new to the industry and unsure of their job, and when they are ignored, it can lower their confidence.”

    Kaneta Namimatau is a final-year journalism student at the University of the South Pacific’s journalism programme.

    “This is the biggest media conference I have been to and the first one in Fiji in 20 years,” he said.

    He said the stories of intimidation and harassment that journalists in Fiji had faced, under the Media Industry Development Act, were very challenging to hear.

    For him, the most powerful discussion at the conference was a panel on the “prevalence and impact of sexual harassment on female journalists”.

    The sexual harassment of women journalists in Fiji is a major problem, according to a study published earlier this year.

    ‘Disheartening’ experience
    “I found that disheartening to hear as it is something that I would hate for my sisters to have to experience in the workplace.”

    Namimatau said the conference reinforced his decision to become a journalist and work in the Fiji news arena.

    “I think I can contribute more to Fiji and tell the stories of the Banaba people, my people. I also want to represent my people from Rabi.”

    The conference included academics, like USP’s associate professor Shailendra Singh, who was chair of the Pacific International Media Conference.

    Dr Singh said it was a critical time for journalists in the region.

    “Mainly, for two reasons, the digital disruption that we know has siphoned off huge amounts of advertising revenue from the media industry and mainstream media, as well as covid-19 which worsened the situation.

    “I think most media organisations are struggling to survive.”

    This was a panel on Pacific Media, Geopolitics and Regional Reporting. Speakers were Lice Movono, Marsali Mackinnon, Kalafi Moala, Nic Maclellan and Dr Nicholas Hoare.Moderator: Dr Shailendra Singh.
    This was a panel on Pacific Media, Geopolitics and Regional Reporting. Speakers were (from left) Nic Maclellan, Marsali Mackinnon, Kalafi Moala (standing), Lice Movono, with Dr Shailendra Singh moderating. Image: RNZ Pacific

    Dr Singh is coordinator of the journalism course at the University of the South Pacific.

    He said the papers tabled and some of the discussions that took place would be published in Pacific Journalism Review.

    The 2023 lifting of the FijiFirst government’s 2010 draconian media act, which involved constant censorship, has created a new environment in which Fiji journalists no longer operate in fear.

    No ‘shying away’
    Asia Pacific Report
    publisher and editor Dr David Robie said this was the sort of conference that Fiji needed right now” — a forum that did not “shy away” from the challenges facing reporters in the region.

    Dr Robie described the panels, in particular the discussion around sexual harassment in Pacific journalism, as the best he had ever attended.

    Other panels dealt with similarly difficult topics such as climate change, and stress/burn-out within the industry.

    This is the first conference of its kind in Fiji in 20 years, and Dr Singh hopes that the delegates can take back what they have learned, to their newsrooms.

    This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • By Patrick Decloitre, RNZ Pacific correspondent French Pacific desk

    Riots in Kanaky New Caledonia claimed their 10th victim yesterday.

    The death took place as a result of an exchange of fire between a group of rioters in the village of Saint Louis (near the capital Nouméa) and French gendarmes, local news media reported.

    Nouméa Public Prosecutor Yves Dupas yesterday confirmed the incident and the fatality, saying the victim had opened fire on the French gendarmes, who then returned fire.

    Gunfire exchanges had also been reported on the previous day, since French security forces had arrived on site.

    A group of armed snipers were reported to have entered the Church of Saint Louis, including the victim who was reported to have opened fire, aiming at the gendarmes from that location.

    The victim is described as the nephew of prominent pro-independence politician and local territorial Congress president Roch Wamytan.

    Wamytan is also the Great Chief of Saint Louis and a prominent figure of the hard-line pro-independence party Union Calédonienne (UC).

    On Sunday, during an election night live broadcast, he told public television NC la 1ère that “as the High Chief of Saint Louis and as President of the Congress, I find what is going on in Saint Louis really regrettable”.

    “We will try to address the situation in the coming days,” he said.

    On Sunday night, French gendarmes had to evacuate two resident religious sisters from the Saint Louis Marist Mission after armed rioters threatened them at gunpoint and ordered them to leave.

    It is the 10th name on the official death toll since violent riots broke out in New Caledonia on May 13.

    The toll includes two French gendarmes.

    French security forces had launched an operation in Saint Louis on Tuesday in a bid to restore law and order and dismantle several roadblocks and barricades erected by rioters in this area, known to be a pro-independence stronghold.

    Car jacking
    Several other incidents of car jacking had also been reported near the Saint Louis mission over the past few days on this portion of the strategic road leading to the capital Nouméa.

    The incidents have been described by victims as the stealing of vehicles, threats at gunpoint, humiliation of drivers and passengers, and — in some cases — burning the vehicles.

    Some of the victims later declared they had been ordered to take off their clothes.

    A maritime ferry was set ablaze in Nouméa’s Port Moselle on 9 July 2024 – Photo Facebook
    A maritime ferry was set ablaze in Nouméa’s Port Moselle on Tuesday. Image: FB/RNZ

    Nearby Mont-Dore Mayor Eddie Lecourieux strongly condemned the actions as “unspeakable” and “unjustifiable”.

    On Tuesday evening, another incident involved the burning of one of the maritime ferries – used by many as an alternate means to reach Nouméa.

    This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.


    This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.

    This post was originally published on Radio Free.

  • NBC News

    A former newspaper editor believes the journalism profession in Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Island countries is in crisis.

    Team leader of the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS)/ABC International Development (ABCID) Alexander Rheeney spoke of this issue at the 2024 Pacific International Media Conference in Fiji last week.

    Reflecting on his role as a former editor of both the PNG Post-Courier newspaper in Papua New Guinea and the Samoa Observer, Rheeney said a lot of challenges were facing journalists in PNG, especially over the quality of reporting and gender-based violence

    Pacific Journalism Review founding editor Dr David Robie speaking at the launch of the 30th anniversary edition of PJR
    Pacific Journalism Review founding editor Dr David Robie speaking at the launch of the 30th anniversary edition of the journal at the 2024 Pacific International Media Conference in Suva, Fiji, last week. View NBC video clip. Image: NBC News screenshot/APR

    He said the harassment mainly affected female journalists in newsrooms around the Pacific and Papua New Guinea was no exception.

    Rheeney’s concern now is to find solutions to these challenges.

    Rheeney told the NBC that every newsroom had its own challenges, and the 2024 Pacific International Media Conference was a great forum that brought journalists past, and present, including media academics and experts together to share and find answers to these problems.

    He said the proposed PNG media policy was seen as a threat and challenge for some.

    Many journalists and media houses were questioning what this policy might do to affect their way of reporting.

    Papua New Guinea’s Information Communication and Technology Minister Timothy Masiu, whose ministry was spearheading this media policy, was also part of the conference and he spoke positively about the policy.

    Minister Masiu said that the draft policy was to elevate the media profession in PNG and called for the development of media self-regulation in the country without government’s direct intervention.

    The draft policy also was intended to strike a balance between the media’s ongoing role on transparency and accountability on the one hand, and the dissemination of development information on the other hand.

    Getting the shot
    Getting the shot . . . journalists taking photographs at last week’s 2024 Pacific International Media Conference in Suva, Fiji. Image: David Robie/APR

    Republished from NBC News with permission.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • NBC News

    A former newspaper editor believes the journalism profession in Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Island countries is in crisis.

    Team leader of the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS)/ABC International Development (ABCID) Alexander Rheeney spoke of this issue at the 2024 Pacific International Media Conference in Fiji last week.

    Reflecting on his role as a former editor of both the PNG Post-Courier newspaper in Papua New Guinea and the Samoa Observer, Rheeney said a lot of challenges were facing journalists in PNG, especially over the quality of reporting and gender-based violence

    Pacific Journalism Review founding editor Dr David Robie speaking at the launch of the 30th anniversary edition of PJR
    Pacific Journalism Review founding editor Dr David Robie speaking at the launch of the 30th anniversary edition of the journal at the 2024 Pacific International Media Conference in Suva, Fiji, last week. View NBC video clip. Image: NBC News screenshot/APR

    He said the harassment mainly affected female journalists in newsrooms around the Pacific and Papua New Guinea was no exception.

    Rheeney’s concern now is to find solutions to these challenges.

    Rheeney told the NBC that every newsroom had its own challenges, and the 2024 Pacific International Media Conference was a great forum that brought journalists past, and present, including media academics and experts together to share and find answers to these problems.

    He said the proposed PNG media policy was seen as a threat and challenge for some.

    Many journalists and media houses were questioning what this policy might do to affect their way of reporting.

    Papua New Guinea’s Information Communication and Technology Minister Timothy Masiu, whose ministry was spearheading this media policy, was also part of the conference and he spoke positively about the policy.

    Minister Masiu said that the draft policy was to elevate the media profession in PNG and called for the development of media self-regulation in the country without government’s direct intervention.

    The draft policy also was intended to strike a balance between the media’s ongoing role on transparency and accountability on the one hand, and the dissemination of development information on the other hand.

    Getting the shot
    Getting the shot . . . journalists taking photographs at last week’s 2024 Pacific International Media Conference in Suva, Fiji. Image: David Robie/APR

    Republished from NBC News with permission.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • Wansolwara News

    Here is the speech by Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Communication and Information Technology, Timothy Masiu, at the 2024 Pacific International Media Conference dinner at the Holiday Inn, Suva, on July 4:

    I thank the School of Journalism of the University of the South Pacific (USP) for the invitation to address this august gathering.

    Commendations also to the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) and the Asia Pacific Media Network (APMN) for jointly hosting this conference – the first of its kind in our region in two decades!

    It is also worth noting that this conference has attracted an Emmy Award-winning television news producer from the United States, an award-winning journalism academic and author based in Hong Kong, a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, a finalist in the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, and a renowned investigative journalist from New Zealand.

    Mix this with our own blend of regional journalists, scholars and like-minded professionals, this is truly an international event.

    Commendation to our local organisers and the regional and international stakeholders for putting together what promises to be three days of robust and exciting interactions and discussions on the status of media in our region.

    This will also go a long way in proposing practical and tangible improvements for the industry.

    My good friend and the Deputy Prime Minister of Fiji, the Honourable Manoa Kamikamica, has already set the tone for our conference with his powerful speech at this morning’s opening ceremony. (In fact, we can claim the DPM to also be Papua New Guinean as he spent time there before entering politics!).

    We support and are happy with this government of Fiji for repealing the media laws that went against media freedom in Fiji in the recent past.

    In PNG, given our very diverse society with over 1000 tribes and over 800 languages and huge geography, correct and factful information is also very, very critical.

    Fiji’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad and Timothy Masiu, PNG's Minister for Information and Communications Technology,
    Fiji’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad and Timothy Masiu, PNG’s Minister for Information and Communications Technology, at the conference dinner. Image: Wansolwara

    Our theme “Navigating Challenges and Shaping Futures in Pacific Media Research and Practice” couldn’t be more appropriate at this time.

    If anything, it reminds us all of the critical role that the media continues to play in shaping public discourse and catalysing action on issues affecting our Pacific.

    We are also reminded of the power of the media to inform, educate, and mobilize community participation in our development agenda.

    IT is in the context that I pause to ask this pertinent question: How is the media being developed and used as a tool to protect and preserve our Pacific Identity?

    I ask this question because of outside influences on our media in the region.

    I should know, as I have somewhat traversed this journey already – from being a broadcaster and journalist myself – to being a member of the board of the largest public broadcaster in the region (National Broadcasting Corporation) – to being the Minister for ICT for PNG.

    From where I sit right now, I am observing our Pacific region increasingly being used as the backyard for geopolitical reasons.

    It is quite disturbing for me to see our regional media being targeted by the more developed nations as a tool to drive their geopolitical agenda.

    As a result, I see a steady influence on our culture, our way of life, and ultimately the gradual erosion of our Pacific values and systems.

    In the media industry, some of these geopolitical influences are being redesigned and re-cultured through elaborate and attractive funding themes like improving “transparency” and “accountability”.

    This is not the way forward for a truly independent and authentic Pacific media.

    The way we as a Pacific develop our media industry must reflect our original and authentic value systems.

    Just like our forefathers navigated the unchartered seas – relying mostly on hard-gained knowledge and skills – we too must chart our own course in our media development.

    Our media objectives and practices should reflect all levels of our unique Pacific Way of life, focusing on issues like climate change, environmental preservation, the protection and preservation of our fast-fading languages and traditions, and our political landscape.

    We must not let our authentic ways be lost or overshadowed by outside influences or agendas. We must control WHAT we write, HOW we write it, and WHY we write.

    Don’t get me wrong – we welcome and appreciate the support of our development partners – but we must be free to navigate our own destiny.

    If anything, I compel you to give your media funding to build our regional capabilities and capacities to address climate change issues, early warning systems, and support us to fight misinformation, disinformation, and fake news on social media.

    I don’t know how the other Pacific Island countries are faring but my Department of ICT has built a social media management desk to monitor these ever-increasing menaces on Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram and other online platforms.

    This is another area of concern for me, especially for my future generations.

    Draft National Media Development Policy of PNG
    Please allow me to make a few remarks on the Draft National Media Development Policy of PNG that my ministry has initiated.

    As its name entails, it is a homegrown policy that aims to properly address many glaring media issues in our country.

    In its current fifth draft version, the draft policy aims to promote media self-regulation; improve government media capacity; roll-out media infrastructure for all; and diversify content and quota usage for national interest.

    These policy objectives were derived from an extensive nationwide consultation process of online surveys, workshops and one-on-one interviews with government agencies and media industry stakeholders and the public.

    To elevate media professionalism in PNG, the policy calls for the development of media self-regulation in the country without direct government intervention.

    The draft policy also intend to strike a balance between the media’s ongoing role on transparency and accountability on the one hand, and the dissemination of developmental information, on the other hand.

    It is not in any way an attempt by the Marape/Rosso government to restrict the media in PNG. Nothing can be further from the truth.

    In fact, the media in PNG presently enjoys unprecedented freedom and ability to report as they deem appropriate.

    Our leaders are constantly being put on the spotlight, and while we don’t necessarily agree with many of their daily reports, we will not suddenly move to restrict the media in PNG in any form.

    Rather, we are more interested in having information on health, education, agriculture, law and order, and other societal and economic information, reaching more of our local and remote communities across the country.

    It is in this context that specific provision within the draft policy calls for the mobilisation – particularly the government media – to disseminate more developmental information that is targeted towards our population at the rural and district levels.

    I have brought a bigger team to Suva to also listen and gauge the views of our Pacific colleagues on this draft policy.

    The fifth version is publicly available on our Department of ICT website and we will certainly welcome any critique or feedback from you all.

    Before I conclude, let me also briefly highlight another intervention I made late last year as part of my Ministry’s overall “Smart Pacific; One Voice” initiative.

    After an absence for several years, I invited our Pacific ICT Ministers to a meeting in Port Moresby in late 2023.

    At the end of this defining summit, we signed the Pacific ICT Ministers’ Lagatoi Declaration.

    For a first-time regional ICT Ministers’ meeting, it was well-attended. Deputy Prime Minister Manoa also graced us with his presence with other Pacific Ministers, including Australia and New Zealand.

    This declaration is a call-to-arms for our regional ministers to meet regularly to discuss the challenges and opportunities posed by the all-important ICT sector.

    Our next meeting is in New Caledonia in 2025.

    In much the same vein, I was appointed the special envoy to the Pacific by the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) in Mauritius in 2023.

    Since then, I have continuously advocated for the Pacific to be more coordinated and unified, so we can be better heard.

    I have been quite bemused by the fact that the Pacific does not have its own regional offices for such well-meaning agencies like AIBD to promote our own unique media issues.

    More often than not, we are either thrown into the “Asia-Pacific’ or “Oceania” groupings and as result, our media and wider ICT interests and aspirations get drowned by our more influential friends and donors.

    We must dictate what our broadcasting (and wider media) development agenda should be. We live in our Region and better understand the “Our Pacific Way” of doing things.

    Let me conclude by reiterating my firm belief that the Pacific needs a hard reset of our media strategies.

    This means re-discovering our original values to guide our methods and practices within the media industry.

    We must be unified in our efforts navigate the challenges ahead, and to reshape the future of media in the Pacific.

    We must ensure it reflects our authentic ways and serves the needs of our Pacific people.

    Best wishes for the remainder of the conference.

    God Bless you all.

    Republished from Wansolwara in partnership.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • Pacific Journalism Review

    Pacific Journalism Review has challenged journalists to take a courageous and humanitarian stand over Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza in its latest edition with several articles about the state of news media credibility and the shocking death toll of Palestinian reporters.

    It has also taken a stand in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who was set free in a US federal court in Saipan and returned to Australia the day before copies of the journal arrived back from the printers.

    The journal went online last week and it celebrated three decades of publishing at the 2024 Pacific International Media Conference hosted by The University of the South Pacific in Fiji in partnership with the Pacific islands News Association (PINA) and the Asia Pacific Media Network (APMN).

    In the editorial provocatively entitled “Will journalism survive?”, founding editor Dr David Robie wrote: “Gaza has become not just a metaphor for a terrible state of dystopia in parts of the world, it has also become an existential test for journalists — do we stand up for peace and justice and the right of a people to survive under the threat of ethnic cleansing and against genocide, or do we do nothing and remain silent in the face of genocide being carried out with impunity in front of our very eyes?

    “The answer is simple surely.”

    Launching the 30th anniversary edition, adjunct USP professor Vijay Naidu paid tribute to the long-term “commitment of PJR to justice and human rights” and noted USP’s contribution through hosting the journal for five years and also continued support from conference convenor associate professor Shailendra Singh.

    Papua New Guinea’s Communication Minister Timothy Masiu also launched at the PJR event a new book, Waves of Change: Media, Peace, and Development in the Pacific, edited by Professor Biman Prasad (who is also Deputy Prime Minister of Fiji), Dr Singh and Dr Amit Sarwal.

    The PJR editors, Dr Philip Cass and Dr Robie, said the profession of journalism had since the covid pandemic been under grave threat and the journal outlined challenges facing the Pacific region.

    The cover of the 30th anniversary edition of Pacific Journalism Review
    The cover of the 30th anniversary edition of Pacific Journalism Review. Image: PJR

    Among contributing writers, Jonathan Cook, examines the consequences of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) legal cases over Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, and Assange’s last-ditch appeal to prevent the United States extraditing him so that he could be locked away for the rest of his life.

    Both cases pose globe-spanning threats to basic freedoms, writes Cook.

    New Zealand writer Jeremy Rose offers a “Kiwi journalist’s response” to Israel’s war on journalism, noting that while global reports have tended to focus on the “horrendous and rapid” climb of civilian casualties to more than 38,000 — especially women and children — Gaza has also claimed the “worst death rate of journalists” in any war.

    The journalist death toll has topped 158.

    Independent journalist Mick Hall offers a compelling research indictment of the role of Western legacy media institutions, arguing that they too are in the metaphorical dock along with Israel in South Africa’s genocide case in the ICC.

    PJR designer Del Abcede with Rosa Moiwend
    PJR designer Del Abcede with Rosa Moiwend at the PJR celebrations. Image: David Robie/APMN

    He also cites evidence of the wider credibility implications for mainstream media in the Oceania region.

    Among other articles in this edition of PJR, a team led by RMIT’s Dr Alexandra Wake, president of the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (Jeraa), has critiqued the use of fact check systems, arguing these are vital tool boxes for journalists.

    The edition also includes articles about the Kanaky New Caledonia decolonisation crisis reportage, three USP Frontline case study reports on political journalism, the social media ecology of an influencer group in Fiji, and a photo essay by Del Abcede on Palestinian protests and media in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

    Book reviews include the Reuters Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2024, Journalists and Confidential Sources, The Palestine Laboratory and Return to Volcano Town.

    The PJR began publication at the University of Papua New Guinea in 1994.

    The full 30th anniversary edition of Pacific Journalism Review

    Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Pacific Journalism Review with a birthday cake
    Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Pacific Journalism Review with a birthday cake . . . Professor Vijay Naidu (from left), Fiji Deputy Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad, founding PJR editor Dr David Robie, PNG Communications Minister Timothy Masiu, conference convenor and PJR editorial board member Associate Professor Shailendra Singh, and current PJR editor Dr Philip Cass. Image: Joe Yaya/Islands Business

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • By Khalia Strong of Pacific Media Network News

    If the pen is mightier than the sword, then an army of journalists has assembled in Fiji’s capital to discuss the state and future of the industry in the region.

    The three-day Pacific Media Conference 2024 on July 4-6 is organised and hosted by the University of the South Pacific, in collaboration with the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) and Asia Pacific Media Network (APMN), with more than 50 speakers from 11 countries.

    A keynote speaker and veteran journalist Dr David Robie, editor of Asia Pacific Report, says the conference is crucial.

    “It’s quite a trailblazer in many respects, because this is probably the first conference of its kind where it’s blended industry journalists all around the region, plus media academics that have been analysing and critiquing the media and so on.

    “So to have this joining forces like this . . .  it’s really quite a momentous conference.”

    Dr Robie is a distinguished author, journalist and media educator and was recognised last month as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for his contribution to journalism and education in New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region for more than 50 years.

    Speaking to William Terite on Radio 531pi’s Pacific Mornings, Dr Robie said the conference was a way to bolster solidarity to others in the industry and address common challenges.

    “In many Pacific countries a lot of their fledgling institutions, and essentially, politicians, have no understanding of media generally, and have a tendency to crack down on media when they have half a chance.

    “So it’s partly to get a much better image of journalism and how important journalism is in democracy and development in many countries in the Pacific.”

    Journalists at the Pacific Media Conference 2024 in Suva
    Journalists at the Pacific Media Conference 2024 in Suva. Image: PMN News/Justin Latif

    Turning the page for media
    The conference theme is “Navigating challenges and shaping futures in Pacific media research and practice”.

    In April last year, Fiji revoked media laws that restricted media content. PMN chief-of-news Justin Latif is attending the conference, and said Fijian media were in celebration-mode, saying “democracy has returned to Fiji”.

    “They talked about how such a conference had happened under previous regimes, basically the police and army would have had a presence there and would have been just noting names and checking up that nothing was said that was anti-government.”

    Latif said regional journalists showed a deep sense of purpose and drive.

    “People do see their roles as a calling, and so often are willing to take less pay and harder conditions,” he said.

    “They see their job as building their nation and being part of helping strengthen the country, and so it’s probably quite different if you were to get a group of journalists together in New Zealand, they probably wouldn’t have quite the same sense of that kind of fervour for the role in terms of what it can mean for the country.”

    The Pacific Journalism Review, a journal examining media issues and communication in the region, celebrated its 30-year anniversary. It has published hundreds of peer-reviewed articles and is regularly cited by scholars.

    Asia Pacific Report editor Dr David Robie (left) with Fiji Deputy Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad
    Asia Pacific Report editor Dr David Robie (left) with Fiji Deputy Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad at the launch of the 30th anniversary edition of Pacific Journalism Review at the 2024 Pacific Media Conference in Fiji. Image: Del Abcede/APMN

    Global tussle for Pacific attention
    The United States is one of the main funders of the conference, and there are representatives from some Asia-Pacific countries such as Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan.

    Latif said China’s involvement in Pacific media was openly questioned by the US deputy chief of mission, John Gregory.

    “He gave a very detailed breakdown of all the ways that China are influencing elections: using Facebook to spread misinformation to try and basically encourage the three Pacific nations who still support or maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, how they’re trying to influence those nations to have a regime change, and it was quite shocking information about the lengths that China is going to, or that the State Department believed China is going to.”

    The United States in putting investment into journalism in the Pacific, said Latif, sending 13 journalists from Fiji to the US for exchanges.

    “There is a clear US agenda here about wanting the media to be strengthened and to be supported so that they can have a strong foothold in the Pacific, because the influence of China is definitely being felt.”

    A bold, future vision for Pacific media
    Dr Robie has described the current state of news media in the Pacific as “precarious”, and warned some nations can be susceptible to “geopolitics and the influences of other countries”.

    “We’ve got China trying to encourage media organisations to be very much under an authoritarian wing, taking journalists across to China . . .  but now we’re getting a lot more competition from Australia and the US and so on, upping the game, putting more money into training, influencing, whereas for many years they didn’t care too much about the media in the region.

    “Journalists very often feel like they’re the meat in the sandwich in the competition between many countries, and it’s not good for the region generally.”

    Dr Robie has worked across the Pacific, including five years as head of journalism at the University of Papua New Guinea, and then as the coordinator of the journalism programme at USP.

    He encouraged Pacific media to continue upholding democratic values while holding leaders to account.

    “Most media organisations in the Pacific are quite small and vulnerable in the sense that they’ve got small teams, limited resources, and it’s always a struggle, to be honest, and things are probably the toughest they’ve been for a while.

    “Pacific countries and media need to stand up tall and strong themselves, be very clear about what they want and to stand up for it, and not be overshadowed by the influence of major countries.”

    The conference ends on Saturday.

    Republished from PMN News with permission.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • By Patrick Decloitre, RNZ Pacific correspondent French Pacific desk

    Voters in New Caledonia will go to the polls this weekend under tight security, almost eight weeks after destructive and violent unrest broke out in the French Pacific archipelago.

    They will vote for their two representatives in the 577-seat French National Assembly, which was dissolved by President Emmanuel Macron just before he — in a surprise move — called snap elections earlier this month.

    The previous French general elections took place two years ago.

    The first round of voting takes place tomorrow and the second one next Sunday, July 7.

    Since early May, the unrest has caused nine direct fatalities and the closure, looting and vandalism of several hundred companies and homes. More than 3500 security forces have been dispatched, with the damage now estimated at 1.5 billion euros (NZ$2.64 billion).

    Earlier this month, 86.5 percent of New Caledonian voters abstained during the European Parliament elections.

    It is anticipated that for these elections, the participation rate could be high.

    Both incumbents are on the pro-France (loyalist) side.

    On the pro-independence side, internal divisions have resulted in only the hard-line party (part of the FLNKS umbrella, which also includes other moderate parties) managing to field their candidates.

    French High Commissioner Louis Le Franc speaks at a press conference on Sunday.
    French High Commissioner Louis Le Franc . . . not taking chances. Image: FB screenshot/RNZ

    Public meetings and gatherings banned
    French High Commissioner Louis Le Franc told media he did not want to take chances, even though no party or municipality had openly called for a boycott or any action hostile to the vote.

    He said all public meetings would be banned, on top of a dusk-to-dawn curfew and a ban on the sale and transport of firearms, ammunition and alcohol.

    “There are 222,900 registered voters for the legislative elections; the voting habits in New Caledonia are that it happens mostly in the morning. So, the peak hours are between 9 am and noon,” Le Franc said.

    He said during those peak hours, queues could be expected outside the polling stations, especially in the Greater Nouméa area (including the neighbouring towns of Païta, Dumbéa and Mont-Dore).

    “Provision has been made to ensure that voters who go there are not bothered by collective or individual elements who would like to disrupt the exercise of this democratic right.”

    Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’ in class
    This week, more public buildings, including schools and fire stations, have been burnt to the ground, and several schools have closed in the wake of the violence.

    However, in Dumbéa, Apogoti High School and 13 other schools partly reopened on Friday, with teachers focusing on workshops.

    “We met with all the teachers and we decided to mix several subjects,” music teacher Nicolas Le Yannou told public broadcaster NC la 1ère TV.

    “We chose a song from John Lennon (‘Give Peace a Chance’) which calls for peace and then we translated the lyrics into Spanish, French and the local Drehu language.

    “That allowed everyone to express themselves without having to brood over the difficult situation we have gone through. For us, music was our way to escape,” Le Yannou said.

    Psychological assistance and counselling were also provided to students and teachers when required.

    Païta emergency intervention centre burnt down before its official opening
    Païta emergency intervention centre was burnt down before its official opening. Image: Union des Pompiers de Calédonie/RNZ

    On Thursday, a new fire station under construction near Nouméa-La Tontouta Airport, which was scheduled to be opened later this year, was burnt down.

    Pro-independence leader’s house destroyed
    The home of one moderate pro-independence leader, Victor Tutugoro (president of the Union Progressiste en Mélanésie, PALIKA), was burnt down by rioters on Wednesday morning.

    This prompted condemnation from Le France and New Caledonia’s local government, as well as from the president of New Caledonia’s Northern Province, Paul Néaoutyine.

    Néaoutyine, who belongs to the Kanak Liberation Party, said several other politicians from the moderate fringe of FLNKS had also been targeted and threatened over the past few weeks.

    Victor Tutugoro at the 22nd Melanesian Spearhead Group Leaders' Summit in Port Vila.
    Moderate pro-independence leader Victor Tutugoro . . . . house burnt down, other moderate leaders threatened. Image: RNZ Pacific/Kelvin Anthony

    PALIKA’s political bureau also condemned the attacks and destruction of Tutugoro’s residence.

    PALIKA spokesman Charles Washetine called for calm and for all remaining roadblocks to be lifted.

    “The right to vote is the fruit of a painful common history which commands us to fight for independence through the ballots and through the belief in intelligence which we have all inherited,” the party said.

    The elections coincide with the 36th anniversary of the signing of the Matignon-Oudinot Accord between Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Jacques Lafleur, who were the leaders, respectively, of the pro-independence FLNKS and pro-France RPCR parties.

    This year, there was no official commemoration ceremony.

    After intense talks with then French Socialist Prime Minister Michel Rocard, they both shook hands on 26 June 1988 to mark the end of half a decade of quasi-civil war in New Caledonia.

    One year later, Tjibaou and his deputy, Yéwéné Yéwéné, were gunned down by a member of the radical fringe of the pro-independence movement.

    This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • An international relations lecturer says New Zealand’s framing of China in the perceived Pacific geopolitical struggle is “disingenuous”.

    Victoria University of Wellington’s Nanai Anae Dr Iati Iati said one example was the lack of substance behind the notion that China was militarising the Pacific region.

    He said NZ’s National Security Strategy framed Beijing within a “threat” narrative.

    “There are no angels in geopolitical competition,” he said.

    “But to frame one country in particular as the devil, that’s disingenuous, especially because the Pacific island countries know that is not the case,” Dr Iati said.

    “So unfortunately, New Zealand is caught within this tension between China on one side, and let’s say the Anglo-American Alliance on the other side.”

    Massey University associate professor Dr Anna Powles said Pacific leaders had been calling for cooperation in the region which did not undermine Pacific priorities.

    However, she said there were clear examples where China had been a “disruptive actor” in the Pacific security sector, particularly in Solomon Islands.

    “At the heart of what the Pacific Islands Forum and Pacific countries and scholars are saying is that geopolitics in general is disruptive.

    “Therefore, the solutions need to be Pacific led,” Dr Powles added.

    This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • An international relations lecturer says New Zealand’s framing of China in the perceived Pacific geopolitical struggle is “disingenuous”.

    Victoria University of Wellington’s Nanai Anae Dr Iati Iati said one example was the lack of substance behind the notion that China was militarising the Pacific region.

    He said NZ’s National Security Strategy framed Beijing within a “threat” narrative.

    “There are no angels in geopolitical competition,” he said.

    “But to frame one country in particular as the devil, that’s disingenuous, especially because the Pacific island countries know that is not the case,” Dr Iati said.

    “So unfortunately, New Zealand is caught within this tension between China on one side, and let’s say the Anglo-American Alliance on the other side.”

    Massey University associate professor Dr Anna Powles said Pacific leaders had been calling for cooperation in the region which did not undermine Pacific priorities.

    However, she said there were clear examples where China had been a “disruptive actor” in the Pacific security sector, particularly in Solomon Islands.

    “At the heart of what the Pacific Islands Forum and Pacific countries and scholars are saying is that geopolitics in general is disruptive.

    “Therefore, the solutions need to be Pacific led,” Dr Powles added.

    This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • An international relations lecturer says New Zealand’s framing of China in the perceived Pacific geopolitical struggle is “disingenuous”.

    Victoria University of Wellington’s Nanai Anae Dr Iati Iati said one example was the lack of substance behind the notion that China was militarising the Pacific region.

    He said NZ’s National Security Strategy framed Beijing within a “threat” narrative.

    “There are no angels in geopolitical competition,” he said.

    “But to frame one country in particular as the devil, that’s disingenuous, especially because the Pacific island countries know that is not the case,” Dr Iati said.

    “So unfortunately, New Zealand is caught within this tension between China on one side, and let’s say the Anglo-American Alliance on the other side.”

    Massey University associate professor Dr Anna Powles said Pacific leaders had been calling for cooperation in the region which did not undermine Pacific priorities.

    However, she said there were clear examples where China had been a “disruptive actor” in the Pacific security sector, particularly in Solomon Islands.

    “At the heart of what the Pacific Islands Forum and Pacific countries and scholars are saying is that geopolitics in general is disruptive.

    “Therefore, the solutions need to be Pacific led,” Dr Powles added.

    This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • Global Voices interviews veteran author, journalist and educator David Robie who discussed the state of Pacific media, journalism education, and the role of the press in addressing decolonisation and the climate crisis.

    Professor David Robie is among this year’s New Zealand Order of Merit awardees and was on the King’s Birthday Honours list earlier this month for his “services to journalism and Asia-Pacific media education.”

    His career in journalism has spanned five decades. He was the founding editor of the Pacific Journalism Review journal in 1994 and in 1996 he established the Pacific Media Watch, a media rights watchdog group.

    He was head of the journalism department at the University of Papua New Guinea from 1993–1997 and at the University of the South Pacific from 1998–2002. While teaching at Auckland University of Technology, he founded the Pacific Media Centre in 2007.

    He has authored 10 books on Asia-Pacific media and politics. He received the 1985 Media Peace Prize for his coverage of the Rainbow Warrior bombing — which he sailed on and wrote the book Eyes of Fire: The Last Voyage of the Rainbow Warrior — and the French and American nuclear testing.

    In 2015, he was given the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) Asian Communication Award in Dubai. Global Voices interviewed him about the challenges faced by journalists in the Pacific and his career. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    MONG PALATINO (MP): What are the main challenges faced by the media in the region?

    DAVID ROBIE (DR): Corruption, viability, and credibility — the corruption among politicians and influence on journalists, the viability of weak business models and small media enterprises, and weakening credibility. After many years of developing a reasonably independent Pacific media in many countries in the region with courageous and independent journalists in leadership roles, many media groups are becoming susceptible to growing geopolitical rivalry between powerful players in the region, particularly China, which is steadily increasing its influence on the region’s media — especially in Solomon Islands — not just in development aid.

    However, the United States, Australia and France are also stepping up their Pacific media and journalism training influences in the region as part of “Indo-Pacific” strategies that are really all about countering Chinese influence.

    Indonesia is also becoming an influence in the media in the region, for other reasons. Jakarta is in the middle of a massive “hearts and minds” strategy in the Pacific, mainly through the media and diplomacy, in an attempt to blunt the widespread “people’s” sentiment in support of West Papuan aspirations for self-determination and eventual independence.

    MP: What should be prioritised in improving journalism education in the region?

    DR: The university-based journalism schools, such as at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, are best placed to improve foundation journalism skills and education, and also to encourage life-long learning for journalists. More funding would be more beneficial channelled through the universities for more advanced courses, and not just through short-course industry training. I can say that because I have been through the mill both ways — 50 years as a journalist starting off in the “school of hard knocks” in many countries, including almost 30 years running journalism courses and pioneering several award-winning student journalist publications. However, it is important to retain media independence and not allow funding NGOs to dictate policies.

    MP: How can Pacific journalists best fulfill their role in highlighting Pacific stories, especially the impact of the climate crisis?

    DR: The best strategy is collaboration with international partners that have resources and expertise in climate crisis, such as the Earth Journalism Network to give a global stage for their issues and concerns. When I was still running the Pacific Media Centre, we had a high profile Pacific climate journalism Bearing Witness project where students made many successful multimedia reports and award-winning commentaries. An example is this one on YouTube: Banabans of Rabi: A Story of Survival

    MP: What should the international community focus on when reporting about the Pacific?

    DR: It is important for media to monitor the Indo-Pacific rivalries, but to also keep them in perspective — so-called ”security” is nowhere as important to Pacific countries as it is to its Western neighbours and China. It is important for the international community to keep an eye on the ball about what is important to the Pacific, which is ‘development’ and ‘climate crisis’ and why China has an edge in some countries at the moment.

    Australia and, to a lesser extent, New Zealand have dropped the ball in recent years, and are tying to regain lost ground, but concentrating too much on “security”. Listen to the Pacific voices.

    There should be more international reporting about the “hidden stories” of the Pacific such as the unresolved decolonisation issues — Kanaky New Caledonia, “French” Polynesia (Mā’ohi Nui), both from France; and West Papua from Indonesia. West Papua, in particular, is virtually ignored by Western media in spite of the ongoing serious human rights violations. This is unconscionable.

    Mong Palatino is regional editor of Global Voices for Southeast Asia. An activist and former two-term member of the Philippine House of Representatives, he has been blogging since 2004 at mongster’s nest. @mongster Republished with permission.


    This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by Pacific Media Watch.

    This post was originally published on Radio Free.

  • SPECIAL REPORT: By Te Aniwaniwa Paterson

    Hawai’ian academic Dr Emalani Case has condemned the 2024 Rimpac military exercise that began off the coast of Hawai’i today, saying the military personnel from 29 countries taking part are “practising to invade”.

    “They call it practising defence but they’re really learning how to defend an empire while putting indigenous people at risk,” she said.

    Hawai’i has been heavily impacted on by militarisation.

    Dr Case, a senior lecturer at Auckland University, said her people had had to deal with military harm and damage to their people and environment for more than 100 years.

    The kingdom of Hawai’i was invaded by the US in 1893. The monarchy was overthrown, and the islands have stayed under US control since, with several large military bases.

    Dr Case said the military made it a hard place to live when the land and people were routinely dismissed and disregarded.

    The US Navy had publicly said it was committed to the environment and reducing harm.

    Nonetheless, it had had a highly destructive track record when it came to pollution and environmental harm, she said.

    For example, SINKEX was an activity during Rimpac where various navies shoot ammunition at decommissioned ships off the coast of Kauai island.

    Dr Case told Te Ao Māori News, “The ships just sink and they leave them there. So there are toxins leaking out into our ocean.”


    Anti-war groups demand end to war games as Rimpac begins.  Video: Hawai’i News Now

    Tourism paradise?
    Te Ao Maōri News asked Dr Case why Hawai’i was known as a “paradise” tourist destination but many people did not know about the violent history.

    Dr Case referenced the works of the late Dr Teresia Teaiwa, an I-Kiribati and African-American scholar, who had said tourism and military worked together to dispossess and displace Hawai’ians.

    “‘Militourism’ is a phenomenon by which a military or paramilitary force ensures the smooth running of a tourist industry, and that same tourist industry masks the military force behind it.”

    — Teresia Teaiwa

    Tourism masked the military violence by placing a flower over it, or a swinging hula girl, Dr Case said.

    “[Hawai’i] is beautiful but the US military is one of the biggest abusers of that beauty.”

    The people of Hawai’i were often left behind and focus placed on tourists, yet residents were without enough water or resources to house and care for the people. Dr Case said this explained the “enormous diaspora of Kānaka Maoli” living outside Hawai’i.

    “We cannot be thinking about relying on the 25,000 personnel who are going to be coming, bringing their dollars, but also bringing their violence, bringing the increase in sex trafficking, bringing in an increase in violence against women.”

    The only year there was not an increase in sex trafficking and violence during Rimpac was in 2020 because of the covid-19 pandemic, which downscaled Rimpac and meant military personnel were not able to go ashore, she said.

    “That’s what they’re bringing to our islands.”

    Violent attack on akua
    Kānaka Maoli say they have a spiritual and genealogical connection to the oceans and lands. This includes Kanaloa and Papahānaumoku, the gods of ocean and earth, which is similar to Tangaroa and Papatūānuku in Aotearoa.

    Papahānaumoku is the akua in Hawai’i that births their moku, islands.

    “Any assaults against our akua, our gods, is an assault against us, it’s an assault against our whakapapa, it’s an assault against everything that we stand for,” Dr Case said.

    Dr Case grew up and her whānau still live in Waimea, 45 minutes from Pōhakuloa, one of the largest military training facilities. She grew up feeling and hearing bombs all the time.

    “I grew up hearing and feeling bombs all the time and it’s a kind of pain you don’t ever want to experience because you know what’s happening to Papa, what’s happening to your family. We view land, mountains, rivers, ocean as family.”

    — Emalani Case

    Rimpac and Palestine, West Papua and Kanaky
    Rimpac was an international issue, Dr Case said, and a gateway event.

    “We’ve got to think about these colonial nations coming together to train and provide so-called security and safety to the world while really putting all of us at risk, who have never been deemed human enough to be worthy of that same safety and security,” she said.

    The nations participating in Rimpac include Israel and Indonesia.

    Dr Case said her homeland was being turned into a training ground for “imperial genocidal regimes” which learned, practised and honed their skills to then commit genocide in Palestine and West Papua.

    She also cited the participation of France, which had no proximity to the Pacific but had “oppressed Pacific brothers and sisters in the French-occupied Kanaky”.

    “Militarism is upheld by and supports settler colonialism. It supports white supremacy.”

    Dr Case said calling for an end to Rimpac and demanding that New Zealand withdraw was not just about saving Hawai’i.

    She said boycotting Rimpac was about peace, demilitarisation, decolonisation and climate justice.

    “The US military is one of the largest contributors of pollutants into the environment.”

    Rimpac and FestPAC
    Dr Case was in Hawai’i for Protecting Oceania, part of FestPAC — the festival of Pacific arts and culture hosted by Hawai’i this year.

    She said there was a lot of discussion about Rimpac during Protecting Oceania.

    “Rimpac and FestPAC didn’t happen at the exact same time but it’s interesting to think about the convergence of these cultural celebrations and violent military detonations around the same time, in the same waters, and on the same land.”

    She was pleased to see people holding banners saying “STOP RIMPAC” in the closing ceremony at FestPAC. She said culture and politics went hand in hand.

    Te Aniwaniwa Paterson is a digital producer for Te Ao Māori News. This article is republished with permission.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • By Stefan Armbruster, Victor Mambor and BenarNews staff

    An unheralded visit to Indonesia’s Papuan provinces by a leading Pacific diplomat has drawn criticism for undermining a push for a United Nations human rights mission to the region where pro-independence fighters have fought Indonesian rule for decades.

    The Melanesian Spearhead Group’s Director-General, Leonard Louma, has not responded to BenarNews’ questions about the brief visit. It occurred just days after the most recent clash between Indonesian forces and the Papuan resistance, which resulted in four deaths and hundreds of civilians fleeing their homes in Paniai regency in Central Papua province.

    Indonesia has capitalised on the visit earlier this month to portray its governance of the contested Melanesian territory, generally referred to as West Papua in the Pacific, in a positive light.

    State news agency Antara said Louma had declared Papua to be in a “stable and conducive” condition.

    A highly critical UN Human Right Committee report on Indonesia released in May highlighted “systematic reports about the use of torture” and “extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of Indigenous Papuan people.”

    The Indonesian government’s sponsorship of the visit is “another attempt to downplay a global call, including from the MSG, to allow the UN Human Rights Commission to visit and assess human rights conditions in Papua,” said Hipo Wangge, an Indonesian foreign policy researcher at Australian National University.

    “It’s also another attempt to neutralise regional concern over deep-seated discrimination against Papuans,” he told BenarNews.

    UN human rights rebuff
    For several years, Indonesia has rebuffed a request from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to carry out an independent fact-finding mission in Papua.

    The Pacific Islands Forum, a regional organisation of 18 nations, has called on Indonesia since 2019 to allow the mission to go ahead.

    20230821 MSG DG Louma.png
    MSG Director-General Leonard Louma at the opening of the 22nd MSG Leaders’ Summit foreign ministers’ meeting in Port Vila on 21 August 2023. Image: Kelvin Anthony/RNZ Pacific

    The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) — whose members are Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia’s Kanak independence movement FLNKS — has made similar appeals.

    It is unclear whether the comments attributed to Louma by Antara and an Indonesian government statement are his own words. The Antara article, published last week on June 19, in English and Indonesian, is more or less identical to a statement released by Indonesia’s Ministry of Information and Communications.

    An insurgency has simmered in Papua since the early 1960s when Indonesian forces invaded the region, which had remained under a separate Dutch administration following Indonesia’s 1945 declaration of independence from the Netherlands.

    Indonesia argues its incorporation of the mineral rich territory was rightful under international law because it was part of the Dutch East Indies empire that is the basis for Indonesia’s modern borders.

    Papuans, culturally and ethnically distinct from the rest of Indonesia, say they were denied the right to decide their own future and are now marginalised in their own land. Indonesian control was formalised in 1969 with a UN-supervised referendum restricted to little more than 1000 Papuan voters.

    Arrived from PNG
    The Indonesian statement said Louma, his executive adviser Christopher Nisbert and members of their entourage arrived on June 17 at the Skouw-Wutung border crossing after traveling overland from Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.

    They were met by an Indonesian diplomat and then traveled to Jayapura accompanied by Indonesian officials.

    On June 19 they took part in a conference organised by Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that was purportedly to address security concerns in Melanesia.

    Yones Douw, a Papuan human rights activist based in Paniai, said a properly conducted visit by the Melanesian Spearhead Group should have had wide public notice and involved meetings with churches, customary leaders, journalists and civil society organisations, including the independence movement.

    “This visit is just like a thief — in secret. I suspect that the comments submitted to the mass media were the language of the Indonesian government, not on behalf of the MSG,” he told BenarNews.

    000_34YV43T.jpg
    Soldiers from the Indonesian Army’s 112th Raider Infantry Battalion sing during a ceremony at a military base in Japakeh, Aceh province, on 25 June 2024 before their deployment to Papua province. Image: BenarNews/Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP

    “This way can damage the togetherness or unity of the Melanesian people,” he said.

    The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), an independence movement umbrella organisation, said it should have been notified of the visit because it has observer status at the MSG. Indonesia is an associate member.

    ‘A surreptitious visit’
    “We were not notified by the MSG Secretariat. This is a surreptitious visit initiated by the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said Markus Haluk, the ULMWP’s executive secretary.

    “We will file a protest,” he told the MSG’s chair, Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai.

    Indonesia, over several years, has stepped up its efforts to neutralise Pacific support for the West Papuan independence movement, particularly among Melanesian nations that have ethnic and cultural links to Papuans living under Indonesian rule.

    It has had success in ending direct criticism from Pacific island governments — many of which had used the UN General Assembly as a forum to air their concerns about human rights abuses — but grassroots support for Papuan self-determination remains strong.

    Wangge, the ANU researcher, said the Indonesian government had been particularly active with Melanesian nations since Louma became director-general of the MSG’s secretariat in 2022.

    At the same time it had avoided addressing ongoing reports of abuses in the Papuan provinces, he said, and militarisation of the region.

    Indonesia’s military offered a rare apology to Papuans in March after video emerged of soldiers repeatedly slashing an indigenous man with a bayonet while he was forced to stand in a water-filled drum.

    Regional security meetings
    Among the initiatives, Indonesian police have facilitated regional security meetings, the Indonesian foreign ministry established an Indonesia-Pacific Development Forum, fisheries training has been provided, and the foreign ministry is providing diplomacy training for young diplomats from Melanesian countries and the MSG’s secretariat.

    There was nothing to show, Wangge said, from the MSG’s appointment last year of Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape as special envoys to Indonesia on West Papua.

    The two leaders met Indonesian President Joko Widodo, whose second five-year term finishes in October, at a global summit in San Francisco in November.

    Following the meeting, there was no agenda to facilitate a dialogue over West Papua, he said.

    Marape is due in Indonesia mid-July for an official state visit.

    “One thing is clear: the Indonesian government will buy more time by initiating more made-up efforts to cover pressing problems in West Papua,” Wangge said.

    Copyright ©2015-2024, BenarNews. Republished with the permission of BenarNews.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • OBITUARY: By Philip Cass of Kaniva Tonga

    A New Zealand politician and human rights activist with a strong connection to Tonga’s Democracy movement and other Pacific activism has been farewelled after dying last week aged 80.

    Keith Locke served as a former Green MP from 1999 to 2011.

    While in Parliament, he was a notable critic of New Zealand’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan and the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, and advocated for refugee rights.

    He was appointed a Member of the NZ Order of Merit for services to human rights advocacy in 2021, received NZ Amnesty International’s Human Rights Defender award in 2012, and the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand’s Harmony Award in 2013.

    Locke was often a voice for the Pacific in the New Zealand Parliament.

    In 2000, he spoke out on the plight of overstayers who were facing deportation under the National Party government.

    As the Green Party’s then immigration spokesperson, he supported calls for a review of the overstayer legislation.

    Links to Pohiva
    “We are a Polynesian nation, and we increasingly celebrate the Samoan and Tongan part of our national identity,” Locke said at the time.

    “How can we claim as our own the Jonah Lomus and Beatrice Faumuinas while we are prepared to toss their relations out of the country at a moment’s notice?”

    Locke had links to Tonga through his relationship with Democracy campaigner and later Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who died in 2019.

    Tongan Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pōhiva
    The late Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva … defended by Keith Locke in 1996 when Pohiva and two colleagues had been jailed for comments in their pro-democracy newspaper Kele’a. Image: Kalino Lātū/Kaniva News

    Locke defended Pohiva in 1996 when he was a spokesperson for the Alliance Party. He said he was horrified that Pohiva and two colleagues had been jailed for comments in their pro-democracy newspaper Kele’a.

    He criticised the New Zealand government for keeping silent about what he described as a “gross abuse of human rights.”

    In 2004, Locke called on the New Zealand government to speak out about what he called the suppression of the press in Tonga.

    Locke, who was then the Greens foreign affairs spokesman, said several publications had been denied licences, including an offshoot of the New Zealand-produced Taimi ‘o Tonga newspaper.


    Tribute by Asia Pacific Report editor David Robie.

    ‘Speak out as Pacific neighbour’
    “We owe it to the Tongan people to support them in their hour of need.  We should speak out as a Pacific neighbour,” he said.

    In 2007, ‘Akilisi was again charged with sedition, along with four other pro-democracy MPs, for allegedly being responsible for the rioting that took place following a mass pro-democracy march in Nuku’alofa.

    Flags of the countries of some of the many causes Keith Locke supported
    Flags of the countries of some of the many causes Keith Locke supported at the memorial service in Mount Eden this week. Image: David Robie/APR

    “As the Greens’ foreign affairs spokesperson I went up to Tonga to support ‘Akilisi and his colleagues fight these trumped-up charges. I was shocked to find that the New Zealand government was going along with these sedition charges against five sitting MPs,” Locke said in an interview.

    “I was in Tonga not long before the 2010 elections with a cross-party group of New Zealand MPs. We were helping Tongan candidates understand the intricacies of a parliamentary system.

    “At the time I remember ‘Akilisi being worried that the block of nine ‘noble’ MPs could frustrate the desires of what were to be 17 directly-elected MPs. And so it turned out.

    “Despite winning 12 of the popularly-elected 17 seats in 2010, the pro-democracy MPs were outvoted 14 to 12 when the votes of the nine nobles MPs were put into the equation.

    “However, in the two subsequent elections (2014 and 2017) the Democrats predominated and ‘Akilisi took over as Prime Minister. I am not qualified to judge his record on domestic issues, except to say it couldn’t have been an easy job because of the fractious nature of Tongan politics.

    “And ‘Akilisi has been in poor health.

    Political tee-shirts and mementoes from Keith Locke's campaign issues
    Political tee-shirts and mementoes from Keith Locke’s campaign issues at the memorial service in Mount Eden this week. Image: Del Abcede/APR

    ‘Admirable stand’
    “As Prime Minister he took an admirable stand on some important international issues, such as climate change. At the Pacific Island Forum he criticised those countries which stayed silent on the plight of the West Papuans.”

    Locke said that Tonga may not yet be fully democratic, but that great progress had been made under Pohiva’s “humble and self-sacrificing leadership.”

    Keith Locke was also an outspoken advocate for democracy and independence causes in Fiji, Kanaky New Caledonia, Palestine, Philippines, Tahiti, Tibet, Timor-Leste and West Papua and in many other countries.

    His remembrance service was held with whānau and supporters at a packed Mount Eden War memorial Hall on Tuesday.

    Philip Cass is an editorial adviser for Kaniva Tonga. Republished as a collaboration between KT and Asia Pacific Report.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • By Nicholas Mwai in Port Vila

    French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer to Vanuatu has hit back at criticism about French policy over Kanaky New Caledonia with an op-ed article published in the Vanuatu Daily Post.

    His article addresses key concerns regarding New Caledonia’s indigenous recognition, the decolonisation process, discrimination, military operations, and calls for independence in response to a protest petition delivered by the president of the Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs (MCC), Chief Paul Robert Ravun, earlier this month.

    At least nine people, including two gendarmes, have died in the unrest and rioting that followed protests against French constitutional changes starting on May 13 that critics say will further marginalise the indigenous people of the territory.

    Damage from the rioting and arson is estimated to be 1 billion euros (about NZ$1.8 billion).

    Eight arrested pro-independence leaders and charged over the riots were transferred to prisons in mainland France last weekend to await trial in a move heavily criticised across the Pacific.

    Key points made by Ambassador Vilmer in his article in the Vanuatu Daily Post today were:

    Recognition of indigenous people
    Ambassador Vilmer reaffirmed France’s commitment to recognising the Kanak people as indigenous, emphasising their unique identity and cultural heritage, “the French government formally acknowledges the Kanaky people as indigenous, recognising their unique identity and cultural heritage”.

    Highlighting the 1998 Nouméa Accord, Vilmer noted its acknowledgment of the dual legitimacy of both the Kanak people and other communities that have contributed to New Caledonia’s development, initiatives such as the inclusion of Kanak languages in the education system and the establishment of the Tjibaou Cultural Centre that underscores French support for promoting and defending Kanak culture.

    Denouncing discrimination
    Vilmer stressed France’s rejection of discrimination, saying “the French government denounces all forms of discrimination and is committed to promoting peace, justice, democracy, and respect for human rights”.

    Measures aimed at improving access to employment, education, and public services for the Kanak population had been implemented, although Vilmer acknowledged that challenges remained and more work was needed to reduce inequalities and foster harmonious relations among all communities in New Caledonia.

    Decolonisation of Kanaky
    Regarding the decolonisation process, Vilmer highlighted France’s support for New Caledonia’s path towards self-determination, which began in 1988, “the process of decolonisation in New Caledonia has been ongoing since 1988, with the French government supporting a path towards self-determination”.

    The Nouméa Accord of 1998, providing for substantial autonomy and the gradual transfer of powers to local authorities, had been praised by the United Nations Decolonisation Committee, despite three referendums in which a majority chose to remain part of France.

    Vilmer underscored France’s commitment to ongoing dialogue and cooperation with regional partners to build a shared future.

    Immediate cessation of military operations
    Vilmer addressed concerns about military operations, clarifying that none were currently underway in New Caledonia, “there are no military operations currently taking place in New Caledonia”.

    Law enforcement activities were being conducted by police and the gendarmerie to maintain public order and protect residents and infrastructure, adhering to the principle of proportionate use of force. The French government remained committed to ensuring safety and security while addressing unrest through dialogue and peaceful means.

    Independent international investigations
    On the issue of independent international investigations, Vilmer said there was “no necessity” for such measures as law enforcement actions were being supervised by independent courts following due legal process, “there is no need for independent international investigations”.

    Reinforcements deployed by the French state were deemed necessary to prevent further violence and socioeconomic damage. Vilmer emphasised the government’s “transparency and openness” to dialogue concerning law enforcement operations.

    Support for Kanaky independence
    In response to calls for Kanak independence, Vilmer highlighted France’s engagement with regional partners and the structured process of self-determination provided by the Nouméa Accord, “the French government continues to engage with regional partners to support dialogue and cooperation”.

    The Accord had facilitated multiple opportunities for the Kanak people and all New Caledonians to express their will.

    Ambassador Vilmer reiterated France’s dedication to advancing an “inclusive and peaceful future” for New Caledonia through continued dialogue and partnership with regional partners.

    Nicholas Mwai is a Vanuatu Daily Post reporter. This article is republished with permission.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • Pacific Media Watch

    Papua New Guinean journalist Sincha Dimara, news editor at the online publication InsidePNG, is one of seven recipients of this year’s East-West Center Journalists of Courage Impact Award.

    Pakistani journalist Kamal Siddiqi, former news director at Aaj TV, also received the award last night at the EWC’s International Media Conference in Manila, the organisation announced.

    He was also the first Pakistani to win the biennial award, which honours journalists who have “displayed exceptional commitment to quality reporting and freedom of the press, often under harrowing circumstances”.

    The five other recipients are Tom Grundym, editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press, Alan Miller, founder of the News Literacy Project in Washington DC, Soe Myint, editor-in-chief and managing director at Mizzima Media Group in Yangon, Myanmar, John Nery, columnist and editorial consultant at Rappler in Manila and Ana Marie Pamintuan, editor-in-chief of The Philippine Star.

    Six InsidePNG staff are in Manila at the conference. They were invited to engage in discussions on several different panels relating to the work of InsidePNG in investigative journalism.

    InsidePNG is part of the Pacific Island contingent, supported by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

    Global media event
    The global event brings media professionals from around the world to discuss current trends and challenges faced by the media industry.

    “We are excited to represent InsidePNG at this prestigious international media conference in Manila,” said Charmaine Yanam, chief editor and co-founder of InsidePNG.

    “We are grateful to OCCRP for recognising the importance of an independent newsroom that transmits through it’s continued support in pursuing investigative reporting.”

    This is the second time for InsidePNG to attend this event, the first was in 2022 where only two representatives attended.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • By Patrick Decloitre, RNZ Pacific correspondent French Pacific desk

    Fresh violence has erupted in several parts of New Caledonia over the past three days, with more burning and destruction and at least one death connected to unrest.

    The renewed unrest comes after seven pro-independence figures from the CCAT (Field Action Coordination Cell, close to the hard-line fringe of the pro-independence platform FLNKS) were indicted on Saturday and transferred by a special plane to several jails in mainland France.

    They are facing charges related to the organisation of the protests that led to grave civil unrest that broke out in the French Pacific territory since May 13 in protest against a French Constitutional amendment.

    The amendment, which is now suspended, purported to change voter eligibility in New Caledonia’s local elections by opening the vote to French citizens having resided there for an uninterrupted ten years.

    French security forces vehicle burnt down in the South of Dumbéa, New Caledonia on 24 June 2024 – Photo NC la 1ère
    French security forces vehicle burnt down in the south of Dumbéa, New Caledonia, yesterday. Image: NC la 1ère/RNZ

    The pro-independence movement strongly opposed this change, saying it would marginalise the indigenous Kanak vote.

    Because of the dissolution of the French National Assembly (Lower House) in view of a snap general election (due to be held on June 30 and 7 July 7), the Constitutional Bill however did not conclude its legislative path due to the inability of the French Congress (a joint sitting of both Upper and Lower Houses) to convene for a final vote on the controversial text.

    At the weekend, of the 11 CCAT officials who were heard by investigating judges after their arrest on June 19, seven — including CCAT leader Christian Téin– were indicted and later transferred to several prisons to serve their pre-trial period in mainland France.

    Since then, roadblocks and clashes with security forces have regained intensity in the capital Nouméa and its surroundings, as well as New Caledonia’s outer islands of Îles des Pins, Lifou and Maré, forcing domestic flights to be severely disrupted.

    In Maré, a group of rioters attempted to storm the building housing the local gendarmerie.

    In Dumbéa, a small town north of Nouméa, the municipal police headquarters and a primary school were burnt down.

    Other clashes between French security forces and pro-independence rioters took place in Bourail, on the west coast of the main island.

    Several other fires have been extinguished by local firefighters, especially in the Nouméa neighbourhoods of Magenta and the industrial zone of Ducos, French High Commissioner Louis Le Franc told the media on Monday.

    Fire-fighters and their vehicles were targeted by rioters on Monday – Photo Facebook Union des Pompiers Calédoniens
    Fire-fighters and their vehicles were targeted by rioters yesterday. Image: Union des Pompiers Calédoniens/FB/RNZ

    But on many occasions firefighters and their vehicles were targeted by rioters.

    Many schools that were preparing to reopen on Monday after six weeks of unrest have also remained closed.

    More roadblocks were erected by rioters on the main highway linking Nouméa to its international airport of La Tontouta, hampering international air traffic and forcing the reactivation of air transfers from domestic Nouméa-Magenta airport.

    In the face of the upsurge in violence, a dusk-to-dawn curfew has been maintained and the possession, sale and transportation of firearms, ammunition and alcohol, remain banned until further notice.

    The fresh unrest has also caused at least one death in the past two days: a 23-year-old man died of “respiratory distress” in Nouméa’s Kaméré neighbourhood because emergency services arrived too late, due to roadblocks.

    Another fatality was reported on Monday in Dumbéa, where a motorist died after attempting to use the express road on the wrong side and hit an oncoming vehicle coming from the opposite direction.

    Le Franc said just for yesterday, June 24, a total of 38 people had been arrested by police and gendarmes.

    This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.


    This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.

    This post was originally published on Radio Free.

  • Asia Pacific Report

    An exhibition from Tara Arts International has been brought to The University of the South Pacific as part of the Pacific International Media Conference next week.

    In the first exhibition of its kind, Connecting Diaspora: Pacific Prana provides an alternative narrative to the dominant story of the Indian diaspora to the Pacific.

    The epic altar “Pacific Prana” has been assembled in the gallery of USP’s Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies by installation artist Tiffany Singh in collaboration with journalistic film artist Mandrika Rupa and dancer and film artist Mandi Rupa Reid.

    PACIFIC MEDIA CONFERENCE 4-6 JULY 2024
    PACIFIC MEDIA CONFERENCE 4-6 JULY 2024

    A colourful exhibit of Indian classical dance costumes are on display in a deconstructed arrangement, to illustrate the evolution of Bharatanatyam for connecting the diaspora.

    Presented as a gift to the global diaspora, this is a collaborative, artistic, immersive, installation experience, of altar, flora, ritual, mineral, scent and sound.

    It combines documentary film journalism providing political and social commentary, also expressed through ancient dance mudra performance.

    The 120-year history of the people of the diaspora is explored, beginning in India and crossing the waters to the South Pacific by way of Fiji, then on to Aotearoa New Zealand and other islands of the Pacific.

    This is also the history of the ancestors of the three artists of Tara International who immigrated from India to the Pacific, and identifies their links to Fiji.

    expressed through ancient dance mudra performance.

    The 120-year history of the people of the diaspora is explored, beginning in India and crossing the waters to the South Pacific by way of Fiji, then on to Aotearoa New Zealand and other islands of the Pacific.

    Tiffany Singh (from left), Mandrika Rupa and Mandi Rupa-Reid
    Tiffany Singh (from left), Mandrika Rupa and Mandi Rupa-Reid . . . offering their collective voice and novel perspective of the diasporic journey of their ancestors through the epic installation and films. Image: Tara Arts International

    Support partners are Asia Pacific Media Network and The University of the South Pacific.

    The exhibition poster
    The exhibition poster . . . opening at USP’s Arts Centre on July 2. Image: Tara Arts International

    A journal article on documentary making in the Indian diaspora by Mandrika Rupa is also being published in the 30th anniversary edition of Pacific Journalism Review to be launched at the Pacific Media Conference dinner on July 4.

    Exhibition space for Tara Arts International has been provided at the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies at USP.

    The exhibition opening is next Tuesday, and will open to the public the next day and remain open until Wednesday, August 28.

    The gallery will be open from 10am to 4pm and is free.

    Published in collaboration with the USP Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • By Patrick Decloitre, RNZ Pacific correspondent French Pacific desk

    A group of pro-independence leaders charged with allegedly organising protests that turned into violent unrest in New Caledonia last month have been indicted and transferred to mainland France where they will be held in custody pending trial.

    Christian Téin and 10 others were arrested by French security forces during a dawn operation in Nouméa last Wednesday.

    Since then, they have been held for a preliminary period not exceeding 96 hours.

    ‘If this was about making new martyrs of the pro-independence cause, then there would not have been a better way to do it.’

    — A defence lawyer

    The indicted group members are suspected of “giving orders” within a “Field Action Coordinating Cell” (CCAT) that was set up last year by Union Calédonienne (UC), the largest and one of the more radical parties forming the pro-independence FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front) unbrella group.

    On behalf of CCAT, Téin organised a series of marches and protests, mainly peaceful, in New Caledonia, to oppose plans by the French government to change eligibility rules for local elections, which the pro-independence movement said would further marginalise indigenous Kanak voters.

    Heavy security setup around Nouméa’s tribunal on Saturday 22 June 2024
    A heavy security cordon around Nouméa’s courthouse last Satuday. Image: NC la 1ère TV/RNZ

    Late on Saturday, New Caledonia’s Public Prosecutor Yves Dupas told local media the indictment followed a decision made by one of the two “liberties and detention” judges dedicated to the case on the same day.

    The judge had ruled that Christian Téin should be temporarily transferred to a jail in Mulhouse (northeastern France), Téin’s lawyer Pierre Ortet told media.

    Téin was seen entering the investigating judge’s chambers on Saturday afternoon, local time, and leaving the office about half an hour later after he had been told of his indictment.

    A demonstration in Paris not far from the Justice Ministry calling for the release of the Kanak political prisoners
    A demonstration in Paris not far from the Justice Ministry calling for the release of the Kanak political prisoners. Image: NC la 1ère TV

    Other suspects include Brenda Wanabo-Ipeze, who is described as the CCAT’s communications officer and who is to be transferred to another French jail in Dijon (south-east of France); Frédérique Muliava, chief-of-staff of New Caledonia’s Congress; and President Roch Wamytan (also a major figure of the UC party), who is to be sent to another French jail in Riom (near Clermont-Ferrand in central France).

    The “presumed order-givers of the acts committed starting from 12 May 2024” are facing a long list of charges, including incitement, conspiracy, and complicity to instigate murders on officers entrusted with public authority.

    The transfer was decided to “ensure investigations can continue in a serene way and away from any pressure”, Dupas said.

    ‘Shock’, ‘surprise’, ‘stupor’ reactions
    Thomas Gruet, Wanabo-Ipeze’s lawyer, commented with shock about the judge’s decision: “My client would never have imagined ending up here. She is extremely shocked because, in her view, this is just about activism.”

    He said his client had “spent the whole of her first night (of indictment) handcuffed”.

    Gruet said he was “extremely shocked and astounded” by this decision.

    “I believe all the mistakes regarding the management of this crisis have now been made by the judiciary, which has responded politically. My client is an activist who has never called for violence. This will be a long trial, but we will demonstrate that she has never committed the charges she faces.”

    About midnight local time, Gruet was seen bringing his client a large pink suitcase containing a few personal effects which he had collected from her house.

    The transferred suspects are believed to have boarded a special flight in the early hours of Sunday.

    Téin’s lawyer, Pierre Ortet, said “we are surprised and in a stupor”.

    “We have already appealed (the ruling). Mr Téin intends to defend himself against the charges. It will be a long and complicated case.”

    Another defence lawyer, Stéphane Bonomo, commented: “If this was about making new martyrs of the pro-independence cause, then there would not have been a better way to do it.”

    On the French national political level and in the context of electoral campaigning ahead of the snap general election, to be held on 30 June and 7 July, far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon said the decision to transfer Téin was “an alienation of his rights and a gross and dramatic political mistake”.

    Late hearings Nouméa’s tribunal on Saturday 22 June 2024
    Late hearings at the Nouméa court last Saturday . . . accused pro-independence leaders being transferred to prisons in France to await trial. Image: NC la 1ère TV/RNZ

    Other indicted persons
    Among other persons who were indicted at the weekend are Guillaume Vama and Joël Tjibaou, the son of charismatic pro-independence FLNKS leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who signed the Matignon Accord peace agreement in 1988 and was assassinated one year later by a hardline member of the pro-independence movement.

    Tjibaou and several others have asked for a delay to prepare their defence and they will be heard tomorrow.

    Pending that hearing, they will not be transferred to mainland France and will be kept in custody in Nouméa, Tjibaou’s lawyer Claire Ghiani said.

    Why CCAT leaders are targeted
    The indicted group members are suspected of giving the orders within the CCAT.

    The constitutional amendment that would allow voters residing in New Caledonia for a minimum period of 10 years to take part in New Caledonia’s provincial elections, has been passed by both of France’s houses of Parliament (the Senate, on April 2 and the French National Assembly, on May 14).

    But the text, which still requires a final vote from the French Congress (a joint sitting of both Houses), has now been “suspended” by President Macron, mainly due to his calling of the snap general election on June 30 and July 7.

    Violent riots involving the burning, and looting of more than 600 businesses and 200 residential homes, erupted mainly in the capital Nouméa starting from May 13.

    Nine people, including two French gendarmes, have died as a result of the violent clashes.

    More than 7000 people are already believed to have lost their jobs for a total financial damage estimate now well over 1 billion euros (NZ$1.8 billion) as a result of the unrest.

    CCAT has consistently denied responsibility for the grave ongoing and violent civil unrest and Téin was featured on public television “calling for calm”.

    Fresh clashes in Nouméa and outer islands
    Meanwhile, there has been a new upsurge of violence and clashes in Nouméa and its surroundings, including the townships of Dumbéa (where about 30 rioters attempted to attack the local police station) and the neighbourhoods of Vallée-du-Tir, Magenta and Tuband, reports NC la 1ère TV.

    On the outer island of Lifou (Loyalty Islands group, northeast of the main island), the airstrip was damaged and as a result, all Air Calédonie flights were cancelled.

    This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • By Mark Pearson

    Journalists, publishers, academics, diplomats and NGO representatives from throughout the Asia-Pacific region will gather for the 2024 Pacific International Media Conference hosted by The University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, next month.

    A notable part of the conference on July 4-6 will be the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the journal Pacific Journalism Review — founded by the energetic pioneer of journalism studies in the Pacific, Professor David Robie, who was recently honoured in the NZ King’s Birthday Honours list as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

    I have been on the editorial board of PJR for two of its three decades.

    PACIFIC MEDIA CONFERENCE 4-6 JULY 2024
    PACIFIC MEDIA CONFERENCE 4-6 JULY 2024

    As well as delivering a keynote address titled “Frontline Media Faultlines: How Critical Journalism can Survive Against the Odds”, Dr Robie will join me and the current editor of PJR, Dr Philip Cass, on a panel examining the challenges faced by journalism journals in the Global South/Asia Pacific.

    We will be moderated by Professor Vijay Naidu, former professor and director of development studies and now an adjunct in the School of Law and Social Sciences at the university. He is also speaking at the PJR birthday event.

    In addition, I will be delivering a conference paper titled “Intersections between media law and ethics — a new pedagogy and curriculum”.

    Media law and ethics have often been taught as separate courses in the journalism and communication curriculum or have been structured as two distinct halves of a hybrid course.

    Integrated ethics and law approach
    My paper explains an integrated approach expounded in my new textbook, The Communicator’s Guide to Media Law and Ethics, where each key media law topic is introduced via a thorough exploration of its moral, ethical, religious, philosophical and human rights underpinnings.

    The argument is exemplified via an approach to the ethical and legal topic of confidentiality, central to the relationship between journalists and their sources.

    Mark Pearson's new book
    Mark Pearson’s The Communicator’s Guide to Media Law and Ethics cover. Image: Routledge

    After defining the term and distinguishing it from the related topic of privacy, the paper explains the approach in the textbook and curriculum which traces the religious and philosophical origins of confidentiality sourced to Hippocrates (460-370BC), via confidentiality in the priesthood (from Saint Aphrahat to the modern Catholic Code of Canon Law), and through the writings of Kant, Bentham, Stuart Mill, Sidgwick and Rawls until we reach the modern philosopher Sissela Bok’s examination of investigative journalism and claims of a public’s “right to know”.

    This leads naturally into an examination of the handling of confidentiality in both public relations and journalism ethical codes internationally and their distinctive approaches, opening the way to the examination of law, cases and examples internationally in confidentiality and disclosure and, ultimately, to a closer examination in the author’s own jurisdiction of Australia.

    Specific laws covered include breach of confidence, disobedience contempt, shield laws, whistleblower laws and freedom of information laws — with the latter having a strong foundation in international human rights instruments.

    The approach gives ethical studies a practical legal dimension, while enriching students’ legal knowledge with a backbone of its philosophical, religious and human rights origins.

    Details about the conference can be found on its USP website.

    Professor Mark Pearson (Griffith University) is a journalist, author, academic researcher and teacher with more than 45 years’ experience in journalism and journalism education. He is a former editor of Australian Journalism Review, a columnist for 15 years on research journal findings for the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers’ Association Bulletin, and author of 13 books, including The Communicator’s Guide to Media Law and Ethics — A Handbook for Australian Professionals (Routledge, 2024). He blogs at JournLaw.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • Vanuatu Daily Post

    All eight Members of Parliament from Vanuatu’s Tafea Province have made a bold and powerful call to French President Emmanuel Macron to “stop the violence and killing” being committed against the Kanak people of New Caledonia.

    The MPs include Trade Minister Bob Loughman, a former prime minister; Internal Affairs Minister Johnny Koanapo; Youth and Sports Minister Tomker Netvunei; Agriculture Minister Nako Natuman; Jotham Napat; Andrew Napuat; Xavier Harry; and Simil Johnson.

    “We, the MPs of Tafea Province, in this 13th Legislature of the Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu, make the following statement based on the undeniable historical cultural links, which has existed from time immemorial between our people of Tafea and the Kanaky people of New Caledonia . . .,” their signed statement said.

    Nine people have been killed during the unrest that began on May 13, five of them Kanaks and two were gendarmes.

    “As Melanesians to call for greater solidarity and bring to the spotlight the despicable acts of France as a colonial power that still colonises the island nations and maritime boundaries of our nations,” the statement said.

    “The recent events in New Caledonia is provoked by various ingredients which France has been cunningly cooking on their agenda over the years including the amendment of the electoral list which they understand very well that the Melanesians living in their own Kanaky mother land in New Caledonia are strongly opposed to it.

    “Because they know that France is deliberately using ways to alienate their voices in their own motherland.”

    ‘Honour Nouméa Accord’ call to France
    The MPs called on France to honour its commitment under the Nouméa Accord and engage in political dialogue, as was the custom in Melanesia and the Pacific.

    The MPs said it was “unfair to the helpless people of New Caledonia to be confronted by a world military power such as France and shoot, imprison, and expose them to fear in such a manner that we have recently witnessed”.

    They said France could not and must not act like this in the Pacific.

    “France simply needs to dialogue with the Kanak leaders, listen and respect them as equals,” their statement said.

    “The Kanaky [sic] are not their subjects of unequals. They are asking for their political autonomy. That’s all.

    “Why is France still colonising countries when the world has gone past the colonisation decade? Why can’t they choose to colonise another country in Europe?

    “France as an old democracy must end colonising people in this day and age. If the colonised people are yearning for freedom and they cannot fight with weapons to get their right to freedom, France must not act like a dictator to silence the dissenting voices who are yearning for freedom.

    ‘Listen . . . not silence them’
    “We call on France to listen, learn [from] the voices of the people, and not silence them with the barrel of a gun and other military weapons.

    “We want to see France as a civilised state to take responsibility and not shoot Melanesians from land and air as if they are in a war. Stop killing Melanesians.”

    The leaders from TAFEA also call on Kanaky leaders, both Independentists and non-independentists, to come together and discuss a common solution.

    “We see dialogue as a fundamental part of our Melanesian culture, and the state and all political parties must recognise the value of political dialogue,” they said.

    “. . . [We] ask all the people of the Republic of Vanuatu, including the government, chiefs, and churches, to stand in solidarity with our Melanesian families in New Caledonia.

    “We ask all praying Christians to pray for God’s intervention in the situation in New Caledonia, to restore peace, and to bring calm to the people of New Caledonia. God bless the people of New Caledonia.”

    Republished from the Vanuatu Daily Post with permission.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • RNZ News

    Former Green MP Keith Locke, a passionate activist and anti-war critic once described as “conscience of the year”, has died in hospital, aged 80.

    Locke was in Parliament from 1999 to 2011, and was known as a human rights and nuclear-free advocate.

    His family said he had died peacefully in the early hours this morning after a long illness.

    “He will be greatly missed by his partner Michele, his family, friends and colleagues. He kept up his interest and support for the causes he was passionate about to the last.

    “He was a man of integrity, courage and kindness who lived his values in every part of his life. He touched many lives in the course of his work in politics and activism.”

    The son of activists Elsie and Jack Locke of Christchurch, Keith was politically aware from an early age, and was involved in the first anti-nuclear and anti-apartheid marches of the 1960s.

    After a Masters degree at the University of Alberta in Canada, he returned to New Zealand and left academia to edit a fortnightly newspaper for the Socialist Action League, a union he had joined as a meatworker then railway workshop employee.

    He joined NewLabour in 1989, which later became part of the Alliance party, and split off into the Greens when they broke apart from the Alliance in 1997, entering Parliament as their foreign affairs spokesperson in the subsequent election two years later.

    Notable critic of NZ in Afghanistan
    While in Parliament, he was a notable critic of New Zealand’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan and the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, and advocated for refugee rights including in the case of Ahmed Zaoui.

    He also long advocated for New Zealand to become a republic, putting forward a member’s bill which would have led to a referendum on the matter.

    Commentators dubbed him variously the ‘Backbencher of the Year’ in 2002 — an award he reprised from a different outlet in 2010 — as well as the ‘Politician of the Year’ in 2003, and ‘Conscience of the Year’ in 2004.

    He was appointed a Member of the NZ Order of Merit for services to human rights advocacy in 2021, received NZ Amnesty International’s Human Rights Defender award in 2012, and the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand’s Harmony Award in 2013.

    In a statement today, Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and Chlöe Swarbrick said Locke was a dear friend and leading figure in the party’s history, who never wavered in holding government and those in positions of authority to account.

    “As a colleague and friend, Keith will be keenly missed by the Greens. He has been a shining light for the rights of people and planet. Keith Locke leaves a legacy that his family and all who knew him can be proud of. Moe mai ra e te rangatira,” they said.

    “From 1999 to 2011, he served our party with distinction and worked extremely hard to advance causes central to our kaupapa,” they said.

    Highlighting ‘human rights crises’
    “Not only did Keith work to defend civil liberties at home, but he was vigilant in highlighting human rights crises in other countries, including the Philippines, East Timor, West Papua and in Latin America.

    “We particularly acknowledge his strong and clear opposition to the Iraq War, and his commitment to an independent and principled foreign policy for Aotearoa.”

    They said his mahi as a fearless defender of civil liberties was exemplified in his efforts to challenge government overreach into citizens’ privacy.

    “Keith worked very hard to introduce reforms of our country’s security intelligence services. While there is much more to be done, the improvements in transparency that have occurred over the past two decades are in large part due to his advocacy and work. We will honour him by ensuring we carry on such work.”

    Former minister Peter Dunne said on social media he was “very saddened” to learn of Locke’s death.

    “Although we were on different ideological planets, we always got on and worked well together on a number of issues. Keith had my enduring respect for his integrity and honesty. Rest in peace, friend.”

    ‘Profoundly saddened’
    Auckland councillor Christine Fletcher said she was also sad to hear of the death of her “Mt Eden neighbour”.

    “We worked together on several political campaigns in the 1990s. Keith was a thoughtful, sincere and truly decent person. My condolences to Keith’s partner Michele, sister Maire Leadbeater and partner Graeme East.”

    Peace Action Wellington said Locke was a tireless activist for peace and justice — and the organisation was “profoundly saddened” by his death.

    “His voice and presence will be missed,” the organisation wrote on social media.

    “He was fearless. He spoke with the passion of someone who knows all too well the vast and dangerous reach of the state into people’s lives as someone who was under state surveillance from the time he was a child.

    “We acknowledge Keith’s amazing whānau who have a long whakapapa of peace and justice activism. He was a good soul who will be missed.”

    This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.

  • By Mong Palatino of Global Voices

    The situation has remained tense in the French Pacific territory of Kanaky New Caledonia more than a month after protests and riots erupted in response to the passage of a bill in France’s National Assembly that would have diluted the voting power of the Indigenous Kanak population.

    Nine people have already died, with 212 police and gendarmes wounded, more than 1000 people arrested or charged, and 2700 tourists and visitors have been repatriated.

    Riots led to looting and burning of shops which has caused an estimated 1 billion euros (NZ$1.8 billion) in economic damage so far. An estimated 7000 jobs were lost.

    Eight pro-independence leaders have been arrested this week for charges over the rioting but no pro-French protesters have been arrested for their part in the unrest.

    French President Emmanuel Macron arrived on May 23 in an attempt to defuse tension in the Pacific territory but his visit failed to quell the unrest as he merely suspended the enforcement of the bill instead of addressing the demand for a dialogue on how to proceed with the decolonisation process.

    He also deployed an additional 3000 security forces to restore peace and order which only further enraged the local population.

    Pacific groups condemned France’s decision to send in additional security forces in New Caledonia:

    These measures can only perpetuate the cycle of repression that continues to impede the territory’s decolonisation process and are to be condemned in the strongest terms!

    The pace and pathway for an amicable resolution of Kanaky-New Caledonia’s decolonisation challenges cannot, and must not continue to be dictated in Paris.


    Asia Pacific Report editor David Robie on the Kanaky New Caledonia unrest. Video: Green Left

    They also called out French officials and loyalists for pinning the blame for the riots solely on pro-independence forces.

    While local customary, political, and church leaders have deplored all violence and taken responsibility in addressing growing youth frustrations at the lack of progress on the political front, loyalist voices and French government representatives have continued to fuel narratives that serve to blame independence supporters for hostilities.

    Joey Tau of the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) recalled that the heavy-handed approach of France also led to violent clashes in the 1980s that resulted in the drafting of a peace accord.

    The ongoing military buildup needs to be also carefully looked at as it continues to instigate tension on the ground, limiting people, limiting the indigenous peoples movements.

    And it just brings you back to, you know, the similar riots that they had in before New Caledonia came to an accord, as per the Noumea Accord. It’s history replaying itself.

    The situation in New Caledonia was tackled at the C-24 Special Committee on Decolonisation of the United Nations on June 10.

    Reverend James Shri Bhagwan, general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, spoke at the assembly and accused France of disregarding the demands of the Indigenous population.

    France has turned a deaf ear to untiring and peaceful calls of the indigenous people of Kanaky-New Caledonia and other pro-independence supporters for a new political process, founded on justice, peaceful dialogue and consensus and has demonstrated a continued inability and unwillingness to remain a neutral and trustworthy party under the Noumea Accord.

    Philippe Dunoyer, one of the two New Caledonians who hold seats in the French National Assembly, is worried that the dissolution of the Parliament with the snap election recently announced by Macron, and the Paris hosting of the Olympics would further drown out news coverage about the situation in the Pacific territory.

    This period will probably not allow the adoption of measures which are very urgent, very important, particularly in terms of economic recovery, support for economic actors, support for our social protection system and for financing of New Caledonia.

    USTKE trade union leader Mélanie Atapo summed up the sentiments of pro-independence protesters who told French authorities that “you can’t negotiate with a gun to your head” and that “everything is negotiable, except independence.” She added:

    In any negotiations, it is out of the question to once again endorse a remake of the retrograde agreements that have only perpetuated the colonial system.

    Today, we can measure the disastrous results of these, through the revolt of Kanak youth.

    Meanwhile, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) has reiterated its proposal to provide a “neutral space for all parties to come together in the spirit of the Pacific Way, to find an agreed way forward.”

    Mong Palatino is regional editor for Southeast Asia for Global Voices. He is an activist and former two-term member of the Philippine House of Representatives. @mongster  Republished under Creative Commons.


    This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.

    This post was originally published on Radio Free.

  • By Lydia Lewis, RNZ Pacific journalist

    As New Caledonia passes the one-month mark since violent and deadly clashes erupted on last month, there has been no clear path put forward by Paris as far as the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) is concerned.

    Yesterday, eight people — including the leader of the Field Action Coordinating Cell (CCAT) Christian Téin — were arrested by New Caledonia’s security forces over the unrest since May 13.

    According to the Public Prosecutor’s office, they face several potential charges, including organised destruction of goods and property and incitement of crimes and murders or murder attempts on officers entrusted with public authority.

    “All the unrest, all the troubles, is the result of the ignorance of the French government,” said New Caledonia territorial government spokesperson Charles Wea.

    “We cannot have peace without the independence of the country. New Caledonia will always get into trouble if the case of independence is not taken into consideration,” he said.

    But speaking in an exclusive interview with RNZ Pacific, the French Ambassador to the Pacific, Véronique Roger-Lacan, said there were options to resolve the ongoing conflict — but the violence needed to stop first.

    Roger-Lacan said there was a national process to address the independence issue — that was through the controversial constitutional changes which has sparked the unrest.

    Youth protest peacefully in April 2024.
    A young Kanak protests peacefully during a pro-independence rally in April 2024. Image: RNZ Pacific/Lydia Lewis

    Paris is also engaged with the UN Committee on Decolonisation (C24) where options of self-determination through independence or free association with an independent state are being discussed.

    On top of that, Paris has met with the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) heads, or troika, over the phone and said talks are underway to either organise a meeting with regional leaders soon, or at the PIF leaders meeting in Tonga in August.

    Whatever the option, the FLNKS and the wider pro-independence movement want a robust process that leads to independence, said Wea.

    Charles Wea
    Kanaky New Caledonia territorial government spokesperson Charles Wea . . . “All the unrest, all the troubles, is the result of the ignorance of the French government.” Image: RNZ Pacific/Kelvin Anthony

    Militarisation ‘fake news’
    More than 3000 security forces have been deployed, and armoured vehicles with machine gun capability have also been sent to French territory.

    Roger-Lacan said the forces were needed and she rejected claims that the territory was being “militarised”.

    She stressed that the thousands of special forces deployed were “necessary” to contain the violence and restore law and order.

    Territorial Route 1 has been blocked by barricades erected by the rioters, and Roger-Lacan posed the question: “How do you remove this type of barricade if you have no forces?”

    ‘A militarisation movement’ – Reverend Bhagwan
    Pacific civil society groups continue to deplore France’s actions leading up to the ongoing unrest and its response to the violence.

    They have called for the immediate withdrawal of the extra forces and a phasing down of security options.

    Pacific Conference of Churches general secretary Reverend James Bhagwan told RNZ Pacific France’s heavy deployment of security forces looked like militarisation to him.

    “We have seen far too much already these last few weeks to be fooled,” Bhagwan said.

    “We still have militias who are armed, we still have increasing numbers of security forces on the ground. That is militarisation whether it is formal or something that’s been organised in a different way.

    “We are just calling it as we see it.

    “We’ve also seen the way in which the French government treats that particular area, recognising that this is part of maintaining their colonies as part of the Indo-Pacific strategy, that there is a militarisation movement happening by the French in the Pacific.”

    ‘Get their facts right’
    However, Ambassador Roger-Lacan vehemently disagrees with such claims, saying individuals such as Reverend Bhagwan need to “get their facts right”.

    She said claims that the French state had militarised New Caledonia and the region, must be corrected because “it’s not true”.

    “First of all, violence had to be stopped, and public order and law enforcement had to be resumed,” she said.

    “I would like to suggest for those people [civil society] to watch the houses that were burnt, to listen to the people that were harassed in their houses, to listen to people who were scared of the violence.”

    She said such comments were biased, doubling down that “reinforcement was needed”.

    The general secretary of the Pacific Council of Churches, James Bhagwan.
    Pacific Council of Churches general secretary Reverend James Bhagwan. . . . Image: RNZ/Jamie Tahana

    The general secretary of the Pacific Council of Churches, James Bhagwan. Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

    Intergenerational trauma
    The French Ambassador to the Pacific said concerns that the death toll from the unrest was much higher than reported was also not true.

    The death toll stands at eight, she said, adding that three state security officers and five civilians had died.

    But some indigenous Kanaks have called for Paris to investigate the death toll, as they believe more young rioters were feared dead.

    Roger-Lacan wants worried parents to know France had heard them and concerned parents could call the 24/7 hotline.

    “With gendarmes in New Caledonia everywhere, they know all the families, they know all the tribes,” she said.

    “It is not true that we don’t have the appropriate links with the whole population.”

    Reverend Bhagwan believes it is naive to expect communities to simply trust France given the political history of the territory.

    He said there was “intergenerational trauma” simmering under the surface, especially when Kanaks see French forces on their land.

    “You can understand then why mothers are concerned about their children, and so to ignore that intergenerational trauma for people in Kanaky, is really a little bit of naivety on the French High Commissioner’s part,” Reverend Bhagwan said.

    But one thing all parties agree on is that “force” is not the answer to solve the current crisis.

    “Of course, force is not the answer,” Ambassador Roger-Lacan said, but added “force has to be used to bring back public order sometimes”.

    This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.