Saturday, February 28, 2009

Karen journalist in critical force for change

Violet Cho, a 25-year-old Karen journalist writing for Irawaddy magazine and living in Thailand, has won AUT Pacific Media Centre's inaugural Asian Journalism Fellowship. The fellowship is supported by an Asia: NZ Foundation grant. She arrives in New Zealand today and will join the Bachelor of Communication Studies (Honours) programme and be a resource journalist with the PMC for a year. Here is her story:

By Violet Cho: Pacific Media Centre

I was born in Pa-an, Burma, in January 1984. My family were farmers but we didn't have money to cultivate the land. I spent the first seven years of my life in Pa-an and Loikaw until my family fled to Huay Kaloke refugee camp in 1991.

My father was already working for the Karen National Union on the borderline so we were in a dangerous situation Even though he had a low position in the KNU, if the military realised about my father’s involvement with the resistance, my mother, brother and I could be arrested.

Later, my father called us to join him for our security. So we escaped across the border into Thailand. At that time, I was still young and I was sent to Huay Kaloke refugee camp where I could do some primary schooling.

The experience living in the camp wasn't a happy one. Almost all the time we were afraid of Burmese military attacks because the refugee camp was close to the border and not secure.

In 1998, Huay Kaloke refugee camp was attacked and burnt down by the Burmese military. Our house and all our possessions were destroyed and there was a lot of shooting.

This was my first direct experience with military oppression and human rights abuses and it is a day that I always remember. I was afraid and angry too.

By the end of 1999, my family and lots of others moved to a new camp called Umpiem Mai, where I could go to school. I was really pleased at having a chance to study again, even though resources were small.

Teenage broadcaster
I first became involved in media when I was a teenager living in Umpiem refugee camp. I volunteered for a new community radio station under Karen Student Network Group (KSNG) which I helped set up.

KSNG is a student organisation that organises Karen students in refugee camps and in the border areas of Burma to work together for the aim to find opportunities for refugee students and people without access to education, to prepare them to be leaders, to preserve and maintain the culture of Karen people, to raise awareness about human rights among youth and to work for campaigns to protect environment and human rights, such as the current Salween Dam campaign.

In KSNG, I have worked in all of these areas with a focus on community media. Through KSNG, I got a chance to study at a journalism school organised by Internews. In KSNG, I have worked as a secretary and radio and print editor.

While full time working with the student organisation on the Thai-Burmese border, I used to do some reporting and file stories to Kwekalu which is a semi-independent Karen newsletter based near the border with Southern Burma. I also did some news reporting for Burmese independent media agency Mizzima which it is now based in New Delhi.

I also spent one year working as a features reporter for Radio Free Asia. I made radio features in the Burmese language that were broadcast to Burma through shortwave. It was good because I love working in radio. Some of my stories included the problem of domestic violence in refugee camps, the daily struggle of undocumented migrant workers in Thailand and the dreams of refugee youth.

Since 2007, I have been working for Irrawaddy Publishing Group, which has a daily news website and a monthly glossy magazine. It was started by Burmese exiles and is the most prominent Burmese exiled media organisation.

It is an exciting place to work and has allowed me to get a lot of sources inside Burma and internationally. I spend most of my time writing stories for the website but I do some commentary for the magazine too. I really like to try and do investigative reporting – but since I am working with a media organisation that is unregisterered in Thailand, there are so many security challenges.

Migrant issues
At Irrawaddy, I have been interested in reporting on migrant worker issues, environmental problems and the struggles of ordinary impoverished people. I also think media should be a watchdog of UN agencies and NGOs as they play an important role in my community – so I also have written some reports about their policies and actions that are problematic.

As a person from Burma, I have a high expectation about change. I do believe that the Burmese have to know their political destination and be working hard towards it.

As a person who has worked for the change of Burma as an indigenous youth activist and an independent journalist, I will continue working with free media and community organisations in exile.

Studying journalism at AUT University will greatly help my work as a journalist. To produce critical media, I need a stronger academic background in media and a theoretical framework.

I think I will grow a lot if I can also attend university and use the skills and knowledge to work to improve Burmese media so it can be a greater critical force for change.

Irawaddy magazine
Mizzima news agency
Asia: NZ Foundation profile

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tnews intern, former Fiji publisher win Pasifika scholarships

Staff Reporter: Pacific Media Centre

A Triangle TV Tnews intern and continuing AUT University media student and a former Fiji newspaper publisher have been awarded the two AUT/PIMA Pasifika communication scholarships for this year.

John Pulu, a 20-year-old former Otahuhu College student who is now in the final year of a Bachelor of Communication Studies television major, has won the undergraduate award.

Thakur Ranjit Singh, 53, a former publisher of the Fiji Daily Post who migrated to New Zealand with his family and is an outspoken columnist for papers such as the Fiji Times, Fiji Sun and Indian Newslink and a community advocate, has been awarded the postgraduate award. He will undertake a Master in Communication Studies degree.

The annual scholarships have been sponsored by AUT's School of Communication Studies in partnership with the Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) since 2003.

While at Otahuhu College, John Pulu helped produce a news item broadcast on TVNZ's Tagata Pasifika about the "gateway" project enabling students from decile one schools in South Auckland to get industry experience.

"I'm a firm believer that Pacific people deserve to be served by and represented in the media and I have worked hard for this goal since leaving high school," he says.

After joining AUT, he has worked as a part-time reporter filming and covering news items for the Tongan community on T-News.

As part of his coursework, Pulu has also filmed a couple of short documentaries currently available on the Pacific Media Centre's channel on YouTube.

They are Kava Commune, which was screened at the 2008 Manukau Film Festival, and a short video about the 2008 PIMA conference which Pulu filmed, directed, and edited.

As well as television, Pulu co-hosted the breakfast shift at the Pacific Islands radio network Niu FM.

"At AUT’s Pacific Media Centre, I'm an enthusiastic and motivated team player, often volunteering in the centre’s projects," he says. "I like to share my experiences and advice with fellow students and hope this will develop into a mentor role in the future."

Pulu is also a student representative for PIMA.

"I'm passionate about documenting Pacific Island issues and highlighting our rich history."

Ranjit Singh was publisher of the Fiji Daily Post at the time of the George Speight coup in 2000 and he wrote a lively weekly column about cultural and political issues.

While much of his career has been in administrative and business roles - he graduated from the University of the South Pacific and later did an MBA at Massey University in New Zealand - he has for several years been striving to take up a career in journalism.

He has a keen interest in Pacific issues, human rights and political and social challenges facing the region. At one stage, he was an exchange student from USP with the University of Papua New Guinea.

Since migrating to Auckland, he has contributed regular columns to newspapers in Fiji and New Zealand and believes the AUT/PIMA scholarship will help refine his analytical and journalistic skills for community benefit.

"I welcome the challenge to contribute to more analytical journalism and media research for the Pacific. We need more Pacific voices in the media in New Zealand," he says.

"And it will be good for PIMA to have a fresh, different perspective too."

Pictured: Top: John Pulu at work in the AUT television studio. Above: Ranjit Singh at PIMA 2008.

Pacific Media Centre
PMC on YouTube
Triangle TV T-News

Chinese e-TV network forges link with Triangle

By Felicity Anderson

A Beijing-based educational television station has selected Triangle and Stratos television channels for programme exchanges.

Jim Blackman, founder and chief executive of Triangle and Stratos, met Kang Ning, president of China Education Television (CETV), at AUT University's Chinese Centre to discuss how the two channels will cooperate.

Triangle and Stratos already screens Chongqing TV news from mainland China and a variety of documentaries, but Blackman says there is a demand from the channels’ viewers for more material from the mainland that helps “cross the cultural divide” and contains either English language or subtitles as well as Mandarin.

“That’s a vital role in the development of New Zealand’s multicultural environment and one that Triangle and Stratos have been playing a leadership role in for some years now,” Blackman says.

Blackman and Kang were joined by Chinese Consul Tom Gao, cultural adviser Jim He and AUT’s director for international relations and development Chris Hawley and Associate Professor David Robie, director of the Pacific Media Centre in the School of Communications Studies.

AUT is interested in the development of the link between CETV and Triangle and Stratos.

Kang says with the shift of many workers back to the countryside due to the effects of the global economic slowdown, one of the key needs was to have educational material on farming.

Pictured: Jim Blackman. Triangle photo.

China Education Television
Stratos TV
PMC on YouTube

Monday, February 23, 2009

Indian Newslink funds new j-scholarship

By Andrea Malcolm: AUT

AUT University and community newspaper Indian Newslink have launched a journalism scholarship in a bid to boost the standard and practice of the profession.

Indian Newslink will pay the tuition fee, student services fee and student association fee for one student admitted every year into one of the university’s one-year postgraduate programmes, including the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) and the Bachelor of Communication Studies (Hons).

The programme, open to all New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, is aimed at creating a new generation of quality journalists and boosting professional standards of journalism in New Zealand.

Indian Newslink publisher Ravin Lal says the newspaper is a community newspaper entering its 10th year of publication and he wants to “give something back to the community”.

He says because of the Indian community’s strong interest in education, the topic has always been a focus of the newspaper.

AUT University vice-chancellor Derek McCormack says the university is thrilled to have a partnership with Indian Newslink.

“I think it’s a really strong initiative to support us with this scholarship and hope that the rest of the news media will take note and follow their lead.”

The first scholarship will be awarded this year for the 2010 intake. The provisional application deadline is September 30, 2009.

Pictured: Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack (left) and Indian Newslink publisher Ravin Lal sign the scholarship agreement.

Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies scholarships
School of Communication Studies journalism scholarships
Indian Newslink

Saturday, February 21, 2009

China Daily online editor joins AUT on exchange

Staff reporter: Pacific Media Centre

A China Daily online editor arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, today on a semester-long exchange study internship with AUT University's School of Communication Studies.

Beijing-born Wang Nan, 28, a cultural affairs editor on China's culture website also assists the chief editor.

"My job is to introduce China’s beautiful places which are worth a visit and to profile delicious Chinese food, people’s lives and many interesting things," she says.

"If you want to know more about common Chinese young people’s life, just ask me - don't hesitate!"

For five years, graduate journalists from AUT have worked on three-month internships on the China Daily's websites and several have gone on to full time jobs with Chinese media or news organisations elsewhere in Asia.

In return, AUT has hosted China Daily staff on exchange, mostly in the Business Faculty.

Wang is the first China Daily staff person to join the School of Communication Studies and she will be attached with the AUT Pacific Media Centre during her stay in New Zealand.

Her family name Wang means “king” in the Putonghua language and Nan is a variety of tree and represents good health.

She has worked with several AUT journalism graduates in Beijing and she found the most recent internee, Cameron Broadhurst - who also did an internship with the Jakarta Daily Post in 2007 - the most helpful.

"Cameron gave me much help for my trip to Auckland and he told me he was sure it would be a great adventure for me. I look forward to it."

While at AUT, Wang - who holds a BA degree in English language and literature from Beijing International Studies University - will be doing a series of design and media papers.

Her chief interests include painting and photography.

China Daily
China Daily culture
Pacific Media Centre
AUT international journalism internships

Friday, February 20, 2009

China's tumultuous year

By Cameron Broadhurst: Pacific Media Centre

After 30 years of reform, the world is feeling the effects of China opening up, especially when one momentous event after another in 2008 brought change that could shape the giant’s identity for years to come.

Early in 2008 were the Tibetan riots and torch protests. They were overshadowed by the Sichuan earthquake. The Olympics followed, then the milk scandal and now the financial crisis. It was the year China extolled its “30 Years of Reform” since Deng Xiaoping opened up the country in 1978; fittingly it was a year that showed that the events that matter now in China are those shared by and affecting the rest of the world.

Beijing spent seven years preparing for the Olympics, and the common sentiment was they were a defining moment for China. Yet just months later, other events have surpassed their significance.

The election of Barack Obama to the US presidency has been followed and even cheered on by many of China’s urban youth, though others fear a new protectionism and his calls for the yuan to be revalued.

Otherwise Obama’s official policy on Taiwan and other issues remains little changed from the Bush administration. But how Obama handles the financial situation will of course affect China.

The economic crisis
China’s domestic response to the world crisis has been a massive “Chinese New Deal”: 4 trillion yuan (US$586 billion) in government funds to kickstart domestic spending. The money largely covers targeting housing and state infrastructure but also includes funds for R&D and environmental protection.

At the same time, the central bank’s slashing of interest rates in November showed a country edging closer to its a new role as a player and manager of the international economy.

When US and European banks began failing in October, state media reports on Chinese banks’ solidity held confidence, but a country heavily reliant on exports for growth could never be immune. As investment from overseas dried up and key export markets slowed, the Chinese economy has been left hurting.

Across the provinces, firms and factories have been hitting the wall, from toy manufacturers to online video companies. By late 2008 thousands of workers were leaving Guangdong daily, as job vacancies in the Pearl River Delta topped 2 million.

During the Economic Forum in Davos, the international monetary elite came out asking China to “have a voice as well as a wallet”, and take a role in making regulations on international capital. That followed close channels of US–China communication at the time of the US bailout, due to China’s massive foreign reserves of US$1.8 trillion.

You Nuo, a journalist at the state-owned newspaper China Daily, says he looks forward to a future where Chinese monetary policy, with its heavy government hand, comes more in line with what he wryly calls the rest of the world’s new financial socialism.

There remains debate over just how stable China will be. But Richard Balme, a professor of politics at Tsinghua University, says if China remains strong, it could gain international standing.

“If the Chinese economy proves to be robust they will come out strong from this,” he says. “So far China has appeared as a stabilizing factor. If confirmed, this would give more strength to its economic policies and influence. And it will benefit its relations with foreign countries.”

With new fuel taxes and oil price reforms, the government is trying to steer China towards higher domestic demand to fill the export gap, not an easy shift to make and one the world is watching with anticipation.

While financial woes may be China’s major worry now, the past half year has seen ample other opportunities for China watchers to examine its progress in the world community.

The Olympic Games and China’s space walk
The Games are over, yet their legacy remains. A European diplomat working in Beijing, who asked not to be named, describes the Beijing Olympics as “an undoubted success by every measure”. He believes the Communist Party’s perception of the political risk of international attention (such as to human rights) increased as the event grew closer, leading to nervousness by internationalists in the party over a possible backlash from more inward-looking factions.

Such nervousness may explain the dramatic measures to close down large gatherings in the lead-up to the event.

“The Games will have been a great relief. It was also a success in reinforcing the party’s claim to legitimacy in running the country,” he says. “It was very well managed in strengthening the party’s claim to the mantle of power. That was the stabilizing influence of the Games.”

Shortly after the Games finished, and timed as if to continue the triumphant China theme, millions watched as a Chinese astronaut performed the country’s first space walk, shaking a red flag out in the solar void. Experts and commentators lauded the great technical achievement, another step toward a Chinese space station within four years, and ultimately a moon landing.

Journalist You believes people did not really care a great deal about the space walk, but were and are more concerned about keeping the GDP at 10 percent. More important, and undermining the hype of progress, was the milk scandal.

Milk and melamine
Infant deaths and thousands of sick babies across the country were shocking enough to Chinese mothers, but nations around Asia were also forced to test for foods when it became known some Chinese milk powder was laced with melamine.

A number of people took the blame for mistakes, including the head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ, China’s food and health safety department). Figures for infants affected have now reached six deaths, and 294,000 sickened. Compensation will be up to US$29,000 per family.

But despite months of clues since early 2008, the whole scandal broke conveniently only as the Paralympics was drawing to a close. The eventual scale of it may have taken the government by surprise.

“AQSIQ is not working and has never worked,” says You. “The milk crisis is not going away, because we’re waiting for new standards in that industry.”

While a new ‘preemptive’ food monitoring system was being introduced to promote prevention instead of crackdowns after the fact, food problems continued. Melamine was found in eggs in Hong Kong, and formaldehyde in whitebait. In late December authorities began investigating melamine in tableware as well.

“The scandal is a reminder of the problems we’ve always known,” says the diplomat. “But at the same time after the Games there was less schadenfreude and a higher stock of world sympathy for China than with the toy problem.”

The real problem, he suggests, is threefold. First, regional branches of the government are not funded properly so seek revenues locally, creating a tendency for them to be in the pockets of the people they are regulating.

Second, fiscal policy, made in Beijing, attempts to deal with food prices through price controls.

The third problem is the weakness of the press and its connection to large companies. As many have noted, it is customary in China that either there is no problem at all, or a crisis so serious that it overwhelms the system. A controlled media and lack of independence in monitoring systems means problems are rarely exposed early.

For media, the after-effects of the Games have turned. Foreign journalists’ license to interview at will was been made permanent, (though no such allowance is granted Chinese journalists).

But since the games, major news outlets and foreign websites that were penetrating ‘the Great Firewall’ have now again been curtailed, as censors moved to block previously accessible ‘sensitive content’ after the world’s gaze had moved on.

Behind closed doors
Other events in China attract less attention, but may be even more significant. New land reforms could transform the future of property in China. Basic land rights for rural residents, previously held only by city dwellers, were created in October’s Communist Party Committee Congress, enabling peasants to rent out their plots and protecting them from land grabs by developers.

Beijing sees the reforms as critical to lifting Chinese peasants (there are about 700 million of them) out of poverty and stimulating domestic demand to combat the export crisis. Connected to the push for more rights are the problems of the Chinese labor force, which remains tied by a permit system to their origin – construction workers, for example, were sent packing once they had built Beijing for the Olympics.

Balme says other important changes to Chinese law are being made without public awareness, and he cites the review of death penalty cases and the reform of arbitrary detention.

“Small steps, but the direction is there,” he says. “Chinese authorities are open to dialogue and borrowing from foreign expertise.”

Among the human rights dilemmas, Tibet holds little chance of any political change. Balme says that since the Olympics, China has come to understand the EU is critical of its human rights position, without accepting it, and there is major difficulty in European influence forcing the Chinese to change against their will.

President Sarkozy’s decision to meet with the Dalai Lama in December outraged the Chinese government, who cancelled an EU summit because of it. The French president is becoming an unpopular figure in China, and an easy target for the nationalistic rage that the government encourages to deflect anger from itself.

China is also still eager to hold onto its developing country status, wanting to benefit from it in forums, trade and climate change talks. In one recent radio interview, Wen Jiabao corrected an interviewer who described the country as a new great power. “We are on the way to becoming a moderately prosperous socialist economy,” he said.

A main thrust of foreign policy and public announcements is combating the story that China’s rise is a threat. China’s Asian partners, such as India and Indonesia, are hedging their bets, for other major countries in Asia will not want an unduly powerful China in the region.

And while the world looks increasingly to China’s role, the Chinese are without doubt hoping for more of a role themselves. As a Chinese journalist, You is looking at his country’s response to the financial crisis to define its future among global economies.

“Money doesn’t have a motherland,” he says jokingly. “Regulators of the world unite.”

Cameron Broadhurst returned recently to NZ from an AUT Pacific Media Centre internship with China as part of an exchange agreement between the China Daily and AUT University. Cameron's air travel was sponsored by a grant from the Asia: NZ Foundation. This article was originally published in the Jakarta Daily Post on January 29.

New publication to boost NZ media diversity

By Thakur Ranjit Singh: Pacific Media Centre

A new Indian weekly publication will hit the New Zealand market next month. Known as the Indian Weekender, it will be a paper for largely Indian readers spread around Auckland and Hamilton initially. It will be spread to other areas later.

This paper attempts to fill the vacuum of positive community news that New Zealand does not hear about. There are so many unsung heroes and heroines in Indian
communities doing commendable work, but never get into papers as positive news.

The Indian Weekender will be the first real community-based Indian newspaper.

The launch is planned during the Waitakere Holi Mela at Trusts Stadium Grounds, Central Park Drive, Henderson on March 22.

* Ranjit Singh (pictured at last year's Pacific Islands Media Association conference) is a key reporter with this new publishing venture. As a community worker volunteer, he is keen to hear from organisations about their "unpublished stories". He is also a masters student with AUT University, attached to the Pacific Media Centre. Photo: PMC.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Guidelines key to accountability, says broadcaster

By Josephine Latu: Pacific Media Watch

NUKU’ALOFA: With many Pacific nations facing tough crises – Fiji’s fourth coup, Tonga’s constitutional upheaval and a divisive election in Vanuatu – a regional media conference has highlighted the challenge of covering major political events.

This was one of the topics explored by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA) conference in Tonga last week.

“The key role of guidelines in political and elections coverage” was the title of a key session at the conference, with presentations by Phil Molefe (pictured), head of international affairs of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), and Murray Green, director of ABC International.

“Guidelines are to the newsroom what grammar is to language,” said Molefe, who spoke in an interview outside of closed sessions at the conference.

He told Pacific Media Watch this was especially relevant in developing countries, where having a set of established guidelines could ensure that media organisations remain accountable to the public and not the government.

Using South Africa as an example, Molefe said media could make the transformation from state apparatus to public service by taking up new commitments, new goals, as well as editorial policies that ensure accountability.

Guidelines could also help to keep journalists’ personal beliefs separate from their work and enable them to maintain professional standards.

The CBA handbook Covering Elections in Small States: Guidelines for Broadcasters, by Mary Raine, was also distributed at the conference. The book contains sections on reporting campaigns, opinion polls and the right of reply.

Molefe said that enforcing guidelines was a team act among newsroom managers, editors, and subeditors.

However, working in the public interest should be upheld throughout the news organisation.

The conference was held on February 9-13. Photo by Josephine Latu.
Conference website

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another side to the Fiji coup and media freedom

Review by Thakur Ranjit Singh, Auckland: PMC

Media7, TV New Zealand’s digital TV channel news analysis programme, convened a panel discussion on February 5 about the reporting of the ongoing saga of Fiji politics and how New Zealand is perceived as a "bully". Leading independent journalist Russell Brown was presenter and interviewer and the panel members were:

Dr David Robie - former head of the University of the South Pacific’s journalism school in Suva and now associate professor and director of AUT University's Pacific Media Centre. He also operates the Café Pacific blog.

Barbara Dreaver - Pacific affairs reporter for TVNZ who was denied entry into Fiji, detained and sent packing back to NZ by the interim regime.

Robert Khan - managing director of the Auckland-based Hindi station Radio Tarana that brings in local news about Fiji.

Russell Brown handled the discussion very ably, allowing all panelists to give their views and presented thoughts and questions that smoothly ran through the programme and maintained the momentum. There was never a dull moment.

The speakers well represented the width and breadth of media, ranging from a media educator with good exposure to Fiji and the Pacific, a practising journalist who has been in the thick of Fiji reporting and an Indo-Fijian proprietor of the leading Hindi radio station that has been the voice of Fiji in Auckland.

David Robie eloquently narrated and critically analysed Fiji in a way that other Kiwi journalists have failed to do. He displayed maturity and understanding that sadly is lacking in his peers in NZ. He was right to point out that the last coup was the result of unresolved issues and problems, but it appears NZ leadership has not been interested in listening to this. It would be nice if Prime Minister John Key’s administration pick that up because it appears his new government has failed to appreciate what David Robie had been saying. He echoed my views that NZ media had been wanting in proper reporting and analysis of Fiji issues. They are unaware why change has to come, as they fail to appreciate the situation.

Dr Robie summed up the situation well by stating that while no coups are good, the last one by Commodore Frank Bainimarama was for a better vision for Fiji, to inculcate multiracialism among other objectives, whereas the past coups were ethno-nationalist takeovers based on promoting the supremacy of one particular race.

Simplistic view
Robert Khan was correct in pointing out that his organisation, Radio Tarana, seems to understand the Fiji situation well while other mainstream media take a simplistic view of the country. There appears to be a dearth of journalist in NZ who understand Fiji well. This is because those media organisations do not have people who understand Fiji. In contrast, Tarana has Fiji-born reporters.

Robert Khan was critical of Fiji media and even went to the extent of accusing various media organisations of having a political agenda but was too cautious to give any examples. He mentioned Fiji Television and expected others to fill in the gap, instead of answering the question on political affiliation he posed the question to the panel. He appeared to have been too expedient and minced his words but Barbara Dreaver took this opportunity to praise Fiji Television journalists rather than criticise them for anything.

Barbara Dreaver’s explanation of why John Key’s accusation against the Fiji interim Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, that he should be tried was downplayed by NZ media was waffled and unconvincing. Her reason was time difference and the media had gone to sleep. She failed to tell that they did wake up the following morning, yet we failed to hear anything about this. One can be excused for saying that while NZ media takes any opportunity to slate Bainimarama, they downplayed Key’s slip up perhaps to protect him and reflect him in a better light.

Robert Khan was frank in this instance to say that Key’s statement on Sayed-Khaiyum was perceived by Indo-Fijians that Key had gone to Port Moresby for the Pacific Islands Forum meeting with a set mind and agenda and went more to tell rather than listen and understand the situation.

The flaw in NZ media was further reflected by their coverage announcing that Bainimarama had said that elections would be held in 10 years time. The translation showed that what actually was said was that it could take up to 5 to 10 years. Hence NZ media need to treat Fiji with greater respect and with a better standard of reporting than the sloppiness which has been quite evident.

Robert Khan was again on the side of caution and expediency when discussing Fairfax journalist Michael Field. While he said Field deserved a proper hearing for his deportation, he failed to mention that if Field was such an experienced reporter then how come Kiwis were so ignorant about Fiji. If somebody who claims to have virtually spent his lifetime in the Pacific and Fiji reporting, then he owes a moral obligation to use his experience curve and his contact with mainstream NZ media in better informing and analysing the Fiji situation to the ignorant Kiwis who still cannot appreciate the real situation there. He failed Fiji in that respect.

Game plan lacking
Barbara Dreaver came out as somebody who did appreciate the Fiji situation when she categorically stated that there was nothing wrong with Bainimarama’s vision on Fiji. It is very good and there is great deal of support for it in Fiji. She is perfectly right in this regard. She added that what was lacking was the game plan and how things were done. The fact that Bainimarama keeps changing his mind was identified as a problem that retards any progress in achieving that vision. One major issue identified was the constant changing of his mind by the military boss.

David Robie was bold in being critical of his government and he appears to be one of the few Kiwi analysts who are prepared to do this. He agrees that NZ is not realistic in time table. Bainimarama wishes to change the electoral process and there is a fair amount of support for this. However, this is not reflected in the NZ media. The People's Charter process involved a large number of qualified and talented people to forge a way forward and Dr Robie echoed the view of Robert Khan that there was a need to look at solutions and attempts made at resolving unresolved issues to avoid future coups. One was a change in an unfair electoral system where the race-based system favours the rural voters, who have up to twice the weighting for their votes when compared to their urban cousins.

In summing up, Robert Khan echoed the sentiments that I have been stressing in and around NZ media since December 2006. A coup is no solution. Worse than a coup is a failed coup and NZ could contribute to this failure if it maintains its non-compromising stance. Khan reiterated what has been said often that democracy in Fiji is different from that in NZ in that it has to take control of the situation and help arrive at a solution to avoid future coups. Well said, but who will tell this to John Key’s policy writers and bureaucrats in the Beehive who themselves are uninformed about Fiji.

In summary, this was a topical and pertinent subject, well presented and well covered. The only hope is that John Key gets to watch this or at least get to read this review. Such coverage of important issues fills up the vacuum that is left by the mainstream media which shows a pathetic attitude to Fiji in particular and Pacific in general.

One umbrella
If there was a prize available, I would award it to David Robie for his display of profound understanding on the Fiji issue and ability to analyse this in simple terms for everybody to understand. Nevertheless, all the panelists were great and showed their respective acumen in their area of specialty.

If Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials listened to a such panel discussion and such frank discussion and analysis on Fiji, they need not cut and paste Labour party’s foreign policy on Fiji.

John Key displayed his conciliatory temperament and humility at home with the Maori people when he brought two diametrically opposed politicians - Rodney Hide and Dr Peter Sharples - under one umbrella. Had he displayed similar skills at Port Moresby in his treatment of Fiji, then commentators like me would have no reason to accuse him of clinging on to Helen Clark’s petticoat in determining foreign policy on Fiji.

Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political commentator on Fiji issues and a former publisher of the Fiji Daily Post. Pictured: TVNZ's Barbara Dreaver.

Media7 on Fiji video - Feb 5
Media7 on YouTube
Fiji programme on YouTube
Another side of the NZ media - Fiji Times, Feb 19

Thursday, February 5, 2009

PMC on YouTube

Browse Pacific Media Centre's video channel on YouTube:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

PMC's director criticises NZ 'bluster' on Fiji

95bfm's Bjornar caught Pacific Media Centre's director David Robie on the hop just before the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) special leaders meeting to discuss the region's strategy over Fiji. Dr Robie gave wide-ranging views about the Pacific media and politics and was highly critical of Australia and New Zealand's regional "bluster".

>> Listen to Bjornar's interview

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

USP journalist to contest beauty pageant

USP correspondent: Suva, PMC

A former University of the South Pacific journalism graduate and former student editor will represent Fiji in the Miss India Worldwide beauty pageant.

Naziah Ali was one of the top journalism students at USP in her years at the Pacific's regional university. She was editor of the award-winning student training newspaper Wansolwara.

She also won the most promising student and most outstanding graduating student awards at USP’s annual media awards in her first and third year of study.

Divisional head of journalism at USP Shailendra Singh says the journalism school is proud of Ali’s achievements, adding she will make a good ambassador for Fiji.

Ali was also a part-time journalism and theatre arts tutor at USP. She previously worked as a reporter for Fiji Television.

She presented her "I Tatau" (traditional offering) to the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, at Government House today.

Speaking in the Ba dialect to seeking the President's blessing, Ali told him this was the first time Fiji would be represented in the pageant

“ Fiji is lucky as this will be the first time the country will be represented in the event,” Ratu Iloilo said.

Ali, whose mother is from Nailaga in Ba, is sponsored by Finance Pacific. She will be among contestants from more than 25 countries participating in the pageant on February 14.

She leaves for Durban, South Africa, tomorrow.

Picture: Naziah Ali with Ratu Iloilo