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From Kanaky to Palestine, how Paris is weaponising deportations from Pacific

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A Kanak prison parallel with Palestine. Since the 2000s, the incarceration of Palestinians has systematically been synonymous with being torn away from their families and loved ones. Image: Samidoun
A Kanak prison parallel with Palestine. Since the 2000s, the incarceration of Palestinians has systematically been synonymous with being torn away from their families and loved ones. Image: Samidoun

In the West Bank, one in three Palestinians has experienced one or more incarcerations during their life since 1967, or 35 percent of the population, while in Kanaky, the Nouméa prison, known as Camp Est, is populated by 95 percent Kanaks, while they represent only 39 to 43 percent of the Caledonian population of 270,000.

SPECIAL REPORT: Samidoun

On Friday, July 5, France announced the continued provisional detention on mainland France of 5 Kanak defendants, out of seven pro-independence “leaders” who had been deported from Kanaky New Caledonia on June 23.

The subsequent announcements of the arrest of 11 pro-independence activists, including 9 provisional detentions (including Joël Tjibaou and Gilles Jorédié, incarcerated in Camp Est) and 7 incarcerations in mainland France (Christian Tein, Frédérique Muliava, Brenda Wanabo-Ipeze, Dimitri Tein Qenegei, Guillaume Vama, Steve Unë and Yewa Waethane), more than 17,000 kilometres from their homeland, revived the mobilisations that had begun a month earlier as part of the fight against the plan to “unfreeze” the Kanaky electoral body.

Suspended after President Emmanuel Macron announced the dissolution of the National Assembly, this project actually aims to reverse the achievements of the Nouméa Accords signed in 1998.

It is part of the strategy of strengthening French colonialism in Kanaky by extending the ability to vote on local matters, including independence referandums, to an even greater number of settlers, making the indigenous Kanaks a de facto minority at the ballot box.

On July 11, 10 Centaur armoured vehicles, 15 fire trucks, a dozen all-terrain military armoured vehicles and numerous army trucks were landed by ship in Kanaky, where the population remains under curfew.

This entire sequence bears witness to the manner in which France, through its colonial administration, deploys a repressive security arsenal that on the one hand protects the settlers on the land and their reactionary militias, and on the other, attempts to destroy the country’s Kanak independence movement.

Imprisonment and incarceration are a weapon of choice in this overall colonial strategy.

Imprisonment is one of the key weapons of choice in colonial strategies to try to stifle independence and national liberation struggles, from the Zionist regime in Palestine to allied imperialist countries and colonial empires such as France.

While the figures are incomparable due to differences between the populations and conditions, in the West Bank, according to Stéphanie Latte Abdallah, one in three Palestinians has experienced one or more incarcerations during their life since 1967, or 35 percent of the population, while in Kanaky, the Nouméa prison, known as Camp Est, is populated by 95 percent Kanaks, while they represent only 39 to 43 percent of the Caledonian population.

East Camp Prison - Noumea
Camp Est Prison in Nouville, on the outskirts of Nouméa. Image: Samidoun

Nicknamed “the island of oblivion” by the prisoners, the Camp Est prison locks up many young Kanaks excluded from the economic, educational and health systems, and symbolises the French colonial continuum, especially as the building partly occupies the space of the former French penal colony imposed there.

Silence of sociologists
Few studies exist of this over-incarceration of the Kanak population, and as Hamid Mokadem reminds us:

“The silence of sociologists and demographers on ethno-cultural inequalities is inversely proportional to the chatter of anthropologists on Kanak customs and culture.”

The incarceration rate is significantly higher than in mainland France, so much so that a new prison has been built.

The Koné detention center, and a project to replace Camp Est was announced in February 2024 by the Minister of Justice. He promised a 600-bed facility (compared to the 230 cells available at Camp Est) that would emerge after a construction project estimated at 500 million euros (NZ$908 million).

This is the largest investment by the French state on Kanak soil, a deadly promise that at the same time reaffirms France’s imperialist project in the Pacific, driven by its financial and geopolitical interests to retain its colonial properties there.

While waiting for this large-scale prison project, new cells have been fitted out in containers on which a double mesh roof has been installed, many without windows, and where the conditions of incarceration are even harsher than in the other sections of the prison, including those for men, women and minors, pre-trial detainees and those who have been convicted and sentenced.

The over-representation of the Kanak population has only increased, since incarceration has been one of the mechanisms through which the French government attempts to stem the movement against the plan to “unfreeze” and expand the electoral body, with 1139 arrests since mid-May.

The penalty of deportation
Local detention was supplemented by another penalty directly inherited from the Code de l’Indigénat: the penalty of deportation.

On June 23, after the announcement of the arrest of 7 Kanak independence activists in metropolitan France, the population learned that they were going to be deported 17,000 km from their homes.

A plane was waiting to transfer them to metropolitan France during their pretrial detention, all seven of them dispersed across the prisons of Dijon, Mulhouse, Bourges, Blois, Nevers, Villefranche and Riom.

This deportation of activists in the context of pre-trial detention directly recalls the events of 1988, and more broadly the way in which prison and removal were used in a colonial context.

From the 19th century and the deportation of Toussaint Louverture of Haiti to France, thousands of Algerians arrested during the uprisings against the French colonisation of Algeria at the same time as the detention of the prisoners of the Paris Commune in 1871, the Vietnamese of Hanoi in 1913, were deported to Kanaky or other colonies such as Guyana.

More recently, the Algerian revolutionaries, were massively incarcerated in metropolitan colonial prisons. From a principle inherited from the indigénat, and although today we have moved from an administrative decision to a judicial decision, the practice of deportation remains the same.

Particularly used in the context of anti-colonial resistance movements, the deportation of Kanak prisoners to metropolitan colonial prisons has been used on this scale since 1988 in Kanaky.

Ouvéa cave massacre
After the massacre of 19 Kanak independence fighters who had taken police officers prisoner in the Ouvéa cave, activists still alive were imprisoned, then deported, then released as part of the Matignon-Oudinot Accords.

Twenty six Kanak prisoners came to populate the prisons of the Paris region while they were still in preventive detention — while awaiting their trials and therefore presumed innocent, as is the case today for the CCAT activists currently incarcerated.

In the 1980s, French prisons were shaken by major revolts, particularly against the racism of the guards, who were mostly affiliated with the then-nascent Front National (FN), and more broadly against the penal policy of the Mitterrand left and the massively expanding length of sentences imposed at the time.

In 1988, as former prisoners wrote afterwards, some made a point of showing their solidarity with the Kanaks by sharing their clothes and food with them.

Because many of the activists were transferred in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops, in trying conditions, with their hands cuffed during the 24-hour journey, underhand repression techniques of the Prison Administration that are still in force.

Similar deportation conditions were described by Christian Téin, spokesperson for the CCAT incarcerated in the isolation wing of the Mulhouse-Lutterbach Penitentiary Center. The  shock of incarceration is all the more violent.

CCAT leader Christian Téin, organiser of a series of marches and protests, mainly peaceful
CCAT leader Christian Téin, organiser of a series of marches and protests, mainly peaceful . . . he was deported and transferred to prison in Mulhouse, north-eastern France, to await trial. Image: NZ La 1ère TV screenshot APR

Added to this is the pain of the forced separation of parents and children, which is found not only in the current situation in metropolitan France but also in Palestine. Also there is great difficulty in finding loved ones, in attempting to find out which prisons they are in, or even if they are currently detained, continually encountering administrative violence, with the absence of information and the cruelty of official figures.

Orchestrated psychological impact
All this is orchestrated so that the psychological impact, in the long term, aims to induce the prisoners and also their families to stop fighting.

At the time of the events in Ouvéa, the uprooting of independence activists from their lands to lock them up in mainland France was commonplace, and the Kanak detainees joined those from the Caribbean Revolutionary Alliance such as Luc Reinette and Georges Faisans, incarcerated in Île-de-France during the 1980s alongside Corsican and Basque prisoners.

Since then, this had only happened once, in the context of the uprisings in Guadeloup in 2021, where several local figures, mostly community activists, had been deported and then incarcerated in mainland France and Martinique in an attempt to stifle the revolts in which a large number of Guadeloupean youth were mobilised.

Here again, we could draw a parallel with Palestine. As Assia Zaino points out, since the 2000s, the incarceration of Palestinians has systematically been synonymous with being torn away from their families and loved ones.

Zionist prisons, located within the Palestinian territories colonised in 1948, “are integrated into the civil prison system [. . . ] and entry bans on Israeli soil are frequently imposed on the families of detainees for security reasons,” which in fact aims to attack the relatives of detainees and destabilise the national liberation struggle.

Ahmad Saadat, Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh and their comrades in detention – date and location unknown. Image: Samidoun

From prison, the struggle continues
This mass incarceration is confronted by the powerful presence of prisoners as symbols of courage and resistance.

We know that in Palestine, as during the Algerian war of national liberation, incarceration is an opportunity to learn from one’s people, to forge national revolutionary consciousness but also to continue the struggle, very concretely, by mobilising against incarceration.

Because the Palestinian prisoners’ movement has transformed the colonial prison into a school of revolution: each political party has a prison branch whose political bureau or leadership is made up of imprisoned leaders.

These branches have real weight in the decisions taken outside the walls, and they are the ones responsible for leading the struggle in the colonial prisons, in particular by declaring collective hunger strikes and developing alliances of struggle that can mobilise several thousand prisoners, but also for organising the daily life of revolutionaries in prison.

It was this movement of prisoners that played a major role in driving the Palestinian resistance groups to unite under a unified command with the total liberation of historic Palestine as their compass, and to overcome internal contradictions.

Historically, the prisoners also constituted a significant part the most radical elements of the Palestinian revolution, notably by massively refusing any negotiation with the Zionist state at the time when the disastrous Oslo Accords were being prepared.

Resistance in colonial prisons can also take cultural forms, as illustrated by the very rich Palestinian prison literature, composed of literary works written in secret and smuggled out by prisoners to bear witness to the outside world of the vitality of their ideals, their struggle and the conditions of detention.

Courage of the children
An example is Walid Daqqah, a renowned writer and one of the longest-held Palestinian prisoners, who was martyred on 7 April 2024 during his 38th year of detention in colonial prisons.

In short, from the children and adolescents who wear courageous smiles as they leave their trials surrounded by soldiers, to the women of Damon prison who heroically stand up to their jailers, to the resistance of the prisoners who fight by putting their lives and health at risk while having a central role in the Resistance outside, it is the daily struggle of the prisoners’ movement that makes detention a place where resistance to the colonial regime is organised, continuing even inside detention.

As Charlotte Kates, Samidoun’s international coordinator, said:

“Despite the intention to use political imprisonment to suppress Palestinian resistance and derail the Palestinian liberation movement, Palestinian prisoners have remained political leaders and symbols of steadfastness for the struggle as a whole.”

In Kanaky, it was the announcement of the incarceration of CCAT activists on June 23 that relaunched the movement, who became the driving forces behind this new round of mobilisation.

On May 13, while the population was setting up roadblocks on the main roads of Nouméa, a mutiny broke out in the Camp Est prison in reaction to the plan to unfreeze the electoral body.

The prison was therefore directly part of the mobilisation, and three guards were taken hostage on this first day of struggle. They were quickly released after the RAID (French national police tactical unit) intervened.

But during the night of May 14-15, another revolt took place in the prison, rendering no fewer than 80 cells unusable.

It is therefore in this context of uprising and intifada throughout Kanaky, both in prisons and outside, that the announcement of the deportation of the 7 Kanak leaders took place.

In addition to these highly publicised deportations, there were also dozens of similar cases of transfers from Camp Est.

Completely ignored by the government, these took place both before May 23 and during the month of July, including participants in the prison uprisings as well as long-term prisoners transferred to relieve congestion in the Kanak prison.

Silence which masks the scale of these colonial deportations only intends to make the task of the families and political supporters of the Kanaks even more difficult in their attempt to show solidarity with the prisoners.

Furthermore, upon their arrival in mainland France, the CCAT activists were separated into 7 different prisons, directly recalling the policy of dispersion already at work in Spain at the end of the 1980s against ETA prisoners, in reaction to the effectiveness of their prison organising.

Today as yesterday, the colonial power dispatches prisoners throughout the mainland to prevent a collective counter-offensive. The prisoners’ connections with one another, but also with the outside, are consequently largely hampered.

This isolation directly aims to break the movement by tearing off its “head” and preventing any form of common struggle against this confinement. We therefore know that the momentum of struggle outside seems to respond to a hardening of detention conditions inside prisons, as evidenced by the isolation in which the CCAT activists are kept.

Likewise in Palestine, where since last October 7, mass arrests have escalated to the development of military concentration camps characterised by inhumane conditions of incarceration where severe torture is a daily, routine occurrence.

Currently, both for the more than 9300 Palestinian prisoners detained in the 19 Zionist colonial prisons, and for the thousands of prisoners from Gaza arrested during the genocidal offensive of the occupying forces on the Strip incarcerated in military camps, the conditions of detention have deteriorated significantly.

If in the colonial prisons Palestinian prisoners suffer hunger, collective isolation, overcrowding, violence and physical and psychological torture, conditions which have led to the martyrdom of at least 18 prisoners since October 7, in the military detention camps the situation is even more extreme.

The thousands of prisoners from Gaza held there are handcuffed and blindfolded 24 hours a day, forced to kneel on the ground, motionless for most of the day, raped and sexually assaulted and tortured daily, which leaves the released prisoners with enormous trauma.

Sick prisoners are crammed in naked, equipped with diapers, on beds without mattresses or blankets, in military airplane hangars and warehouses and without any medical care.

In all cases, isolation reigns, in prisons as in military detention centers, and the Zionist regime aims to cut off the Palestinian prisoners — and their collective movement — from the outside world.

A "Freedom Brigade" Palestinian poster. Image: Samidoun
A “Freedom Brigade” Palestinian prison escape poster. Image: Samidoun

Stories of prison escapes
Beyond the heroic prison uprisings, many stories of escapes from colonial prisons also fuel resistance and demonstrate the resilience of prisoners.

In Palestine, to cite a recent example, we recall the “Freedom Tunnel” operation, where six Palestinian prisoners freed themselves from the Zionist-occupied Gilboa high-security prison by digging a tunnel using a spoon.

The six Palestinians — Mahmoud al-Ardah, Mohammed al-Ardah, Yaqoub Qadri, Ayham Kamamji, Munadil Nafa’at and Zakaria Zubaidi — became Palestinian, Arab and international symbols of Palestinian resistance and the will for freedom.

While they were all rearrested, their escape exposed the weaknesses under the colonial myth of “impenetrable Israeli security”, plunging the occupation’s prison system into an internal crisis.

In France, the CRAs (Administrative Detention Centres) represent an ultra-violent manifestation of racism and the management of exiles. People are locked up in terrible and therefore deadly conditions.

Thus, faced with colonial management of populations, particularly from former French colonies, resistance is being organised.

For example, on the night of Friday, June 21 to Saturday, June 22, 14 people held at the CRA in Vincennes managed to escape (only one person has been re-arrested since).

This follows the escape of 11 detainees in December from this same place of confinement. However, these detention centres are often recent and very well equipped.

From Palestine to the Hegaxone and the colonial prisons in Kanaky, the resistance fighters fight day by day within the prison system itself, and the escapes and uprisings in the prisons are events that weaken the colonial propaganda and its myth of invincibility and total superiority.

A "Freedom for the Kanaky CCAT comrades" banner
A “Freedom for the Kanaky CCAT comrades” banner. Image: Image: Samidoun

Resistance continues
Despite the tightening of detention conditions and the security arsenal that is deployed against liberation movements, it is clear that the resistance is not stopping and that, on the contrary, organizing is becoming even more vigorous.

In Kanaky, new blockades in solidarity with the prisoners have spread well beyond Nouméa since June 23, demanding their immediate release and repatriation to Kanaky, since “touching one of them is touching everyone”.

In mainland France, numerous gatherings have also taken place since Monday at the call of the MKF (Kanak Movement in France), and among others led by the Collectif Solidarité Kanaky in front of the Ministry of Justice in Paris, and also in front of the prisons where the activists are still incarcerated.

Their prison numbers have been made public so that it is possible to write to them and so that broad and massive support can be communicated to them in order to provide them with the strength necessary for this fight from metropolitan France.

From now on, tributes to the Kanak martyrs who fell under the bullets of the colonial militias and the French State are joined by banners for the freedom of the prisoners.

Marah Bakir, a representative of Palestinian women prisoners, arrested at the age of 15 by the colonial army and imprisoned for 8 years, made these comments during her first interview given upon her release on 24 November 2023:

“It is very difficult to feel freedom and to be liberated in exchange for the blood of the martyrs of Gaza and the great sacrifices of our people in the Gaza Strip.”  

The Kanaky ‘martyrs’:
Stéphanie Nassaie Doouka
, 17, and Chrétien Neregote, 36, shot in the head on May 20 by a business manager.

Djibril Saïko Salo, 19, shot in the back on May 15 by loyalist settlers at a roadblock.

Dany Tidjite, 48, killed by an off-duty police officer who tried to impose a roadblock.

Joseph Poulawa, 34, killed on May 28 by two bullets in the chest and shoulder by the GIGN (the elite police tactical unit of the National Gendarmerie of France)

Lionel Païta, 26, killed on June 3 by a bullet to the head by a police officer at a roadblock.

Victorin Rock Wamytan, known as “Banane”, 38 years old, father of two children, killed on July 10 by a shot in the chest by the GIGN on customary lands

In Kanaky, the names of these martyrs, just like the 19 of the Ouvéa cave, will remain forever in the memory of the activists and people, and as one could read on another banner in Noumea: “The fight must not cease for lack of a leader or fighters, this direction remains forever. Kanaky”

This article, by Samidoun Paris Banlieue, was published first in French at: https://samidoun.net/fr/2024/07/la-question-carcerale-dans-la-colonisation-de-la-kanaky-a-la-palestine/. During the protests in Kanaky in May and ongoing, French military forces targeted demonstrators, imposed a countrywide ban on TikTok, and have seized multiple political prisoners from the Kanak independence movement. This article is republished from Samidoun.

Tahiti’s ‘old lion’ Gaston Flosse, 93, steps down after 52 years in politics

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Tahiti's veteran politician Gaston Flosse (left)
Tahiti's veteran politician Gaston Flosse (left) with Bruno Sandras, vice-president of the Amuitahiraa o te Nunaa Maohi party . . . his doctor "tells me I must stop completely". FLASHBACK: David Robie's 1986 Islands Business cover story "Papa Flosse's iron grip". Image: Montage: Polynésie la 1ere TV/screenshot APR/David Robie

By Patrick Decloitre

French Polynesia’s veteran politician, 93-year-old Gaston Flosse, announced last week he is stepping down from his position as president of his Amuitahiraa o te Nunaa Maohi party.

Flosse, known locally as “the old lion”, has been President of French Polynesia on several occasions over a span of more than 30 years.

Once known as the strongman of the French Pacific territory, he was also a member of the French government with the portfolio of Minister of State in charge of overseas territories, during the second half of the 1980s under then Prime Minister Jacques Chirac.

Tahiti's veteran politician Gaston Flosse (left) with Bruno Sandras, vice-president of the Amuitahiraa o te Nunaa Maohi party
Tahiti’s veteran politician Gaston Flosse (left) with Bruno Sandras, vice-president of the Amuitahiraa o te Nunaa Maohi party . . . his doctor “tells me I must stop completely”. Image: Polynésie la 1ere TV/screenshot APR

He was also the President of French Polynesia when, once elected President, Chirac resumed nuclear testing at the atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa (until 1996).

The resumption triggered riots at the time in the capital Pape’ete.

With his party, then known as the Tahuiraa Huiraatia, he was a strong advocate of French Polynesia remaining a part of France, under an “autonomy” status, but over the past few years became in favour of France obtaining a new status in “association” with France.

Flosse said he was stepping down for health reasons, but he still believes he is fit to keep contributing to his party.

“Now health is the priority. The doctor had already told me to stop at least 4 days a week, now he tells me I must stop completely,” he told journalists.

“But apart from that, I feel very good, physically and intellectually.”

The date of September 28 has been earmarked for the election of a new party president. One of the candidates is his wife, Pascale Haiti-Flosse.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ Pacific and Asia Pacific Report.

"Papa Flosse's iron grip" in Tahiti
“Papa Flosse’s iron grip” in Tahiti . . . cover story in April 1986. Image: David Robie/Islands Business

A role for Pacific media in charting a pragmatic global outlook

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A media crush at the recent Pacific International Media Conference in Fiji
A media crush at the recent Pacific International Media Conference in Fiji. Image: Asia Pacific Media Network

ANALYSIS: By Shailendra Bahadur Singh and Amit Sarwal in Suva

Given the intensifying situation, journalists, academics and experts joined to state the need for the Pacific, including its media, to re-assert itself and chart its own path, rooted in its unique cultural, economic and environmental context.

The tone for the discussions was set by Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Information and Communications Technology Timothy Masiu, chief guest at the official dinner of the Suva conference.

The conference heard that the Pacific media sector is small and under-resourced, so its abilities to carry out its public interest role is limited, even in a free media environment.

PNG Communications Technology Minister Tmothy Masiu
PNG Information and Communications Technology Minister Tmothy Masiu (second from left) at the launch of the book Waves of Change: Media, Peace, and Development in the Pacific in Fiji earlier this month. He is pictured with coeditors (from left) Fiji Deputy Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad, Dr Shailendra Singh and Dr Amit Sarwal. Image: Asia Pacific Media Network
PACIFIC MEDIA CONFERENCE 4-6 JULY 2024
PACIFIC MEDIA CONFERENCE 4-6 JULY 2024

Masiu asked how Pacific media was being developed and used as a tool to protect and preserve Pacific identities in the light of “outside influences on our media in the region”. He said the Pacific was “increasingly being used as the backyard” for geopolitics, with regional media “targeted by the more developed nations as a tool to drive their geopolitical agenda”.

Masiu is the latest to draw attention to the widespread impacts of the global contest on the Pacific, with his focus on the media sector, and potential implications for editorial independence.

In some ways, Pacific media have benefitted from the geopolitical contest with the increased injection of foreign funds into the sector, prompting some at the Suva conference to ponder whether “too much of a good thing could turn out to be bad”.

Experts echoed Masiu’s concerns about island nations’ increased wariness of being mere pawns in a larger game.

Fiji a compelling example
Fiji offers a compelling example of a nation navigating this complex landscape with a balanced approach. Fiji has sought to diversify its diplomatic relations, strengthening ties with China and India, without a wholesale pivot away from traditional partners Australia and New Zealand.

Some Pacific Island leaders espouse the “friends to all, enemies to none” doctrine in the face of concerns about getting caught in the crossfire of any military conflict.

This is manifest in Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka’s incessant calls for a “zone of peace” during both the Melanesian Spearhead Group Leaders’ meeting in Port Vila in August, and the United Nations General Assembly debate in New York in September.

Rabuka expressed fears about growing geopolitical rivalry contributing to escalating tensions, stating that “we must consider the Pacific a zone of peace”.

Papua New Guinea, rich in natural resources, has similarly navigated its relationships with major powers. While Chinese investments in infrastructure and mining have surged, PNG has also actively engaged with Australia, its closest neighbour and long-time partner.

“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,” Masiu told the Suva conference.

Masiu’s proposed media policy for PNG was also discussed at the Suva conference, with former PNG newspaper editor Alex Rheeney stating that the media fraternity saw it as a threat, although the minister spoke positively about it in his address.

Criticism and praise
In 2019, Solomon Islands shifted diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, a move that was met with both criticism and praise. While this opened the door to increased Chinese investment in infrastructure, it also highlighted an effort to balance existing ties to Australia and other Western partners.

Samoa and Tonga too have taken significant strides in using environmental diplomacy as a cornerstone of their international engagement.

As small island nations, they are on the frontlines of climate change, a reality that shapes their global interactions. In the world’s least visited country, Tuvalu (population 12,000), “climate change is not some distant hypothetical but a reality of daily life”.

One of the outcomes of the debates at the Suva conference was that media freedom in the Pacific is a critical factor in shaping an independent and pragmatic global outlook.

Fiji has seen fluctuations in media freedom following political upheavals, with periods of restrictive press laws. However, with the repeal of the draconian media act last year, there is a growing recognition that a free and vibrant media landscape is essential for transparent governance and informed decision-making.

But the conference also heard that the Pacific media sector is small and under-resourced, so its ability to carry out its public interest role is limited, even in a free media environment.

Waves of Change: Media, Peace, and Development in the Pacific
Waves of Change: Media, Peace, and Development in the Pacific. Image: Kula Press

Vulnerability worsened
The Pacific media sector’s vulnerability had worsened due to the financial damage from the digital disruption and the covid-19 pandemic. It underscored the need to address the financial side of the equation if media organisations are to remain viable.

For the Pacific, the path forward lies in pragmatism and self-reliance, as argued in the book of collected essays Waves of Change: Media, Peace, and Development in the Pacific, edited by Shailendra Bahadur Singh, Fiji Deputy Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad and Amit Sarwal, launched at the Suva conference by Masiu.

No doubt, as was commonly expressed at the Suva media conference, the world is watching as the Pacific charts its own course.

As the renowned Pacific writer Epeli Hau’ofa once envisioned, the Pacific Islands are not small and isolated, but a “sea of islands” with deep connections and vast potential to contribute in the global order.

As they continue to engage with the world, the Pacific nations will need to carve out a path that reflects their unique traditional wisdom, values and aspirations.

Dr Shailendra Bahadur Singh is head of journalism at The University of the South Pacific (USP) in Suva, Fiji, and chair of the recent Pacific International Media Conference. Dr Amit Sarwal is an Indian-origin academic, translator, and journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. He is formerly a senior lecturer and deputy head of school (research) at the USP. This article was first published by The Interpreter and is republished with permission.

Amid decline in mainstream media trust, Pacific Journalism Review remains a beacon

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Pacific Journalism Review designer Del Abcede
Pacific Journalism Review designer Del Abcede at the launch . . . praised over her design work. Image: Khairiah A. Rahman/APMN

Professor Vijay Naidu’s speech celebrating the launch of the 30th anniversary edition of Pacific Journalism Review at the Pacific International Media Conference in Suva, Fiji, on 4 July 2024. Dr Naidu is adjunct professor in the disciplines of development studies and governance in the School of Law and Social Sciences at the University of the South Pacific. 

ADDRESS: By Professor Vijay Naidu

I have been given the honour of launching the 30th anniversary edition of the Pacific Journalism Review (PJR) at this highly significant gathering of media professionals and scholars from the Asia Pacific region.

I join our chief quests and others to commend and congratulate Dr Shailendra Singh, the head of USP Journalism, and his team for the organisation of the 2024 Pacific International Media Conference.

This evening, we are also gathered to celebrate the 30th birthday of Pacific Journalism Review/Te Koakoa.

Pacific Journalism Review celebrates 30 years of publishing
Pacific Journalism Review celebrates 30 years of publishing at the Pacific InternatIonal Media Conference in Fiji . . . Professor Vijay Naidu (from left), Fiji’s Deputy Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad and founding editor Dr David Robie. Image: Del Abcede/APMN
PACIFIC MEDIA CONFERENCE 4-6 JULY 2024
PACIFIC MEDIA CONFERENCE 4-6 JULY 2024

At the outset, I would like to warmly congratulate and thank PJR designer Del Abcede for the cover design of 30th anniversary issue as well as the striking photoessay she has done with David Robie.

Hearty congratulations too to founding editor Dr David Robie and current editor Dr Philip Cass for compiling the edition.

The publicity blurb about the launch states:

“USP Journalism is proud to celebrate this milestone with a journal that has been a beacon of media excellence and a crucial partner in fostering journalistic integrity in the Pacific.”

This is a most apt description of the journal, and what it has fostered over three decades.

Dr Lee Duffield and others have written comprehensively on the editorials and articles covered by the Pacific Journalism Review.

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

I will just list some of the diverse subject matter covered over the past 10 years:

The editorial in the 30th anniversary double edition manifests this focus — “Will journalism survive?”, by David Robie

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The launch of the 30th anniversary edition of Pacific Journalist Review. . . . Professor Vijay Naidu (from left), Fiji’s Deputy Prime Minister Dr Biman Prasad, founding PJR editor Dr David Robie, Papua New Guinea Minister for Communications and Information Technology Timothy Masiu, Associate Professor Shailendra Bahadur Singh and current PJR editor Dr Philip Cass. Image: PMN News/Justin Latif

Unfolding genocide
Mainstream media, except for Al Jazeera, have collectively failed to provide honest accounts of the unfolding genocide in Gaza, as well as settler violence, and killings in the West Bank. International media stand condemned for its complicity in the gross human rights violations in Palestine.

The media have been caught out by the scores of reports directly sent from Gaza of the bombings, maiming and murder of mainly women, children and babies, and the turning into rubble of the world’s largest open-air prison.

Pacific Journalism Review designer Del Abcede
Pacific Journalism Review designer Del Abcede . . praised over her design work. Image: Khairiah A. Rahman/APMN

The widespread protests the world over by ordinary citizens and university students clearly show that the media is not trusted.

Can the media survive? Indeed!

These are not the best of times for the media.

“At the time when we celebrated the second decade of the journal’s critical inquiry at Auckland University of Technology with a conference in 2014, our theme was ‘Political journalism in the Asia Pacific’, and our mood about the mediascape in the region was far more positive than it is today,” writes David.

“Three years later, we marked the 10th anniversary of the Pacific Media Centre, with a conference and a rather gloomier ‘Journalism under duress’ slogan.”

The editorial continues:

“Gaza has become not just a metaphor for a terrible state of dystopia in parts of in 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.

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

Professor Vijay Naidu and Claire Slatter
USP’s Professor Vijay Naidu and Dr Claire Slatter, chair of DAWN . . . launching the 30th edition of PJR. Image: Del Abcede/APMN

Contemporary issues
Besides the editorial, the 30th anniversary edition continues the PJR tradition of addressing contemporary issues head on with 11 research articles, 2 commentaries, 7 book reviews, a photo-essay, 2 obituaries of Australia’s John Pilger and West Papua’s Arnold Ap, and 4 frontline pieces. A truly substantial double issue of the journal.

The USP notice on this 30th anniversary launch says “30 years and going strong”. Sounds like the Johnny Walker whisky advertisement, “still going strong”. This is an admirable achievement as well as in PJR’s future.

It is in contrast to the NZ Journalism Review (University of Canterbury), for example, which survived only for nine years.

Founded at the University of Papua New Guinea in 1994 by David Robie, PJR was published there for four years and at the University of the South Pacific for a further four years, then at Auckland University of Technology for 18 years before finally being hosted since 2021 at its present home, Asia Pacific Media Network.

According to Dr Robie, Pacific Journalism Review has received many good wishes for its birthday. Some of these are published in this journal. For a final message in the editorial, he recalled AUT’s senior journalism lecturer Greg Treadwell who wrote in 2020:

“‘Many Aotearoa New Zealand researchers found their publishing feet because PJR was dedicated to the region and interested in their work. PJR is central to journalism studies, and so to journalism and journalism education, in this country and further abroad. Long may that continue’.

“In answer to our editorial title: Yes, journalism will survive, and it will thrive through new and innovative niche forms, if democracy is to survive.

“Ra whānau Pacific Journalism Review!

"Pacific Journalism Review . . . 30 years going strong"
“Pacific Journalism Review . . . 30 years going strong” – the birthday cake at Pacfic Media 2024. Image: Del Abcede/APMN

Steadfast commitment
I have two quick remaining things to do: Professor Wadan Narsey’s congratulatory message, and a book presentation.

Professor Narsey pays tribute to David Robie for his steadfast commitment to Pacific journalism and congratulates him for the New Zealand honour bestowed on him in the King’s Birthday honours. He is very thankful that David published 37 of his articles on a range of issues during the dark days of censorship in Fiji under the Bainimarama and Sayeed-Khaiyum dictatorship.

I wish to present a copy of the recently published Epeli Hau’ofa: His Life and Legacy to Professor David Robie and Del Abcede to express Claire Slatter and my profound appreciation of the massive amount of work they have done to keep PJR alive and well.

It is my pleasure to launch the 30th anniversary edition of PJR.

‘Far more than a research journal’
In response, Dr Robie noted that PJR had published more than 1100 research articles over its three decades and it was the largest single Pacific media research repository but it had always been “far more than a research journal”.

“As an independent publication, it has given strong support to investigative journalism, sociopolitical journalism, political economy of the media, photojournalism and political cartooning — they have all been strongly reflected in the character of the journal,” he said.

“It has also been a champion of journalism practice-as-research methodologies and strategies, as reflected especially in its Frontline section, pioneered by retired Australian professor and investigative journalist Wendy Bacon.

“Keeping to our tradition of cutting edge and contemporary content, this anniversary edition raises several challenging issues such as Julian Assange and Gaza.”

He thanked current editor Philip Cass for his efforts — “he was among the earliest contributors when we began in Papua New Guinea” — and the current team, assistant editor Khairiah A. Rahman, Nicole Gooch, extraordinary mentors Wendy Bacon and Chris Nash, APMN chair Heather Devere, Adam Brown, Nik Naidu and Gavin Ellis.

Griffith University's Professor Mark Pearson
Griffith University’s Professor Mark Pearson, a former editor of Australian Journalism Review and long a PJR board member . . . presented on media law at the conference. Image: Screenshot Del Abcede/APMN

He also paid tribute to many who have contributed to the journal through peer reviewing and the editorial board over many years — such as Dr Lee Duffield and professor Mark Pearson of Griffith University, who was also editor of Australian Journalism Review for many years and was an inspiration to PJR — “and he is right here with us at the conference.”

Among others have been the Fiji conference convenor, USP’s associate professor Shailendra Singh, and professor Trevor Cullen of Edith Cowan University, who is chair of next year’s World Journalism Education Association conference in Perth.

Dr Robie also singled out designer Del Abcede for special tribute for her hard work carrying the load of producing the journal for many years “and keeping me sane — the question is am I keeping her sane? Anyway, neither I nor Philip would be standing here without her input.”

The Asia Pacific Media Network (APMN) team at Pacific Media 2024
The Asia Pacific Media Network (APMN) team at Pacific Media 2024 . . . PJR assistant editor Khairiah A. Rahman, PJR designer Del Abcede, PJR editor Dr Philip Cass, Dr Adam Brown, PJR founding editor Dr David Robie, and Whanau Community Hub co-coordinator Rach Mario. Whānau Hub’s Nik Naidu was also at the conference but is not in the photo. Image: Khairiah A. Rahman/APMN

PANG talks to journalist David Robie on Pacific decolonisation issues

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PANG Media

The PANG media team at this month’s Pacific International Media Conference in Fiji caught up with independent journalist, author and educator Dr David Robie and questioned him on his views about decolonisation in the Pacific.

Dr Robie, editor of Asia Pacific Report and deputy chair of Asia Pacific Media Network (APMN), a co-organiser of the conference, shared his experience on reporting on Kanaky New Caledonia and West Papua’s fight for freedom.

He speaks from his 40 years of journalism in the Pacific saying the United Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum need to step up pressure on France and Indonesia to decolonise.

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

This interview was conducted at the end of the conference, on July 6, and a week before the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) leaders called for France to allow a joint United Nations-MSG mission to New Caledonia to assess the political situation and propose solutions for the ongoing crisis.

The leaders of the subregional bloc — from Fiji, FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front of New Caledonia), Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu — met in Tokyo on the sidelines of the 10th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM10), to specifically talk about New Caledonia.

They included Fiji’s Sitiveni Rabuka, PNG’s James Marape, Solomon Islands’ Jeremiah Manele, and Vanuatu’s Charlot Salwai.

In his interview with PANG (Pacific Network on Globalisation), Dr Robie also draws parallels with the liberation struggle in Palestine, which he says has become a global symbol for justice and freedom everywhere.

Asia Pacific Media Report's Dr David Robie
Asia Pacific Media Report’s Dr David Robie . . . The people see the flags of Kanaky, West Papua and Palestine as symbolic of the struggles against repression and injustice all over the world.

“I should mention Palestine as well because essentially it’s settler colonisation.

“What we’ve seen in the massive protests over the last nine months and so on there has been a huge realisation in many countries around the world that colonisation is still here after thinking, or assuming, that had gone some years ago.

“So you’ll see in a lot of protests — we have protests across Aotearoa New Zealand every week —  that the flags of Kanaky, West Papua and Palestine fly together.

“The people see these as symbolic of the repression and injustice all over the world.”


PANG Media talk to Dr David Robie on decolonisation.  Video: PANG Media

Republished from PANG Media and Asia Pacific Report with permission.

Elevation, colour – and the American flag. Here’s what makes Evan Vucci’s Trump photograph so powerful

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Vucci’s image can also be regarded as already iconic, a photograph that perhaps too will win awards for its content, use of colour and framing — and will become an important piece of how we remember this moment in history.
Evan Vucci’s image can also be regarded as already iconic, a photograph that perhaps too will win awards for its content, use of colour and framing — and will become an important piece of how we remember this moment in history. Image source: @alexdimaio/Evan Vucci
How the New Zealand Herald featured the assassination attempt on former President Donald
How the New Zealand Herald featured the assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump on today’s front page. Image: NZH screenshot APR

ANALYSIS: By Sara Oscar

The attempted assassination of Donald Trump at a rally in Pennsylvania was captured by several photographers who were standing at the stage before the shooting commenced.

The most widely circulated photograph of this event was taken by Evan Vucci, a Pulitzer Prize winning war photographer known for his coverage of protests following George Floyd’s murder.

A number of World Press Photograph awards have been given to photographers who have covered an assassination.

In this vein, Vucci’s image can also be regarded as already iconic, a photograph that perhaps too will win awards for its content, use of colour and framing — and will become an important piece of how we remember this moment in history.

Social media analysis of the image
Viewers of Vucci’s photograph have taken to social media to break down the composition of the image, including how iconic motifs such as the American flag and Trump’s raised fist are brought together in the frame according to laws of photographic composition, such as the rule of thirds.

Such elements are believed to contribute to the photograph’s potency.

To understand exactly what it is that makes this such a powerful image, there are several elements we can parse.

Compositional acuity
In this photograph, Vucci is looking up with his camera. He makes Trump appear elevated as the central figure surrounded by suited Secret Service agents who shield his body. The agents form a triangular composition that places Trump at the vertex, slightly to the left of a raised American flag in the sky.

On the immediate right of Trump, an agent looks directly at Vucci’s lens with eyes concealed by dark glasses. The agent draws us into the image, he looks back at us, he sees the photographer and therefore, he seems to see us: he mirrors our gaze at the photograph.

This figure is central, he leads our gaze to Trump’s raised fist.

Another point of note is that there are strong colour elements in this image that deceptively serve to pull it together as a photograph.

Set against a blue sky, everything else in the image is red, white and navy blue. The trickles of blood falling down Trump’s face are echoed in the red stripes of the American flag which aligns with the republican red of the podium in the lower left quadrant of the image.

We might not see these elements initially, but they demonstrate how certain photographic conventions contribute to Vucci’s own ways of seeing and composing that align with photojournalism as a discipline.

A photographic way of seeing
In interviews, Vucci has referred to the importance of retaining a sense of photographic composure in being able to attain “the shot”, of being sure to cover the situation from numerous angles, including capturing the scene with the right composition and light.

For Vucci, all of this was about “doing the job” of the photographer.

Vucci’s statements are consistent with what most photographers would regard as a photographic way of seeing. This means being attuned to the way composition, light, timing and subject matter come together in the frame in perfect unity when photographing: it means getting the “right” shot.

For Susan Sontag, this photographic way of seeing also corresponded to the relationship between shooting and photographing, a relationship she saw as analogous.

Photography and guns are arguably weapons, with photography and photographic ways of seeing and representing the world able to be weaponised to change public perception.

Writing history with photographs
As a photographic way of seeing, there are familiar resonances in Vucci’s photograph to other iconic images of American history.

Take for instance, the photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal, The Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima (1945) during the Pacific War. In the photograph, four marines are clustered together to raise and plant the American flag, their bodies form a pyramid structure in the lower central half of the frame.

This photograph is also represented as a war monument in Virginia for marines who have served America.

The visual echoes between the Rosenthal and Vucci images are strong. They also demonstrate how photographic ways of seeing stretch beyond the compositional. It leads to another photographic way of seeing, which means viewing the world and the events that take place in it as photographs, or constructing history as though it were a photograph.

Fictions and post-truth
The inherent paradox within “photographic seeing” is that no single person can be in all places at once, nor predict what is going to happen before reality can be transcribed as a photograph.

In Vucci’s photograph, we are given the illusion that this photograph captures “the moment” or “a shot”. Yet it doesn’t capture the moment of the shooting, but its immediate aftermath. The photograph captures Trump’s media acuity and swift, responsive performance to the attempted assassination, standing to rise with his fist in the air.

In a post-truth world, there has been a pervasive concern about knowing the truth. While that extends beyond photographic representation, photography and visual representation play a considerable part.

Whether this image will further contribute to the mythology of Donald Trump, and his potential reelection, is yet to be seen.
The Conversation

Sara Oscar, senior lecturer in visual communication, School of Design, University of Technology Sydney.  This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

When media freedom as the ‘oxygen of democracy’ and political hypocrisy share the same Pacific arena

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By David Robie for 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”.

Last year’s 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 of resistance such as keffiyehs and watermelons.

The “pre-Bastille Day” march in Suva
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 political and 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, including Indonesian rule in Melanesian West Papua.

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 my keynote address, “Frontline Media Faultlines: How Critical Journalism Can Survive Against the Odds”, I also spoke of the common decolonisation threads between Kanaky, Palestine and West Papua.

I critiqued 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
Citing the editorial in the just-published Pacific Journalism Review which had laid down a media challenge over Gaza, I highlighted my message:

“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

Pacific Journalism Review 30th anniversary edition
Pacific Journalism Review 30th anniversary edition . . . media challenge over Gaza. Image: PJR

At the end of my address, I called for a minute’s silence in a tribute to the 158 Palestinian journalists who have 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 about 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

Dr David Robie is convenor of Pacific Media Watch and also deputy chair of the Asia Pacific Media Network (APMN).

‘Frontline Media Faultlines’ – David Robie’s keynote address to the 2024 Pacific Media Conference

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The Australia Today

Here is the livestream of Dr David Robie’s keynote address “Frontline Media Faultlines: How Critical Journalism Can Survive Against the Odds” at the 2024 Pacific International Media Conference in Suva, Fiji, earlier this month.

Asia Pacific Media Network deputy chair Dr David Robie
Asia Pacific Media Network deputy chair Dr David Robie . . . his keynote address at the 2024 Pacific Media Conference. Image: TOT screenshot/Café Pacific

The conference was hosted by the University of the South Pacific journalism programme in collaboration with the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) and the Asia Pacific Media Network (APMN) on 4-6 July 2024.

Dr Robie, editor of Asia Pacific Report and deputy chair of the APMN, is introduced by Professor Cherian George of Hong Kong Baptist University.


Dr David Robie’s keynote address on July 4.  Livestream video: The Australia Today

Republished from The Australia Today’s YouTube channel with permission.

A surprising litmus test for Kanaky New Caledonia’s independence parties

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Victorious Kanak independence candidate Emmanuel Tjibaou
Victorious Kanak independence candidate Emmanuel Tjibaou . . . broke 38-year-old loyalist deadlock in the French national elections last weekend. Image: RFI

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 Omayra Naisseline, 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).

David Robie talks media challenges, education and decolonisation on Radio 531pi’s Pacific Mornings

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Asia Pacific Media Network's Dr David Robie talks to PMN's Pacific Mornings from Suva
Asia Pacific Media Network's Dr David Robie talks to PMN's Pacific Mornings from Suva, Fiji. Image: PMN screenshot FB

PMN Pacific Mornings

A major conference on the state and future of Pacific media is taking place this week in Fiji.

Dr David Robie, editor of Asia Pacific Report and deputy chair of Asia Pacific Media Network, joins #PacificMornings to discuss the event and reflect on his work covering Asia-Pacific current affairs and research for more than four decades.

Pacific Journalism Review, which Dr Robie founded at the University of Papua New Guinea in 1994, celebrated 30 years of publishing at the conference tonight.

Other Pacific Mornings items on 4 July 2024:
The health sector is reporting frustration at unchanging mortality rates for babies and mothers in New Zealand. PMMRC chairperson John Tait joined #PacificMornings to discuss further.

Labour Deputy Leader Carmel Sepuloni joined #PacificMornings to discuss the political news of the week.

We are one week into a month of military training exercises held in Hawai’i, known as RIMPAC.

Twenty-nine countries and 25,000 personnel are taking part, including New Zealand. Hawai’ian academic and Pacific studies lecturer Emalani Case joined #PacificMornings to discuss further.

Republished from Pacific Media Network’s Radio 531pi and Asia Pacific Report with permission.