Tuesday, June 27, 2017

'Voice of the voiceless' - Al Jazeera's response over Saudi-led blog gag pressure

The Doha headquarters of the global news network. Photo: Al Jazeera
An important media freedom statement: An open letter from Al Jazeera
Republished on Café Pacific from the Doha-based global news network

OVER two decades ago, Al Jazeera Arabic was launched with a simple mission: to provide reliable information to viewers across the Arab world. Ten years later, in 2006, Al Jazeera English began broadcasting with the same mission - to provide people around the world with accurate, balanced and impartial information.

When Al Jazeera Arabic went on air in 1996, it was unique in the Arab world. Most media in the region at the time were state-controlled and often unchallenged mouthpieces for the different rulers and governments in the region. Al Jazeera was different, a truly independent voice, with a mission to hear and report the human stories that were otherwise ignored; to cover events with balance and integrity; and to hold power to account.

Al Jazeera Arabic quickly gained a huge and loyal audience across the region. The information we provided became a lifeline to millions of people who wanted to know what was really going on around them.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rights groups condemn ‘cowardly censorship’ bid over Al Jazeera

Flashback to the US-led coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003 -- how the rolling 24 hour news station Al Jazeera played a key role in the  battle for hearts and minds and has made many political enemies. "We are surrounded by despots," says fiesty presenter Faisal Al-Qaseem. Video: Journeyman Pictures

Pacific Media Watch/Asia Pacific Report

PRESS freedom and human rights advocates, journalists and social media users have condemned a demand by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to shut Al Jazeera television network and other media outlets in Qatar.

The Arab states reportedly issued a 13-point list on Friday, demanding the closure of all news outlets that it funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al Araby Al Jadeed, Mekameleen and Middle East Eye.

“We are really worried about the implication and consequences of such requirements if they will ever be implemented,” said Alexandra El Khazen, head of Middle East and North Africa desk at Reporters Without Borders, a non-profit organisation promoting press freedom.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Paris, Khazen said: “We are against any kind of censorship and measures that could threaten the diversity in the Arab media landscape and pluralism, for instance.

“The Arabic media landscape should make room and accept the broadest range of viewpoints instead of adopting repressive measures against alternative viewpoints that are found to be critical of some governments.”

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Celebrating 30 years of Nuclear-Free Aotearoa -- the Pacific connection

Auckland mayor Phil Goff admiring a photograph by John Miller taken of the politician when he was a student activist campaigning for a nuclear-free New Zealand. Goff spoke at the "Celebrating 30 Years of Nuclear-Free Aotearoa/New Zealand" at the Depot Artspace in Devonport today. Image" David Robie
Reflections from David Robie

CONGRATULATIONS everybody for that tremendous achievement three decades ago. And thank you to WILPF Aotearoa and Ruth Coombes for inviting me. It was literally a David and Goliath struggle to make New Zealand nuclear-free against United States and global pressure – not just David Lange, prime minister at the time, although he was vital too.

The real “David” was the ordinary people of New Zealand who exerted extraordinary pressure on the government to deliver. The barrages of letters from citizens, constant lobbying by peace campaigners, local councils – such as right here in Devonport -- declaring themselves nuclear-free, the door-knocking petitioners – and, of course, the spectacular protests.

However, in my few minutes I would like to talk about the Pacific context, as this was my background. While the New Zealand campaign and success was tremendously inspirational for the Pacific, it should not be forgotten that some small Pacific countries and communities were actually ahead of the game.

Some examples:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

An Indonesian oasis of progressive creativity emerges in culture city

Dr Max Lane, pictured here with Faiza Mardzoeki, talks about his project to establish a community and activist library for the student city of Yogyakarta in Indonesia. Video: Café Pacific

By David Robie in Yogyakarta

A VISION for a progressive activists, writers and researchers retreat in the lush outskirts of Indonesia’s most cultural city, Yogyakarta, is close to becoming reality.

Unfinished Nation ... one of Dr Max Lane's
many books.
The Indonesian Community and Activists Library (ICAL) is already an impressive “shell” in the front garden of Australian author and socio-political analyst, intellectual and consultant Max Lane, arguably the most knowledgeable English-language writer on Indonesian affairs.

Dr Lane, who has been writing and commenting about cultural and political developments in Indonesia, Philippines, Timor-Leste and his homeland since the 1970s, is delighted that completing the centre is so close.

“We have almost completed this building, the library, which will have a reading room, an office, and also some accommodation for those who would like to stay for a few days, or even longer to use the library,” he says, gesturing towards the empty rooms at the complex in the rice-producing and tourist village of Ngepas.

“The library will have about 4000 to 5000 books in the field of social sciences, humanities, history, feminism and so on.”

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Rave hospitality, but Indonesia fails West Papua with media freedom hypocrisy

Al Jazeera's coverage by Step Vaessen of the Papuan protest at WPFD2017 in Jakarta.

By David Robie in Jakarta 

INDONESIAN hospitality was given a rave notice this week for hosting World Press Freedom Day 2017, but it was also given a huge black mark for its “gagging” of free discussion over West Papua violations. 

Four days before the WPFD event got under way, prominent Papuan journalist Victor Mambor had warned in the New Internationalist that Indonesian double standards had imposed a silence over West Papua.

Even a Papuan protest outside the Jakarta Conference Centre venue was kept at the margins, ensuring most of the 1300 journalists, media academics and communication policy makers from 90 countries were unaware of the shocking press and human rights violations that continue almost daily in the Melanesian provinces of Papua and West Papua (collectively known as West Papua).

Al Jazeera broadcast the most comprehensive television report from its Jakarta bureau on media freedom and West Papua with both Titro.id website and The Jakarta Post also carrying reports.

But for the rest, mostly silence.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Activists, media freedom advocates plan ‘global action’ for West Papua

"Gagged" West Papua. Instagram montage by tuckwolf_
By Pacific Media Watch

MEDIA freedom advocates and human rights activists are planning a “global action” for West Papua with demonstrations marking UNESCO world press freedom day events in Jakarta next week.

The advocates want to focus global attention on the “media blackout” long imposed by Indonesian authorities, in spite of promises to open up access to the two Melanesian provinces of Papua and West Papua adjoining independent Papua New Guinea.

The global action will begin on May 1 and run for three days climaxing with World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

Prominent UK-based West Papuan lawyer and civil rights campaigner Benny Wenda will then pay a visit to New Zealand the following week to raise awareness.

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