Wednesday, March 31, 2010

[pima.nius] Albert Wendt wins Commonwealth Writers Prize

6:05 PM |

Source: Huia Publishers - http://www.huia.co.nz/?sn=31&st=1&pg=486

Albert Wendt wins Commonwealth Writers Prize

'The Adventures of Vela' by Albert Wendt, one of New Zealand's and the
Pacific's foremost storytellers, has won the Commonwealth Writer's
Prize for the Asia Pacific Region.
"It is a great honour to be recognised in this way" said Albert Wendt
at the Awards Ceremony in Sydney last night. "Vela has been a
character I have thought about for a long time so this has been a
lifetime's work".

The Adventures of Vela was published by Aotearoa New Zealand-based
Huia Publishers. Huia Managing Director Robyn Bargh attended the
winners ceremony with Albert Wendt. "We were honoured to have
published The Adventures of Vela and to see Albert's work recognised
in this way shows he is one of the worlds leading indigenous writers".

Regional Chair for South East Asia and Pacific, Dr Anne Brewster said
"The high standard of books in the South East Asia and Pacific region
this year ensured that the short-listing process was a challenge for
the judges". This year's finalists included J. M. Coetzee (Australia
and Nobel Prize Winner), Peter Carey (Australia) and Thomas Keneally
(Australia).

The Adventures of Vela will now go through to the final phase of the
competition where an international judging panel will meet to decide
the overall Commonwealth winners for Best Book and Best First Book
with other regional winners from Africa, Caribbean, Canada, South Asia
and Europe. The panel will meet in Delhi, India and the announcement
of the two overall winners will take place on Monday 12 April 2010.

Albert Wendt was Professor of New Zealand and Pacific Literature at
the University of Auckland from 1988 to 2006, and held the Citizens'
Chair at the University of Hawaii from 2004 to 2008. He is now
Emeritus Professor at the University of Auckland, and is writing and
painting full-time.

He is of the Aiga Sa-Maualaivao of Malie, the Aiga Sa-Su'a of Lefaga,
the Aiga Sa-Malietoa of Sapapaali'i, and the Aiga Sa-Patu and Sa-Asi
of Vaiala and Moata'a.

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Re: [pima.nius] NZ: Ethnic media ponder challenges ahead | web2 an answer ?

11:55 AM |

. . .


One way to cross the divide is to angel / advocate / activate web2 with ethnic media.

More than a few ethnic papers and radio stations pinch a lot of their content from other news services. So they do not want a "website" which could get them into trouble with bigger news organisations they are borrowing from.

However a web2 approach via Facebook or Google Groups allows original content to be broadcast and remain up online, where so many proper websites fail.

I have been advocating this approach for some years, but have yet to have much success in gaining agreement - another sign the media is too busy and under resourced to even explore what their future web approaches might be. Even universities have only just started teaching web2 courses - some five years late. 

jas

. . .

jason brown
+6421 024 84 560
avaiki nius agency


http://pacificfreedomforum.org
http://jpkupdate.blogspot.com
http://avaiki.nius.googlepages.com
http://journalismincrisiscoalition.blogspot.com

. . .


On 30 March 2010 12:17, pima news <pima.nius@gmail.com> wrote:

Title – 6733 NZ: Ethnic media ponder challenges ahead
Date – 30 March 2010
Byline – Lloyd Burr
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Pacific Scoop, 30/03/10
Copyright – PS
Status – Unabridged

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

* Pacific Media Watch Online - check the website for archive and links:
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Opinion:
CLEARING HEADS ON CHALLENGING ISSUES FACING NZ’S ETHNIC MEDIA
http://pacific.scoop.co.nz/2010/03/clearing-heads-on-challenging-issues-facing-nzs-ethnic-media/

By Lloyd Burr

CHRISTCHURCH (Pacific Scoop/Pacific Media Watch): I walked out the doors of the Ethnic Media Forum in Christchurch at the weekend feeling somewhat ignorant. As a student in my fifth year of tertiary education, I thought that “ethnic ignorance” was something of my past … and it would no longer trouble me.

But I was wrong. In my years at the University of Otago – before I came to the New Zealand Broadcasting School – I was submerged with a critical studies approach to the media: it was corrupt, it enforced state ideology and was majority focussed; mainstream media was a bulldozer that powered through minority views and shunted them to the sideline.

 

All this time, in my liberal, idealistic student mind, I genuinely believed New Zealand was exempt from this type of issue.

 

Now, as I learn to become a part of this mainstream media that I once questioned so much, I am learning that the case is relatively true.

 

Four weeks ago, my tutor assigned me my main portfolio for the next two years – “ethnic and migrant issues” in New Zealand, focusing on Christchurch.

 

Since then, I have tried to immerse myself with these issues and follow them around in local and national media in order to gain an understanding.

 

What has surprised me is that articles relating to this topic are fairly non-existent; I have three articles in my news-clippings folder and my peers, with more generic portfolios – like “environment” and “education” – have dozens of articles.

 

Improving things
Convinced it was not my poor work ethic that had resulted in such a shortage of articles, I was introduced to Deborah Lam and Candy Wu Zhang at the Office of Ethnic Affairs. This pair invited me to the Ethnic Media Forum (EMF), held at Mancan House, Christchurch, last Saturday.

 

This is where my ignorance comes in. And it is ignorance at my lack of depth about how the mainstream media is that bulldozer I was taught about at Otago. The question now is how do we improve things?

 

Is it a slow process like issues such as gay or black rights entering the social acceptance circle after constant rejection? Or is there a quick fix?

 

Quite simply, I don’t know and I won’t know until I have been in this industry for some time.

 

The forum presented some interesting arguments. Jim Tully, head of the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Canterbury, opened with a summary of how the mainstream media system works.

 

He emphasised that mainstream media ignores minority groups because it is “uneconomical”.

 

Current structures are also problematic because a given ethnic reporter is stretched between the demands of their community and the demands of their editor.

 

Pulling in punters
In order to integrate “ethnic issues” (an umbrella term covering our diverse and different ethnic communities) into the mainstream media, it must be cost effective.

 

And this is where my first question comes up: why is current ethnic media not cost effective? Does it not pull in the punters?

 

Is demand so small that it cannot be justified? How do we go about making it economical?

 

Dr David Robie, director of the Pacific Media Centre at Auckland University of Technology, provided an insight into how ethnic issues in the mainstream media can grow: education and journalistic acculturation by developing independent media like the Pacific Scoop project. Both he and Tully gave many Pacific examples.

 

I agree with him, we have talked the political correctness and all-inclusive talk for a while now and it’s time to get on our feet and walk the walk.

 

And his solution to this is acculturing training journalists with a news and current affairs approach that encompasses ethnic issues. In my mind, this type of training is already happening, especially given that I am being trained to go out into the ethnic community here in Christchurch, understand the realm and find stories.

 

For me, I think the integration is inevitable.

 

Status quo
But what about the status quo? How is today’s media finding stories on ethnic issues? The Press deputy editor Coen Lammers says you can’t just call up the Korean Association, for example, and ask: “Is there anything happening in the Korean community this week”.

 

He also says local ethnic papers are not a source for stories because he can’t read them – papers in a native tongue are a major barrier.

 

How then, do we overcome this when there are ethnic communities that only know the most basic English? Do we wait for a wave of new age journalists to integrate more with Chinese communities? With Nepalese or Bhutanese communities?

 

Or do we just allow these niche media to run parallel with the mainstream? It’s the same segregation vs assimilation debate.

 

There was no black or white outcome at the EMF, but it helped an educated audience understand the problems with the way things are done. And at least I’m no longer ignorant.

 

Lloyd Burr is a first year journalism student at the New Zealand Broadcasting School and a first time contributor to Pacific Scoop.


Comment on this item: www.pacific.scoop.co.nz

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[pima.nius] PINA says website glitch not Fiji govt fault

11:25 AM |

PINA says website glitch not Fiji govt fault

Updated March 31, 2010 16:49:50

The Pacific Island News Association says Fiji's military-backed government has not been blocking is website or its wire service, Pacnews.

For the past fortnight, subscribers and members of PINA have not been able to get updates on Pacific news, leading to concerns the wire service was being blocked for having been perceived as publishing negative stories about Fiji's leaders.

PINA and Pacnews are both based in Suva, and while it does not have censors from the police and Ministry of Information in its newsroom, staff have been told what they publish is being watched. They are also expected to embrace what the interim government calls "Journalism of Hope".

That description has been translated as meaning you only use stories which are positive about Fiji's military regime.

Presenter: Campbell Cooney, Pacific correspondent
Speaker: Matai Akuola, PINA's manager

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[pima.nius] NZ: Net news likely to stay free

11:21 AM |

Title – 6734 NZ: Net news likely to stay free
Date – 31 March 2010
Byline – John Drinnan
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – NZ Herald, 29/03/10
Copyright – NZH
Status – Unabridged

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

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NET NEWS LIKELY TO STAY FREE IN NZ
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10635217


By John Drinnan

AUCKLAND (NZ Herald/Pacific Media Watch): Media magnate Rupert Murdoch has upped the ante over free news content on the web.

Murdoch's News Corp is to charge £1 ($2.11) a day and £2 a week for people to read the Times and Sunday Times websites.

Investors and media business analysts will be watching Murdoch's move to see if competitors will follow suit, leading to big changes in the free online model.

But in this part of the world newspaper companies say the advertiser-funded model for news websites - such as APN News & Media's nzherald.co.nz and Fairfax's stuff.co.nz - is likely to remain.

APN chief executive Brendan Hopkins said: "It is likely to stay - but there will be variants of it within the existing model and via hand-held devices that will go down the route of paid-for content.

"That is already happening with 40,000 people getting the nzherald website via mobile."

As hand-held devices such as the Apple iPad took hold, more opportunities would become available.

The nzherald.co.nz website was profitable, he said.

Fairfax Digital chief executive Jack Matthews said a rule of thumb was that people would pay where there was a scarcity of information, but not where there was a lot of free content.

Murdoch's charge for the online Times and Sunday Times is not the first excursion into pay content.

Business papers Wall Street Journal, and Financial Times have headed down the pay route.

In New Zealand, the National Business Review says its pay wall erected last June has passed 8000 subscribers.

NBR owner Barry Colman claimed success with a large number of subscribers renewing for a full year.

But Colman said a general news site faced bigger challenges.

"It would be harder to sell when they could get it for free at a neighbouring site," he said.

The pay versus free issue also has an effect on advertisers.

Advertising industry consultant Martin Gillman questioned whether the model for advertising-funded websites was sustainable while ensuring advertisers were getting value for money.

"If the consumer is not going to pay it is unlikely that the advertiser should be asked to pay for the full cost of the delivery," said Gillman of MG.com.

He said that as it stood advertisers were paying 30 times as much per viewer to advertise on the tvnzondemand website as on a standard TV show.

Advertising and media analyst Michael Carney dismissed Murdoch's pay wall moves as a "temporary blip".

"Media are saying 'look, we cannot sell this - what else can we sell - ooh look we are giving [online] away'. So we put a price on it."

Comment on this item: www.pacific.scoop.co.nz

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[pima.nius] FIJI: Fiji Times, Fiji TV finally invited to media decree talks

11:20 AM |



Title – 6736 FIJI: Fiji Times, Fiji TV finally invited to media decree talks
Date – 1 April 2010
Byline – None
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – The Fiji Times, 31/3/10
Copyright – FT
Status – Unabridged
----------------------------
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STATE INVITE ON MEDIA DECREE
www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=143388

SUVA (The Fiji Times/Pacific Media Watch): Fiji Times and Fiji Television can put in expressions of interest if they wish to take part in consultations on a proposed Media Industry Development Decree 2010.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who holds the justice portfolio, made the comment in a press conference yesterday, adding the new stance was "not a sudden change".

Sayed-Khaiyum said the decision was made "because we do want to be consulting everybody about it, and everybody can have their input".

Fiji Times' managing director Anne Fussell said the newspaper was open to any meaningful discussion.

"The Fiji Times has always been open to any meaningful discussion on such an important issue as the future of the media in Fiji as it affects the ability of everyone in Fiji to access information vital to them in making decisions about issues that directly affect their lives. We would welcome copies of the proposed decree as soon as possible so that, like all other interested parties, we can devote plenty of time to study it and offer a considered, constructive and forward looking response."

Fiji Television's chief executive Tarun Patel said he was currently abroad and would make comments once he saw documents on the draft decree.

Consultations on the draft Media Industry Development Decree 2010 have been announced for the end of next week.

Anyone interested in participating was expected to register by April 6, because unregistered people would not be allowed to participate.

The consultation will be held at the Holiday Inn in Suva next Wednesday April 7, Ministry of Youth Conference Room at Ro Qomate House in Labasa on April 8 and the Sugar Cane Growers Conference Room at the Sugar Cane Growers Council Building in Lautoka on April 10.

* Comment on this item www.pacific.scoop.co.nz

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

[pima.nius] Coming up on Pacific Pulse this weekend

9:56 PM |

For immediate release
Pacific Pulse
one ocean – many stories
Pacific Pulse ventures beyond the headlines with feature stories from Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia that reflect contemporary life across the Pacific and recognise the strengths, hopes, achievements and aspirations of the region.
 
Episode 9
 
In this episode of Pacific Pulse, Tania Nugent is at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane which is transformed every three years into a showcase of the best contemporary art from 25 nations for the Asia Pacific Triennial.  In the sixth triennial, Pacific art takes a new place alongside the more extravagant and expensive work of many Asian artists.  It includes for the first time traditional sculptures from Vanuatu's Ambrym Island, as well as simple prints from the Mataso printers, also from Vanuatu. Hawaiian artist, Solomon Enos converts the mythical creatures of legend to comic book strips for the current generation and  there's a four metre masi, or bark cloth, thanks to a collaboration between two Fijian tapa artists and a New Zealander.
 
Pacific Pulse will be broadcast across the Pacific in the following time zones:
 
Sat 3rd April           22:20   American Samoa
                                Samoa  
                                Niue
                        23:20   Cook Islands
                                French Polynesia
 
Sun 4th April           18:20 Palau
                        19:20   Guam
                                Northern Marianas
                                 Papua New Guinea
                        20:20    Federated States of Micronesia         
                                New Caledonia  
                                Solomon Islands
                                Vanuatu
                        21:20    Fiji
                                Kiribati
                                Marshall Islands        
                                Nauru  
                                Tokelau
                                Tuvalu
                                Wallis and Futuna
                        22:20   Tonga           
 
For more times and information, please visit: australianetwork.com/pacificpulse
 
 
Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.

The information contained in this email and any attachment is confidential and may contain legally privileged or copyright material. It is intended only for the use of the addressee(s). If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are not permitted to disseminate, distribute or copy this email or any attachments. If you have received this message in error, please notify the sender immediately and delete this email from your system. The ABC does not represent or warrant that this transmission is secure or virus free. Before opening any attachment you should check for viruses. The ABC's liability is limited to resupplying any email and attachments.

[pima.nius] Tongan police defend charges over ferry disaster

12:36 PM |

Tongan police defend charges over ferry disaster

Updated March 30, 2010 16:53:58

Tongan police have defended the arrests and charges they have made in relation to the sinking of the MV Princess Ashika.

The ferry sank last August taking over 70 lives, and last month a Royal Commission of Inquiry into what happened wrapped up its public hearings.

Before the end of the hearings police made at least three arrests, leading to allegations their investigation was only based on evidence from the Commission - something which is not allowed in its terms of reference.

Now more charges have been made, including manslaughter, and the Police Chief is defending the investigation.

Presenter: Campbell Cooney, Pacific correspondent
Speaker: Chris Kelley, Tonga's police commander

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[pima.nius] Fijian minister’s visit won’t change New Zealand’s travel sanctions

12:35 PM |

Fijian minister's visit won't change New Zealand's travel sanctions

By Rory McKinnon.

New Zealand's prime minister John Key denies sending mixed messages to Fiji's military regime – despite inviting a senior Cabinet member to a soccer conference last week in Auckland.

Key told reporters at Monday's press conference he stood by Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully's insistence that New Zealand had not dropped its travel ban on Fijian officials.

Speaking at the Hong Kong Sevens last Saturday, McCully told the Associated Press the New Zealand would not lift the sanctions until Fijian Commodore Voreque Bainimarama addressed "real issues around the rule of law and human rights."

"If Fiji wants us to move on the sanctions, then the answer is obvious: They have to move toward the holding of elections and the establishment of democratic institutions."

McCully was due to meet with Bainimarama during the Sevens but rejected the offer when Fiji's military-appointed President Epeli Nailatikau was sent in the Commodore's place.

But McCully – who is also Minister for Sport and Recreation – made no mention of Fijian Education and Sports Minister Felipe Bole's attendance at a soccer conference in Auckland just days prior.

Bole attended the Oceania Football Confederation's ministerial conference in Manukau on Monday along with ten other ministers from across the Pacific region.

The Confederation's website says the ministers discussed tax exemptions for sports facilities, more support for training sports journalists and waiving visa fees for sports teams and officials visiting Australia and New Zealand.

The Ministers agreed to support further discussion at this year's Pacific Islands Forum – a regional-wide organisation which suspended Fiji's membership in May last year.

A spokesperson for McCully said last week the Government reserved the right to waive the restrictions where it felt it was beneficial to the region.

Key reiterated those comments Monday, adding that he did not think the visit sent a mixed message.

"The travel ban applies to those in the regime and the family of those in the regime: that means if they want to travel to New Zealand for a personal or private reason, as a general rule the answer will be no.

"But in the case where we think there might be some regional benefit, we reserve the right to allow them to come in."

"As a general rule the travel ban remains and we've got no intention to change it."

Key confirmed the meeting could have taken place without Bole but said he felt it was appropriate for the Minister to attend.

Key did not expect Fijian attendance at other regional conferences such as trade talks but he could not rule it out, he said.

Click here to listen to NZ prime minister John Key's press conference.

Rory McKinnon is a Wellington-based political reporter with Scoop Media.

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[pima.nius] NZ: Ethnic media ponder challenges ahead

12:17 PM |


Title – 6733 NZ: Ethnic media ponder challenges ahead
Date – 30 March 2010
Byline – Lloyd Burr
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Pacific Scoop, 30/03/10
Copyright – PS
Status – Unabridged

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

* Pacific Media Watch Online - check the website for archive and links:
www.pacmediawatch.aut.ac.nz

* Post a comment on this story at PMW Right of Reply, or on Pacific Scoop:
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* Pacific Media Centre on Twitter - http://twitter.com/pacmedcentre


Opinion:
CLEARING HEADS ON CHALLENGING ISSUES FACING NZ’S ETHNIC MEDIA
http://pacific.scoop.co.nz/2010/03/clearing-heads-on-challenging-issues-facing-nzs-ethnic-media/

By Lloyd Burr

CHRISTCHURCH (Pacific Scoop/Pacific Media Watch): I walked out the doors of the Ethnic Media Forum in Christchurch at the weekend feeling somewhat ignorant. As a student in my fifth year of tertiary education, I thought that “ethnic ignorance” was something of my past … and it would no longer trouble me.

But I was wrong. In my years at the University of Otago – before I came to the New Zealand Broadcasting School – I was submerged with a critical studies approach to the media: it was corrupt, it enforced state ideology and was majority focussed; mainstream media was a bulldozer that powered through minority views and shunted them to the sideline.

 

All this time, in my liberal, idealistic student mind, I genuinely believed New Zealand was exempt from this type of issue.

 

Now, as I learn to become a part of this mainstream media that I once questioned so much, I am learning that the case is relatively true.

 

Four weeks ago, my tutor assigned me my main portfolio for the next two years – “ethnic and migrant issues” in New Zealand, focusing on Christchurch.

 

Since then, I have tried to immerse myself with these issues and follow them around in local and national media in order to gain an understanding.

 

What has surprised me is that articles relating to this topic are fairly non-existent; I have three articles in my news-clippings folder and my peers, with more generic portfolios – like “environment” and “education” – have dozens of articles.

 

Improving things
Convinced it was not my poor work ethic that had resulted in such a shortage of articles, I was introduced to Deborah Lam and Candy Wu Zhang at the Office of Ethnic Affairs. This pair invited me to the Ethnic Media Forum (EMF), held at Mancan House, Christchurch, last Saturday.

 

This is where my ignorance comes in. And it is ignorance at my lack of depth about how the mainstream media is that bulldozer I was taught about at Otago. The question now is how do we improve things?

 

Is it a slow process like issues such as gay or black rights entering the social acceptance circle after constant rejection? Or is there a quick fix?

 

Quite simply, I don’t know and I won’t know until I have been in this industry for some time.

 

The forum presented some interesting arguments. Jim Tully, head of the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Canterbury, opened with a summary of how the mainstream media system works.

 

He emphasised that mainstream media ignores minority groups because it is “uneconomical”.

 

Current structures are also problematic because a given ethnic reporter is stretched between the demands of their community and the demands of their editor.

 

Pulling in punters
In order to integrate “ethnic issues” (an umbrella term covering our diverse and different ethnic communities) into the mainstream media, it must be cost effective.

 

And this is where my first question comes up: why is current ethnic media not cost effective? Does it not pull in the punters?

 

Is demand so small that it cannot be justified? How do we go about making it economical?

 

Dr David Robie, director of the Pacific Media Centre at Auckland University of Technology, provided an insight into how ethnic issues in the mainstream media can grow: education and journalistic acculturation by developing independent media like the Pacific Scoop project. Both he and Tully gave many Pacific examples.

 

I agree with him, we have talked the political correctness and all-inclusive talk for a while now and it’s time to get on our feet and walk the walk.

 

And his solution to this is acculturing training journalists with a news and current affairs approach that encompasses ethnic issues. In my mind, this type of training is already happening, especially given that I am being trained to go out into the ethnic community here in Christchurch, understand the realm and find stories.

 

For me, I think the integration is inevitable.

 

Status quo
But what about the status quo? How is today’s media finding stories on ethnic issues? The Press deputy editor Coen Lammers says you can’t just call up the Korean Association, for example, and ask: “Is there anything happening in the Korean community this week”.

 

He also says local ethnic papers are not a source for stories because he can’t read them – papers in a native tongue are a major barrier.

 

How then, do we overcome this when there are ethnic communities that only know the most basic English? Do we wait for a wave of new age journalists to integrate more with Chinese communities? With Nepalese or Bhutanese communities?

 

Or do we just allow these niche media to run parallel with the mainstream? It’s the same segregation vs assimilation debate.

 

There was no black or white outcome at the EMF, but it helped an educated audience understand the problems with the way things are done. And at least I’m no longer ignorant.

 

Lloyd Burr is a first year journalism student at the New Zealand Broadcasting School and a first time contributor to Pacific Scoop.


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[pima.nius] NAURU: Opinion – A case for the right to freedom of information

12:14 PM |


Title – 6732 NAURU: Opinion – A case for the right to freedom of information
Date – 30 March 2010
Byline – Vrinda Choraria
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative via Pacific Freedom Forum, 29/03/10
Copyright – CHRI
Status – Unabridged

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

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Opinion:
NAURU REQUIRES RTI LAW DESPITE ‘NO’ IN REFERENDUM
www.humanrightsinitiative.org

By Vrinda Choraria, Senior Project Assistant, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

YAREN, Nauru (Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative/Pacific Media Watch): On 27 February 2010, Nauru held a referendum to amend its Constitution that also included among other things the constitutional guarantee of right to information. The Constitution of Nauru (Referendum Amendments) Bill however was voted against by the people of Nauru thereby denying itself a fundamental human right of accessing information held by the Government.

Right to information is an internationally recognised human right representing a touchstone of participatory democracy. This law, commonly referred to as freedom of information (FOI) law in the Pacific region – provides a means by which people can come to know about their entitlements, identify when their rights are being violated and hold governments to account for corruption and non-fulfilment of their constitutional and international human rights obligations. In the Pacific and down under, both, Australia and New Zealand have had legislations to operationalise this right since 1982. More recently, in 2008, the Cook Islands enacted the Official Information Act providing impetus to other small island nations in the Pacific to have a freedom of information legislation. Tonga, in 2008, established a Ministry of Information (MOI) with the prime task of distributing news and information from the Government and to act as a depository for accessing Government and public information resources. While some other countries are yet to draft a legislation spelling this right, it has been explicitly provided for in their constitutions like the Fijian Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression which includes the “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas”. Papua New Guinea is the other Commonwealth Pacific Island country to make a specific reference to a right of access to government documents in its Constitution.
 

Having the right to information has the potential of turning things around for Nauru since most of Nauru’s challenges today, can be linked to the dire dearth of access to information. In the report of the Independent Commission on Constitutional Review, it was clearly pointed out that the public has lost trust in their public institutions and they expect much greater accountability. Systems like a right to information regime, that enable citizens to be part of, and personally scrutinise, decision-making processes reduces their feelings of powerlessness and helps in cementing trust in the government.


Establishing mechanisms for bringing about transparency in governance cannot be prolonged when poor and indigenous communities who are so heavily reliant on their local natural resources for survival, have often been excluded from decisions about its use and sale. Decisions regarding this have been made by governments dominated by urban elites who have then co-opted the benefits. For instance, environmental degradation of Nauru was led by countries like Australia due to intensive phosphate mining in the trusteeship and mandate era, for which Nauru demanded compensation at the cost of waiving its right to appeal on issues arising from either the administration of the island during that era or phosphate mining itself. In return Nauru got Australian dollars amounting to 107 million and no one knows where that money has gone as Nauru still remains confronted with environmental challenges.


In the particular context of Nauru, one of the most important corollaries of having an information regime will be to tackle corruption. Here, the Treasury has gone without producing accounts for years and the public has no knowledge of where that money has gone. According to a Pacific wide study done by the World Bank in 2009, Cook Islands, has been the country most effective in handling corruption. Nauru, on the other hand, is able to control only about 45% of its corruption despite being one of the smallest countries in the region. By way of exercising their right to information, Nauruans will be able to demand information on how every penny that is collected from them as tax is used.

Nauru can give itself a fair chance of releasing itself from the shackles of poverty by demanding information that affects their day-to-day activities from those entrusted with power. Experience shows, much of the failure of poverty reduction and development strategies to date can be attributed to the fact that, for years, they have been designed behind closed doors by governments who consulted with ‘experts’ but shut out the very people who were supposed to benefit. World Bank figures indicate, Nauru is among the highest receivers of aid per capita in the world, ranging from more than US$1000 per person to nearly US$5500 in 2007. And still its people today face bigger livelihood challenges than any other country in the world. Nauru has also continuously lagged behind in development indicators like education and participation in decision making process. In a 2009 Pacific Economic Survey, AusAID found that Nauru was experiencing retarded progress in achieving many of its millennium development goals (MDGs). One of the seriously affected MDG, in this regard is Nauru’s commitment to providing by the year 2015, children, anywhere, a full course on primary schooling.


In such a scenario, it is imperative that the people of Nauru demand their right to information. Although a vital opportunity in this regard has been lost by way of negative vote in the referendum, yet, all is not lost and Nauruans can give themselves the very crucial right to information by way of enacting a law. Such a legislation should be initiated and drafted in consultation with the people who are ultimately going to be using this right. Meaningful dialogue must be called for with those in charge of decision making and awareness campaigns should be conducted across the country for people to recognise the importance of information for addressing the lingering issues of governance and accountability.


* See also: Nauru closer to freedom of information laws
www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=44928


Nauru considers freedom of information rules
www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=44871


Nauru Parliament votes to change constitution
http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:o_1xZA07EdcJ:www.naurugov.nr/parliament/projects/constitution/Mediarelease.pdf+Nauru+right+to+information&hl=en&sig=AHIEtbTG27hsW7jdSkKb5io4s-y2R2ZP1Q

Nauruan constitutional referendum, 2010
[Source: Wikipedia] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauruan_constitutional_referendum,_2010

A constitutional referendum was held in Nauru on 27 February 2010. Voters were asked to vote on amendments to the constitution, most notably a change to a directly elected president (instead of one chosen by parliament) and a strengthening of human rights legislation (but also a clarification of the distribution of powers and other, less notable amendments). A two-thirds majority is required for the amendments to pass.

The referendum was part of a large-scale constitutional renewal; the referendum had to be held to approve changes to some especially protected parts of the constitution, while other changes were made by simple parliamentary vote. Any changes would only take effect on the day of the next general election, likely in May/June 2011.

Turnout was 78%, with almost 4,400 votes cast; the constitutional changes were rejected by majority of two thirds, almost 3,000 votes.It was considered immediately afterwards whether another referendum might be held at a later time.


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