Academic, Media & Religious Freedom ~ Not ~ in Fiji

August 28, 2011

by Dr Mark Hayes

Update, September 4, 2011 ~ This Post started out as something else, but, over the last week of August, 2011, it morphed into a major, running, UpDate on developments in Fiji, several currents of which seemed to coalesce with very worrying speed and intensity. Most of it was written over August 27 – 31, with some tweaking and a few extra links added, until September 4.

I also know this Post has been read in Fiji, as well as more widely.

I won’t update this Post again, but will link to it as relevant in any future Posts on the general topic of Fiji, of which there will be more when events there suggest it and I decide I have something useful to contribute.

Of course, the Comments section remains active and I welcome any comments, which will not be censored (aside from normal, journalistic, editing as to clarity, legals, and taste).

Original Post continues -

I started to compile a more comprehensive wrap on recent developments in Fiji – more attacks on unions, the media, the Methodist Church – but then things started moving so fast on several fronts that I gave up, and will get to the bits and pieces, with much more context, in due course.

Scroll down for material on More Fantasy and Nastiness in Fiji, traversing the latest round on the Fiji regime throttling the Methodist Church, more on how media freedom is also throttled in Fiji, how the University of the South Pacific throttles academic freedom, continuing raids on the Fiji National Provident Fund, and insights into Fiji’s justice system under the military dictatorship.

Why Civil Resistance Works

A long anticipated and exceptionally valuable study, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, by American scholars, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, has landed on my desk. This is formidable and very thorough scholarship of the very first order which assembles and analyses a vast amount of historical and contemporary data to show, about as conclusively as this kind of research can do, that nonviolent direct action is much more effective at removing dictators, supporting democracies, and challenging domination than armed resistance or terrorism. That’s a huge claim, to be sure, and their work deserves a very close read, which I’m doing now.

You can get a feel for the book from this article, published in Foreign Affairs by Erica Chenoweth on August 24, 2011, and this earlier article, by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.” International Security 33, no. 1 (Summer 2008): 7-44 (172 k PDF).

As well, I’ve been watching an excellent documentary on the impacts of global warming on Kiribati, The Hungry Tide, which has added to my collection of material on this crucial issue, has been doing the rounds of Australia’s film festivals recently, and brought back acute memories of my trips to Tuvalu where I’ve seen, and reported upon, the same kinds of effects.

More recently, Australia Network Television’s Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney, has been to Kiribati to report on frustrations experienced from global warming’s front lines as they try to access mitigation funding and assistance pledged after the Copenhagen conference. His reports, including one on Radio National’s Correspondent’s Report for August 20, 2011, have been outstanding.

Sean Dorney’s Australia Network Television News Kiribati story ~ August 8, 2011

But, Memo to the always terrifying ABC Standing Committee on Spoken English (SCOSE) – Please come for Correspondent’s Report presenter, Elizabeth Jackson, for two broadcasting sins. Firstly, she mispronounced the name of the place ~ Kiri-bas ~ and not Kiri-bati. Secondly, she did so twice, in the introduction to the story, and again in the backannounce, clearly demonstrating she didn’t listen to the story she was presenting, in which the reporter pronounced the name correctly. Back in my days at the ABC, we’d be flogged in the car park for such gross violations of SCOSE directives!

Read the rest of this entry »


Wikileaks – an enemy of the State, just like Little Brother

April 7, 2010

The semi-underground Wikileaks site has become a news story in the last 48 hours thanks to the disturbing video of two Reuters staffers being gunned down in Baghdad in 2007.

Last year the site was named as the Amnesty International new media site of the year.

The April 2010 video released by Wikileaks [available at EM here] shows a group of Iraqis walking in a neighbourhood where the American military was staging a large “counter-insurgency” operation.

The Reuters men were there to cover the story on the ground. Unfortunately two trigger-happy Apache pilots mistook a telephoto lens for an AK47 and opened fire. Twelve people were killed, two children were wounded.

Wikileaks used a crowd source of hackers to decode the encryption on the Apache “gun camera” footage that was leaked to them by whistleblowers.

Now the US military and its Washington think-tank apologists are trying to hose down the story and imply that the Apache pilots were only doing their jobs.

No surprises there; but I didn’t know that in 2008 the American military machine has also listed Wikileaks as an enemy of the State.

This document is a classified (SECRET/NOFORN) 32 page U.S. counterintelligence investigation into WikiLeaks. “The possibility that current employees or moles within DoD or elsewhere in the U.S. government are providing sensitive or classified information to WikiLeaks.org cannot be ruled out”. It concocts a plan to fatally marginalize the organization. Since WikiLeaks uses “trust as a center of gravity by protecting the anonymity and identity of the insiders, leakers or whistleblowers”, the report recommends “The identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could potentially damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the WikiLeaks.org Web site”. [the document is no longer available at Wikileaks]

This is bizarre and shows just how twisted the whole concept of “homeland security” is. It reminds me of the plot in a great Cory Doctorow novel I’m reading at the moment: Little Brother.

In this book, the hero Marcus Yarrow faces down the Department of Homeland Security after a terrorist bomb destroys the Oakland Bay bridge in San Francisco. The DHS locks down the city and ups the surveillance in school classrooms, on the street and via electronic devices so that everyone is under their gaze 24/7 (almost).

Yarrow is a 17 year-old school kid who’s into online gaming and computer coding. After his illegal detention by DHS agents, Marcus and his friends organise a jamming campaign using darknet software that plays on the Xbox.

In an interesting twist, Marcus and his family seek the help of a dead trees “investigative journalist” to expose the DHS clampdown on civil liberties.

I find this interesting because it possibly shows the limits of social media in terms of making a really big story public and driving public opinion.

It’s probably also a comment on the age gap. Yarrow’s father is old school so doesn’t understand the jamming culture of his kid.

I haven’t quite finished Little Brother yet; but I can’t wait to get home and read the last 80 pages.

You should get hold of a copy; it’s an interesting book and an important statement about how Homeland Security has become a war against the American people. You can also check out a fan page for the book on Facebook.

Writer, blogger and cool geek Cory Doctorow

Doctorow is behind the technology and culture blog Boing Boing and I like him even more now that he’s just published an anti iPad manifesto.

In particular there’s this biting swipe at the dead tree media:

I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who’ll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff.

The parallels between the military’s attitude to Wikileaks and the DHS crackdown on civil liberties is eirie.


Am I paranoid?

March 22, 2010

The last time I visited those great United States, in September 2008, I flew all the way from LA to NYC with a couple of stops on the way and didn’t really have too much trouble. The time before that in 2007 the locks on my bags were broken open by the Transport Safety Authority and Moac & I had to de-shoe in St Louis one time.

But on my way out of the US in the first week of October 2008 – British Airways to London – I was told that my name had appeared on a US Government “watch list”.

Nothing came of it really. I was allowed to travel and the woman who told me really played it down.

But today I got a notification that the United States Embassy in Wellington is following my blog via Twitter.

USA out of my Tweets

I  sent a polite message asking why the embassy wants to follow me and also seeking to know who the embassy staffer is who’s charged with keeping tabs on my blog.

I will block them tomorrow  if they don’t reply.

Am I paranoid?

I really am egotistical enough to think my words are pearls**, but unless there’s some closet radical working in the Embassy mailroom, I don’t think my brand of commentary would be to the Ambassador’s tastes.

This unwelcome attention comes on the first business day after I published my post supporting the Waihopai three.

We should all be self-aware enough to know that our electronic lives are not secure or private, but I do find this a little weird and sinister.

**Dribblejaws alert: That’s a joke, calm down


More police misconduct – Met threat to press photographers

April 25, 2009

Back in March, the UK Guardian published video footage showing how the police were surveilling protestors and journalists at an environment protest. Well, after apologising for their actions, which included following journos into a McDonalds and threatening them, the Metropolitan police were at it again during the recent G20 protests in London.

A new video has surfaced showing the cops threatening to arrest news photographers covering the protest. The cops apologised again, but they obviously don’t mean it. The UK seems to be moving inexorably in the direction of a police state  like Orwell’s Airstrip One in 1984.

This comes on top of loads of evidence that the cops were heavy-handed in their treatment of the largely peaceful protests and the death of Ian Tomlinson, a guy who had nothing to do with the G20 protest, but was just walking past the cops. He was pushed to the ground, he died a few hours later.

[Tx Colleen]

BTW: While checking out stuff for this post I came across a good UK blog that used to be called “Airstrip One”, but is now known as Did you steal my country.  The guys behind DYSMC describe themselves as conservative(ish) libertarians, but they write well on interesting and useful topics. I also came across this bitter post Life on Airstrip One at OpenDemocracy.


Georgia on my mind – gangsters, oil and blood

August 16, 2008

Warning: this post contains some AO language and is not really about taxi drivers at all.

I have a lot of respect for cab drivers. Most of the time they’re really well-educated and they’re all very, very  street-smart. Last night I got a ride home with Ahmad. He’s from Afghanistan and he was listening to the BBC World Service.

There were items about the conflict in Georgia and so we got to talking. It was quite funny to realise that my chat with Ahmad was the perfect dessert to my main course argument with my colleague Wayne at the Brooklyn.

Wayne and I had been talking about Russia, Georgia, gangster capitalism, transnationals and failed or failing states. Ahmad segued straight into that line of thinking off the back of the World Service reports from Georgia. Ahmad has been all over the world. He thinks the Russians are crazy and hates the American presence in his homeland. There’s a nice, balanced logic to his position and I’m instantly drawn to a stranger who’s making my journey smooth on a soggy Auckland night.

My conversations with Wayne and Ahmad  led to this little tome: gangster capitalism, the looming resource wars and ‘regime change’.

What happens when you give gangsters access to new-killer weapons of mass distraction?

Read the rest of this entry »


Sedition in Singapore – as easy as pi

June 10, 2008

I’m keen to keep up with the Gopalan Nair case, so today I visited Chia Ti Lik’s blog. Ti Lik is Nair’s lawyer and so fairly close to the case.

The most recent post is one I’ve already linked to, dated 5th June. But I started to re-read it and realised that Nair is likely to face a sedition charge when he appears in court again on Thursday 12 June.

Singapore’s sedition law is a product of old colonial rule – as is so much of “law” in former colonies – and it had fallen into disuse until recently. It was used in 2005 against a small group of bloggers who were allegedly inciting racism against Malays. This was apparently the first time since the mid-60s.

The sedition law was originally used to prosecute alleged communists in the early post-war years. The Cold War was very useful then and it still is today.

Read the rest of this entry »


Burma and the shock doctrine

May 15, 2008

When the devastating cyclone hit Burma couple of weeks ago I pondered a blog post on the Shock Doctrine. I read Naomi Klein’s great book a few months ago and as soon as it was clear how devastated parts of Burma were, I thought: “this is a time for a shock doctrine intervention”. Well f*c( me with a spade, so it’s come to pass.

I first heard talk of a western military intervention this morning (15 May), so it’s time to join the blog chat on this topic. I found this interesting case for intervention on Slate, dated 12 May. Read the rest of this entry »


China’s net video crackdown could hurt YouTube – web – Technology – smh.com.au

January 4, 2008

China’s net video crackdown could hurt YouTube – web – Technology – smh.com.au

This piece from the Sydney Morning Herald today continues to mark the declining standard of human rights and free speech in China.

YouTube and other video-sharing websites are the latest to come under direct censorship. I particularly like this:

Video that involves national secrets, hurts the reputation of China, disrupts social stability or promotes pornography will be banned. Providers must delete and report such content.

“Those who provide internet video services should insist on serving the people, serve socialism … and abide by the moral code of socialism,” the rules say.

What is a “moral code of socialism”? From my understanding a moral code of socialism would allow the greatest expression of human rights, including sexual freedoms; the right to free speech and criticism and freedom of assembly and distribution of political materials.

Of course there’s also capitalist morals, such as these demonstrated by a sycophantic YouTube spokestroll. The company’s interest in China is to continue to keep Google and YouTube profitable:

YouTube hopes the rules won’t cut it off from the rapidly growing number of Chinese residents with internet access, spokesman Ricardo Reyes said.

“We believe that the Chinese government fully recognizes the enormous value of online video and will not enforce the regulations in a way that could deprive the Chinese people of its benefits and potential for business and economic development, education and culture, communication, and entertainment,” Reyes said.

If you want to know what Korea’s Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, thinks of socialist morals you can read this disturbing screed.


"It’s not funny," Scipione laments Chaser stunt

September 7, 2007

The NSW police really do have to lighten up. They’re now putting round the message that the boys from Chaser could have been shot by snipers during their stunt a couple of days ago. IN case you missed it, here’s a TV report.

The team from the ABC’s satirical show, The Chaser’s War on Everything, managed to drive through two security checkpoints in Sydney, despite the heavy (overkill) police security presence and the rabble-proof fence.

A number of Chaser crew were able to get right to the InterContinental hotel where Dubya is holed up with an entourage that boasts 250 secret service guys, armed to the teeth.

After being held by the side of the road, they were taken in a police van and processed.

Now the NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, is saying they could have been shot. But they weren’t. What they did do is prove that the whole costly exercise (around 140 million dollars, about $24 million per day) is an expensive joke.

Scipione told the Australian media that the police snipers, located on many buildings around the city, could have opened fire. Now he’s mad as hell…

“I’m angry, I’m very angry that this stunt happened, it was a very dangerous stunt,” Mr Scipione said.

“The reality is … (they) put security services in a position where they might have had to take an action no-one would want.

“We have snipers deployed around the city. They weren’t there for show, they mean business, that’s what they were there for.”

Hey, Commish, wipe the two-day old egg of your face and crack a smile.

Showing just how thick the boys and girls in blue can be, here’s a copy of the Chaser team’s dummied-up security passes.

On a more serious note, the Chaser crew (11 were arrested) have been charged under the NSW special APEC security laws and could face up to six months in jail.

Bastards.

There’s more at the SMH website.

You can track an earlier post on this story.

As you might expect the Chaser online news service is quick to show what’s going on.


Don’t fence me in – APEC security out of control

September 5, 2007

From today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

The Department of Education says it does not yet know how many students have skipped school to join APEC protests.

Police will be roaming trains, buses and the central business district as part of a crackdown on students who truant to join protests, the Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, has warned.

Mr Scipione again urged students to stay away from today’s protest for their own safety and warned that if they were playing truant there was a good chance the police would find them and report them to their school or parents.

The NSW police have also applied to have Saturday’s protest march declared “illegal”. This is a sure indication that they want to up the ante. As several leaders of the “Stop Bush Coalition” have been saying in radio interviews all week, this is about trying to intimidate people from joining the peaceful protests.

But it’s also worse than that, it’s part of a public relations “softening up” exercise. In my long experience it’s the cops who start the “violence” at protest marches. This forces those present to defend themselves or risk getting clubbed and doused with “pepper spray”. All this week the cops have been stopping people, including tourists, from taking photographs of the “rabble-proof fence”.

The NSW police seem to be spoiling for a fight on Saturday. By denouncing alleged “secret plots” to cause damage etc, they are preparing the general public to accept that “fact” that the cops will have a justification for thumping the bejeezus out of protestors.

The PR campaign is helped along by reports such as this one from Brisbane’s Courier-Mail outlining the expensive “security” blanket that’s been thrown around Dubya. Here’s a sample:

On board the planes were 50 White House political aides, 150 national security advisers, 200 specialists from other government departments and more than 250 Secret Service agents.

The president’s men were even believed to be bringing their own sniffer dogs.

Surely this is overkill. There’s been no public announcement of any threat to Bush, but his security detail will be heavily armed. There’s enough fire power here to topple a government…”hhhmmm”.

And, finally, a little bit more on who to blame for the disruption in Sydney. Do you need to ask? Well, the Prime Minister knows who’s responsible, and it ain’t him (again)

Mr Howard blamed the fencing through the central business district on protesters threatening violence.

“It’s not the fault of the guests in our country,” he said.

The fence stretches from King Street to Circular Quay and from George to Macquarie streets and will keep any protesters a long way from dignitaries.

He refused to say whether there was any intelligence warning of a major incident.

Backlinks to previous posts:

dignitary protection exercise
banning orders ozzie style
another brick in the wall


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