by Dr Mark Hayes in Brisbane
July 5, 2011 –
July 12, 2011 ~ I’ve moved the Vanuatu Bashing UpDates into a separate Post as this caper is continuing and there have been some quite significant developments and comments.
Apologies for not being around for a while, but have had some other things to attend to.
Defending the Oxford Comma
Cannot let the raging controversy about the Oxford Comma pass without buying into it.
Heretofore, the authoritative Oxford Dictionary people decreed that a comma be placed between words which were used in series, like this, and this, and this. The comma after the second ‘and this’ is the Oxford Comma, also known as the ‘series comma’.
Other influential style guides are less rigorous, and allowed for the omission of the comma, like this, and this and this.
The whole thing was triggered by some idiot Twitter feed asserting that Oxford was abolishing its Ruling on the ‘serial comma’, which provoked global howls of outrage, and quite rightly so if it were true.
It wasn’t true. So much for believing everything you see on Twitter.
To my way of thinking, and practice, omitting the Oxford Comma is in the same league as wearing socks with sandals, putting tomato sauce on chips (or French fries if you must), admitting to being a postmodernist, or violating one of the pronunciation decrees issued by the terrifying ABC Standing Committee on Spoken English, the Official Arbiter of All Things Correct when it comes to stalkin’ roit proper on Australia’s National Broadcaster.
Buying into this raging controversy, The Guardian’s Alison Flood has this take on it all, and I agree with her.
I rise to my hind legs and leap to the defence of the Oxford Comma, along with the right and proper use of the Apostrophe too.
Meanwhile, some significant developments on a couple of Posts from earlier in 2011.
More on Libya & LSE
To make sense of this, please re-visit the first Post On Useful Idiots and Dictatorships.
The controversy around the London School of Economics’ ‘constructive engagement’ with the then rehabilitating Libyan regime seems to have died down a little, unlike the appalling civil war raging in Libya, but The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins added this comment on the situation back in March, 2011.
How LSE must rue their association with Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, PhD (LSE), now wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, along with his utterly awful daddy, and most the rest of the Libyan regime.
I was provoked to check on the LSE – Libyia story by my learned friend and interlocutor, and occasional drinking buddy, Ethical Martini’s recent ruminations on receiving a communication from Gaddafi’s second wife.
This, in turn, provoked a paroxysm of guilt and remorse on my part for not contributing to this august and most reputable Blog for far too long, and thereby not bulking up Ethical Martini’s SEOs (Search Engine Optimization rankings), which go towards one’s Google rankings, and thence the rivers of gold triggered by Google’s advertising… ka’Ching, ka’Ching, ka’Ching, he says, onomatopoeticly, mimicking the tinkle of coin into Ethical Martini’s coffers.
I’ll get my modest share of this loot when I encounter Ethical Martini again in person, hopefully in the form of some very drinkable wine or beer, and hopefully quite soon.
I’ll offer the second part of my Useful Idiots and Dictatorships piece soon, but I want to very tightly nail down all the bits and pieces to the Pacific and Fiji angles to this Post so as to leave no room for any critics or Fiji regime stooges, Bainimarama’s local useful idiots, for their typically swingeing sniping or nit picking rebuttals.
Media Freedom Meeting in Samoa
Just so happened that one of the things I had to attend to in May was a sudden trip to Samoa to attend a meeting of several Pacific NGOs with interests in media freedom and development, coinciding with Media Freedom Day 2011.
Here’s a UNESCO story on the meeting (they helped fund it), and a NZ Spasifik magazine story featuring the President of the New Zealand-based Pacific Islands Media Association, Iulia Leilua, who was also in Samoa for this meeting.
The way I heard it, as funding for the meeting was being pulled together, UNESCO asked the organizers to approach the Fiji regime to see if they’d mind the meeting being held in Suva, probably at the Secretariat for the Pacific Community’s Media Centre at Nabua, a northern Suva suburb quite close to the Australian High Commission (a.k.a. ‘Fortress Australia’) and down the main road from the military’s HQ, the Queen Elizabeth II Barracks (a.k.a., ‘the camp’), to where, occasionally, folks who irritate the regime are taken and given a severe talking to, or worse, a solid beating. This is the real ‘rule of law’ in Fiji these days, the Rule of Fists and/or Glock.
Regime apologists would vigorously disagree, of course, pointing to what certainly looks like a functioning legal system including a police force headed by a senior military officer, and a judiciary containing quite a few Sri Lankan judges and magistrates, recruited because the Regional ‘smart sanctions’ on travel through or to Australia and New Zealand for anybody associated with the Fiji military have dissuaded potential judges and magistrates from taking up even temporary posts in Fiji. It is, of course, forbidden, for the Fiji courts to rule against any decree promulgated by the regime.
Following some recent allegations about regime critics in the Fiji union movement being assaulted, the military helpfully said that any such complaints should be made to the police, and at the beginning of July, 2011, the regime shut down a meeting of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, claiming the internal working meeting was in breach of the PER (Pacific Beat’s story has comment from Shamima Ali, from the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre).
An approach by the Pacific media networking meeting organizers was duly made to the relevant regime identity, probably the so-called ‘Permanent Secretary for Information’, former Australian PR and advertising worker, Ms Sharon Smith-Johns, still Fiji’s Chief Censor given the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) are still enforced, in addition to the equally draconian Media Decree.
The initial response from the Fiji regime was, so I heard, positive, but then they asked for a list of attendees, actual and probable (I only found out about the meeting about a fortnight prior, and wasn’t going to be funded to attend. I never accept donor funding for these kinds of gigs so I paid to go myself, and I wouldn’t have been on the submitted list).
On receipt of the list of attendees, the Fiji regime reneged on its initial approval, so the journalism programme at the National University of Samoa’s Le Papaigalagala Campus in Apia, and my old pal, Misa Vicky Lepou, stepped up
to host the meeting. And an excellent job Misa Vicky and NUS Journalism did too.
I have no idea who on the list of prospective attendees offended the Fiji military dictatorship sufficiently to tell the meeting’s organizers to ‘piss off’, and there isn’t much point in speculating, though one of the invitees was Marc Neil-Jones from Vanuatu, who was scheduled to deliver the Pacific World Press Freedom Day 2011 talk.
This he then did, and a powerful presentation it was (PDF download from Pacific Media Watch/Pacific Media Centre). Marc and I also did a joint guest lecture for NUS Journalism students, and his part of the lecture would have been appreciated by any reputable journalism school’s students.
What was also significant was the presence, as a co-facilitator of the meeting, of Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) Federal President, Peter Lewis, who, in another life, is the Executive Producer of the ABC’s very well regarded weekly rural affairs TV programme, Landline. In an earlier life, Mr Lewis was the ABC’s New Zealand Correspondent, then based in Auckland, and with a brief to also cover Pacific stories.
Mr Lewis’ presence, which was very well received, clearly flagged that the major media worker’s union in the local Superpower (Australia, like it or not) is very interested in the Pacific and wants to forge closer ties with Pacific media and related NGOs.
The MEAA in Sydney also hosts the Asia-Pacific Desk for the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) which, in close collaboration with the Pacific Freedom Forum, monitors media freedom issues in the Pacific and indeed funds Ms Lisa Williams-Lahiri on a Pacific media freedom monitoring project, including mounting training workshops in places like Vanuatu earlier in June. (Declaring an interest, I’m a founder-member of PFF and serve on their drafting committee, leaping into action to help draft statements on various media freedom threats, and offering periodic advice on knotty or tricky issues which crop up.)
The early May, 2011, Samoa trip was, as any visit to Samoa and Apia always is, very busy and productive, renewing many of my Pacific friendships and connections, and making new ones.
It was also very pleasant to be warm again. I hate being cold, even given Brisbane’s usually moderately cool winters. And I always like sampling the local Samoan beer, Vailima. Best beer in the Pacific, if you want my considered and experienced opinion.
There were two ‘gorillas in the room’, though.
Despite being invited to send a representative, the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) did not participate, for reasons which I couldn’t figure out, but on which I’ll have more to say in my forthcoming Useful Idiots II Post soon.
And there was nobody from the Fiji media in attendance, again for reasons I couldn’t work out. The Fiji regime and its draconian media controls was very much on everybody’s mind, though.
On to Madang and Divine Word University
Then I had to scoot up to Divine Word University(DWU) at Madang in PNG to do a week long workshop on investigative journalism for third year journalism students, the second gig of this kind I’ve done for them. This time, they paid for the airfares, accommodated me in a modest but quite comfortable room in a Society for the Divine Word building, provided meals, and I bought the beers. (Not that I like PNG’s South Pacific beer; yuck.)
I always enjoy going to DWU Journalism, as the students are always keen and attentive, and the proposed investigations they research and work up as part of the intensive short course are always fascinating and usually very well developed.
DWU Journalism, actually a grandly titled Communication Arts Department housed in a modest little office near the center of the campus, is headed by Australian Marist Brother, Br Michael McManus, most ably assisted by local journalist, Patrick Matbob. I cannot speak highly enough of these two, and their efforts over many years, with visitor assistance on occasion, to make DWU Journalism a modest, but lively and Regionally very well regarded operation.
Pity the PNG media, especially the two major newspapers, the News Corporation-owned PNG Post-Courier and the Malaysian owned The National, and the PNG National Broadcasting Corporation, whose Web Site says it’s ‘Under Maintenance’, either don’t have the capacity, or, more likely, simply don’t want, to do serious investigative reporting. It’s blindingly obvious to anybody with even a passing interest in PNG affairs that there are a huge number of potential investigations to be done ~ rampant corruption, massive resources boom, barely functioning governance, health, and education systems and services, raging HIV/AIDS epidemic, serious, even deadly, law and order problems…