Soldiers in harms way: Don’t ask, don’t tell

January 22, 2010

Philip Poupin/NZH 21-01-2010

Good on the New Zealand Herald for publishing this picture of two NZ SAS soldiers in Kabul.

And cheers to the Dominion Post for going for it again today.

It’s a Kiwi version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and really quite pathetic that the Defence Minister is upset about this image. He’s said that identifying the soldiers puts them in harm’s way. Presumably because now those pesky Taleban can put a name or a face to the troopers.

That’s just bullshit. These guys wander around Kabul in heavy body armour, armed to the teeth and ready to take potshots at anyone who looks remotely suspicious. That’s about 90 per cent of the population in the reasoning of the occupying forces.

Let’s be clear about this; these SAS troopers are in harms way because of a series of political decisions taken in Washington and Wellington. Read the rest of this entry »


The “godfather” of Chinese blogging: Isaac Mao in New Zealand

October 20, 2009

I’ve had the privilege in the last couple of days of spending quality time with Isaac Mao, the well-known Chinese blogger and social media enthusiast.

Isaac is in New Zealand this week on a speaking tour of J-schools generously sponsored by the Asia-New Zealand Foundation. Isaac’s passionate commitment to free speech and democratic ideals is clear from his thoughtful and fact-packed presentations. My only regret is that more of New Zealand’s blogging community didn’t take advantage of his two speaking dates in Auckland to actually meet with Isaac.

Despite the fact that a lot of people who should have known better chose to ignore what I think is an important event of interest to Kiwi bloggers, some media have taken a great interest in Isaac’s commentary on social media and the blogosphere in China.

Isaac Mao on Asian Report with Jason Moon National Radio 20 Oct 2009

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You still have a couple of chances in Wellington, Christchurch and Rotorua, it is well worthwhile. Isaac is on his way to Los Angeles whree he is a speaker at UCLA’s 40th anniversary of the Internet conference. He’s also a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.2009


Chinese blogger Isaac Mao visiting New Zealand

October 6, 2009

Chinese blogger and social entrepreneur, Isaac Mao is visiting Auckland for 24 hours as part of whirlwind tour of NZ journalism schools. The trip is sponsored by Asia New Zealand Foundation. The Auckland leg is being hosted by the Centre for Journalism, Media & Democracy at AUT.

Isaac is an excellent commentator on China’s netizens and issues such as the recent Green Dam proposal, the Great Firewall of China, self censorship and other social and internet related issues.

There is this August 08 article by Isaac on The Guardian website

There are two chances to hear Isaac speak about the blogosphere in China and social media in the world of Web 2.0.

  • Sunday 18th October 3pm til around 5pm then adjourn to a local bar. This will be in WT tower, AUT opposite Aotea square, room WT1103.
  • Monday 19th he will be talking again in WT1305 at 12 noon.

If you’d like to come to either event pls rsvp to me martin.hirst AT aut.ac.nz


Freedom for those who defend it: Journalists – a film from Belarus

May 14, 2009

The docmentary Journalists, by Belarusian film director Aleh Dashkevich, is screening twice on the programme of the Auckland Human Rights Film Festival.

Journalists tells about how freedom of expression was destroyed in Belarus over the 15 years of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s rule. 20081203_journalistLukashenka came to power in the 1994 election promising to allow freedom of the press. Unfortunately, like most politicians, he was lying at the time.

In most western nations journalists can operate within reasonable boundaries of freedom. It’s rare for a TV camerawo/man to be kidnapped and murdered; journalists don’t often get beaten up, arrested or threatened when covering protests. Not so in Belarus – nor, incidently, in many parts of the former Soviet Union, including Russia.

Belarus 1229920068Late last year Lukashenka’s regime signed into law further restrictions on media freedom. Among other provisions, the law equates the Internet with regular media, making sites subject to the same restrictions; bans local media from accepting foreign donations; allows local and state authorities to shutter independent publications for minor violations; and requires accreditation for all foreign journalists working in the country. [Committee to Protect Journalists]

Journalists is showing on Friday (15 May) and Tuesday (19 May) at 6pm at the Rialto cinema in Newmarket. I will be making a few brief comments after the screening and leading a question and answer session. After that I’ll be available for a quite drink if you’re interested.

Read the rest of this entry »


Australian J School bans staff contact with Fiji

April 23, 2009

My colleagues in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland have taken a strong stand against the suppression of media freedom in Fiji. The school has decided to put a black ban on staff travel to Fiji for the foreseeable future in solidarity with journalists and news workers who are literally under the gun on the Pacific island.

The veteran Australian reporter, Sean Dorney, regarded as one of the world’s experts on Pacific issues has also received a very warm welcome on a recent speaking tour of Australian universities. I’ve included a report of his talk to three hundred first year journalism students at the University of Queensland a couple of days ago.

A hat tip to Dr Mark Hayes for this information.

Read the rest of this entry »


Journalism – the dangerous business

April 22, 2009

I wrote recently about the moral purpose of journalism, in part I noted:

The bottom line is that, consciously or unconsciously, reporters and editors often concede their independence to political actors. Equally, states often go to extreme lengths to coerce or cajole the news media into toeing the line

There’s another deep philosophical argument: Is the conscience of the journalist easily equated with the broader public conscience?

In this context, one of journalism’s most important roles is that of awakening the public’s conscience. Journalists must decide when the alarm must be sounded and how best to do so.

(The Global Journalist, p.4)

I am still thinking about these issues, they’re not yet fully resolved in my own head, but I think it’s a debate that anyone with an interest in honest, truthful and insightful news media should engage in.

However, it’s never too late to sound the alarm: journalism is a dangerous business for courageous reporters who threaten powerful political and economic interests.

Read the rest of this entry »


Fiji situation – support for journalists under the gun

April 16, 2009

this statement released this week by the Journalism Education Association in Australia

Soldiers and police have no place in any newsroom.

We oppose the Fiji dictatorship’s attempts to control our colleagues by threats, intimidation and censorship. We call on our governments to seek to protect all Fiji journalists striving to perform their duties in these difficult circumstances.

As journalists and educators we affirm Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

We strongly support our esteemed Australian colleague, Sean Dorney and other foreign journalists who have been expelled from Fiji because they sought the truth in the public interest.

For more Information contact : Professor Alan Knight 0448194512 email: ad.knight@qut.edu.au

The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) has also issued a strong statement and has several updates on the situation in Fiji.

Reporters without  borders (RSF) has also got extensive coverage.

David Robie’s Cafe Pacific blog is a good source on this story.

Pacific Media Centre at AUT University

Fiji Free Speech is covering Coup V.5


Kevin’s march back to the Ruddy Dark Ages

February 3, 2009

When I voted “Kevin ‘o7” in the Australian federal election I didn’t expect John Howard MarkII, but it seems that’s what we got.

It was no secret in 2007 that Kevin Rudd had done the fashionable thing and “found God” somewhere along the dark road that is Labor politics in Australia, but now his government is fixing to introduce internet “filtering” laws that the Ayotollahs would be proud of.

In fact, the Chinese regime could possibly learn a thing or two about using moral panic as a weapon against the unholy recesses of the world wide web of filth that’s endlessly repeating itself across the reaches of cyberspace.

Today, I read a disturbing piece in New Matilda which is rapidly becoming one of the few sensible voices in the Australian media wilderness.

Christian Lobby: The New Lions of Clean Feed

The news that so alarmed me is that an ultra-conservative Christian group is now dictating a national firewall policy that will have far-reaching consequences for what Australians can legally download and view over the internet.

Read the rest of this entry »


The moral purpose of journalism

January 14, 2009

“We always end up starting with the Israeli side,” said a Japanese television journalist, speaking on the condition of anonymity, “because that’s where we are and that’s what we can see.”

(Christian Science Monitor, 10 January 2009)

The job of the news media is not to try to solve all the world’s problems, but to shake awake the world’s conscience. Good journalism can do that.

(Philip Seib, The Global Journalist, 2002, p.xiv)

I’ve been deliberately staying away from posting my thoughts on the coverage of the present conflict in Gaza; mainly because when I try to watch it on TV I get enormously angry and depressed. I’m also reluctant to say too much because there’s nothing more likely to stir passionate outrage among the dribblejaws than yet another anti-Israel rant.

But I’m now going to dip a toe in these troubled waters. My inspiration to do so comes from a number of sources:

  • The heroic act of shoe-throwing that I’ve covered in a number of posts. I’ve made it clear that I support the actions of the Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi. When he threw his shoes at George W Bush it was a symbolic act of disgust and outrage that had, apparently, been simmering in Muntadhar’s head for some time. It was, in my view, the act of a morally-upstanding person. From the positive reactions globally, it seems that many people agree that Bush deserved it.
  • I’m currently reading Philip Seib’s The Global Journalist: News and Conscience in a World of Conflict, and the book begins with an interesting, though flawed, thesis on the moral responsibilities that journalists carry around in their ethical kitbags.
  • Finally, I think it’s important to defend a political critique of Zionism from accusations of racism and anti-Jewish “hate speech”.

Before you read any further, you need to know that I am a strong supporter of the Palestinians who thinks the state of Israel is an imperialist construct and an outpost of American projected military power in the Middle East. I’ve come to the conclusion that journalists have a moral responsibility to say as much and to predicate all their reporting of the current Gaza conflict, as well as coverage of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and the associated “terror frame” of news analysis on this controversial starting point.

In other words, I believe in what Martin Bell calls the “journalism of attachment”, rather than feeble attempts at objectivity, which is, in and of itself, a form of inbuilt and largely unconscious bias.

Read the rest of this entry »


Olympic obsenities – rolling updates #3

August 22, 2008

I’ve had a great Olympics so far. I’ve managed to avoid all but the most incidental coverage of the actual “games”; though it hasn’t been easy.  I’ve refrained from getting into arguments with patriotic and even downright chauvinist Kiwis about the “funtastic” effort from “our” chaps and chapettes. I’ve even managed to catch up on some classic Star Trek thanks to Moac’s buddy who’s kindly loaned us his prize collector’s edition DVD boxed set.

But it hasn’t been so much fun for the blessed Chinese who thought they were going to get an opportunity to have their complaints heard by a sympathetic and “modernizing” regime. I read today of two grandmothers who’ve been sentenced to “re-education through labour” just for even daring to take the dictators at their word and apply for a protest permit.

The isolent cheek of these two old ladies; don’t they know what’s best for the nation is also best for them.

To top off my week of hilarity, the story of the underage Chinese gymnast is finally getting some well-deserved attention. He Kexin is a plucky young lass who serves as an object lesson to the gruntled grannies. She knows what’s best for everyone is to shut up and play along with the charade.

Ah, the scandal. Gotta love these games.

Read the rest of this entry »