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 »

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.

Slap on the writs!

May 15, 2008

So the NZ police have finally acted against the Fairfax editors and journalists who wrote about the leaked “Urewera” terror case affidavit. The police issued a “warning”, but I can’t really see what the effect of that will be.

Is it supposed to “chill” any enthusiasm the media has for publishing similar details in the future? If so, one would hope that it fails miserably. On the other hand, if the reporters and editors have breached Section 312K of the Crimes Act, why aren’t they being prosecuted? Read the rest of this entry »

Fuck Bush – not in this town!

October 3, 2007

Student paper headline ignites US free speech row | Press&publishing |

The editor of a student newspaper at Colorado State University is facing disciplinary charges at his university for publishing an edition of the Rocky Mountain Collegian with a front page banner headline that read: “Fuck Bush”.

The case has become a test of the First Amendment right to free speech and the incident caused advertisers to pull material (and money from the paper). Here’s a piece of the action from Editor & Publisher:

Student officials and faculty adviser Jeff Browne told the CSU board that since the editorial ran, 18 advertisers have either called to pull their advertising or threatened to end their advertising in the newspaper, which could result in some $50,000 in potential lost revenue. Officials have said that staff would have to take an across-the-board 10 percent pay cut to make up for the losses, which cut into the $950,000 advertising budget. Browne said some staff members, including a photographer, have quit.

The newspaper maintains an office on school grounds but is self-funded through advertising.

In a written statement submitted to the board, McSwane said: “We’ve lost advertising dollars. While this is a blow to our organization, I would also encourage the Board to remember that advertising dollars, though crucial, should not control editorial content.”

School policies governing student media state that students cannot publish obscene materials but that “indecent or vulgar language is not obscene.” Landers noted that the same policy prohibits the use of obscene and vulgar language in editorials.

Personally, I think 20-year-old David McSwane is a hero. But in the blogosphere, he has friends, supporters, and enemies; in particular college Republicans.

I think it’s amusing that so many Republican bloggers can get upset about one little word – a “profanity” to use their colloquial term for the word FUCK, but they can still share the love with that asshole of a president and his filthy rich chums from the Blackwater security company who are paid a billion dollars a year to terrorise and murder Iraqis.

However, it’s not the first time that David McSwane’s journalistic antics have got him into trouble, or rather, into the national headlines.

He scammed a great story for his high school newspaper in 2005 that led to several US army recruiters being stood down in after a sting operation involving McSwane’s younger brother, a video camcorder and drug paraphenalia.

Here’s more on that story from Editor & Publisher

Teen Journo Draws Fire After Army Sting

By Graham Webster

Published: July 25, 2005 4:23 PM ET
NEW YORK David McSwane had seen the military recruiters around town. He had seen them at the high school. And he knew that with recruitment rates down due to the Iraq war, they were working hard to attract new cadets. And it gave him an idea.

“I wanted to see how far they’d go to get another soldier,” says McSwane, a reporter for the Westwind at Arvada West High School in Arvada, Colo. So he set up a sting investigation, posing as a high school dropout with a marijuana habit and went down to his local Colorado Army recruitment station to enlist.

McSwane, 17, knew he would have to document his conversations with the recruiters, so he taped the telephone conversations, enlisted his sister to pose as a proud sibling so she could photograph parts of the process, and asked a friend to operate a video camera across from a local head shop.

But how did McSwane get an recruiter to visit a head shop with him? Simple. The honor student, pretending to have a ganja habit he couldn’t kick, went there to score a detoxifying kit the Army office claimed had helped two previous recruits pass drug tests, according to a taped phone conversation broadcast on local TV. McSwane told his recruiter he didn’t know what the detox formula looked like, so the man agreed to go to the store with him.

I like this guy’s style and nerve. If I had a student like David McSwayne in my journalism class, he’d have my support. So David, if you get kicked out of college, come down to Auckland, I’ll find room for you here.’

Just to finish, the profanity in question is defined thus in the online dictionary,

[fuhk] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation Vulgar.

–verb (used with object)

1. to have sexual intercourse with.
2. Slang. to treat unfairly or harshly.

–verb (used without object)

3. to have sexual intercourse.
4. Slang. to meddle (usually fol. by around or with).


5. Slang. (used to express anger, disgust, peremptory rejection, etc., often fol. by a pronoun, as you or it.)


6. an act of sexual intercourse.
7. a partner in sexual intercourse.
8. Slang. a person, esp. one who is annoying or contemptible.
9. the fuck, Slang. (used as an intensifier, esp. with WH-questions, to express annoyance, impatience, etc.)

10. fuck around, Slang.

a. to behave in a frivolous or meddlesome way.
b. to engage in promiscuous sex.
11. fuck off, Slang.

a. to shirk one’s duty; malinger.
b. go away: used as an exclamation of impatience.
c. to waste time.
12. fuck up, Slang.

a. to bungle or botch; ruin.
b. to act stupidly or carelessly; cause trouble; mess up.

13. give a fuck, Slang. to care; be concerned.

[Origin: 1495–1505; akin to MD fokken to thrust, copulate with, Sw dial. focka to copulate with, strike, push, fock penis]

fucky, adjective Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

American Heritage DictionaryCite This SourceShare This

fuck (fŭk) Pronunciation Key
v. fucked, fuck·ing, fucks

v. tr.

  1. To have sexual intercourse with.
  2. To take advantage of, betray, or cheat; victimize.
  3. Used in the imperative as a signal of angry dismissal.

v. intr.

  1. To engage in sexual intercourse.
  2. To act wastefully or foolishly.
  3. To interfere; meddle. Often used with with.


  1. An act of sexual intercourse.
  2. A partner in sexual intercourse.
  3. A despised person.
  4. Used as an intensive: What the fuck did you do that for?

interj. Used to express extreme displeasure.

Phrasal Verb(s):
fuck off

  1. Used in the imperative as a signal of angry dismissal.
  2. To spend time idly.
  3. To masturbate.

fuck over
To treat unfairly; take advantage of.
fuck up

  1. To make a mistake; bungle something.
  2. To act carelessly, foolishly, or incorrectly.
  3. To cause to be intoxicated.

[Middle English, attested in pseudo-Latin fuccant, (they) fuck, deciphered from gxddbov.]

Word History: The obscenity fuck is a very old word and has been considered shocking from the first, though it is seen in print much more often now than in the past. Its first known occurrence, in code because of its unacceptability, is in a poem composed in a mixture of Latin and English sometime before 1500. The poem, which satirizes the Carmelite friars of Cambridge, England, takes its title, “Flen flyys,” from the first words of its opening line, “Flen, flyys, and freris,” that is, “fleas, flies, and friars.” The line that contains fuck reads “Non sunt in coeli, quia gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk.” The Latin words “Non sunt in coeli, quia,” mean “they [the friars] are not in heaven, since.” The code “gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk” is easily broken by simply substituting the preceding letter in the alphabet, keeping in mind differences in the alphabet and in spelling between then and now: i was then used for both i and j; v was used for both u and v; and vv was used for w. This yields “fvccant [a fake Latin form] vvivys of heli.” The whole thus reads in translation: “They are not in heaven because they fuck wives of Ely [a town near Cambridge].”

(Download Now or Buy the Book)

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Online Etymology DictionaryCite This SourceShare This

a difficult word to trace, in part because it was taboo to the editors of the original OED when the “F” volume was compiled, 1893-97. Written form only attested from early 16c. OED 2nd edition cites 1503, in the form fukkit; earliest appearance of current spelling is 1535 — “Bischops … may fuck thair fill and be vnmaryit” [Sir David Lyndesay, “Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaits”], but presumably it is a much more ancient word than that, simply one that wasn’t likely to be written in the kind of texts that have survived from O.E. and M.E. Buck cites proper name John le Fucker from 1278. The word apparently is hinted at in a scurrilous 15c. poem, titled “Flen flyys,” written in bastard L. and M.E. The relevant line reads:

Non sunt in celi
quia fuccant uuiuys of heli

“They [the monks] are not in heaven because they fuck the wives of Ely.” Fuccant is pseudo-L., and in the original it is written in cipher. The earliest examples of the word otherwise are from Scottish, which suggests a Scandinavian origin, perhaps from a word akin to Norw. dial. fukka “copulate,” or Swedish dial. focka “copulate, strike, push,” and fock “penis.” Another theory traces it to M.E. fkye, fike “move restlessly, fidget,” which also meant “dally, flirt,” and probably is from a general North Sea Gmc. word, cf. M.Du. fokken, Ger. ficken “fuck,” earlier “make quick movements to and fro, flick,” still earlier “itch, scratch;” the vulgar sense attested from 16c. This would parallel in sense the usual M.E. slang term for “have sexual intercourse,” swive, from O.E. swifan “to move lightly over, sweep” (see swivel). Chronology and phonology rule out Shipley’s attempt to derive it from M.E. firk “to press hard, beat.” As a noun, it dates from 1680. French foutre and Italian fottere look like the Eng. word but are unrelated, derived rather from L. futuere, which is perhaps from PIE base *bhau(t)- “knock, strike off,” extended via a figurative use “from the sexual application of violent action” [Shipley; cf. the sexual slang use of bang, etc.]. Popular and Internet derivations from acronyms (and the “pluck yew” fable) are merely ingenious trifling. The O.E. word was hæman, from ham “dwelling, home,” with a sense of “take home, co-habit.” Fuck was outlawed in print in England (by the Obscene Publications Act, 1857) and the U.S. (by the Comstock Act, 1873). The word may have been shunned in print, but it continued in conversation, especially among soldiers during WWI.

“It became so common that an effective way for the soldier to express this emotion was to omit this word. Thus if a sergeant sai

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper

WordNetCite This SourceShare This

1. slang for sexual intercourse
1. have sexual intercourse with; “This student sleeps with everyone in her dorm”; “Adam knew Eve”; “Were you ever intimate with this man?” [syn: sleep together]

WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.

Freedom of Speech eroded – no surprises there

August 29, 2007

The respected and high profile human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson gave a speech in Sydney on Tuesday 28 August in which he criticised Australia’s record on protecting the freedom of speech principles that underpin a free media. He ended by calling for a bill of rights in Australia to enshrine freedom of expression much as the American Constitution does.

There were no surprises in Robertson’s speech. He made the usual historical homage to 18th and 19th century bourgeois liberals, including those who were gaoled at various times for sedition and for exercising the right to free speech.

What was surprising was that the whole thing was broadcast live on Sky TV. I was watching a Sky news bulletin in a Wellington hotel room about 10pm when the speech came on. They ran the whole lot. At the end of it, back to the newsroom for the disclosure that Sky TV was a backer of the ‘free media’ campaign group (a loose alliance of jouralists and media owners, and therefore in my view flawed) that is campaigning against some aspects of the Howard governments attacks on the free press in recent years – such as the conviction of two Herald-Sun journalists for contempt of court. Source protection, defamation law and shield laws were on Robertson’s agenda. I will find a transcript of the speech for another post, examining it in some detail.

Of interest was Robertson’s note that Australia is dropping on the global index of press freedom at the same time as the international reputation of its judiciary is dropping.

Meanwhile, you can read a report at the Sydney Morning Herald.

Real world of journalism – Perspectives – The Press

August 23, 2007

Real world of journalism – Perspectives – The Press

Take this link if you want to see what all the “fuss” is about. A few posts ago I mentioned the Journalism Matters conference recently held in Wellington and the response from the Dominion Post/Press [Christchurch] columnist Karl Du Fresne. My response was published today in The Press. It is this that led Trevor Louden to me and the blog he loaded up earlier today too (linked in an earlier post here).

If Louden’s ignorant slather is supposed to shut me up, or intimidate me (which is how these thugs work), he needs to know that I am not afraid. In fact, it’s interesting that what I wrote has caused him to froth at the mouth. Du Fresne had a similar reaction during our initial meeting in Wellington.

Why are these conservative types so scared of Marxists like me? Is it because I have a reputation for sneaking into homes and eating children? I don’t think so. Rather, it’s because they can’t address or refute the logic of materialism, and so they have to get down and dirty — attack rants are easier to digest than formal, considered arguments.

The information age: George Orwell’s worst fear – Editors Weblog- Analysis

July 4, 2007

The information age: George Orwell’s worst fear – Editors Weblog- Analysis

This is a review of Paul Moreira’s latest book, Les Nouvelles Censures. Moreira is a French investigative journalist and this book discusses overt and covert manipulation of the news media by the spin meisters. I’d love to seen an English-language version. If you know of its existence in English, please let me know.

A declaration of intent: What are the principles of journalism education?

July 3, 2007

I’m keen to get some discussion going about this document (I patiently retyped it here, so that’s how keen I am).

One of the key reasons I went to Singapore at the end of June, apart from the desire to shop for presents for my beloved, was to be present at this historic event – the FIRST World Journalism Education Congress. I knew that there was going to be a ‘declaration of principles’, and I wanted to witness this and to find out who exactly was behind such a huge undertaking. I’m a great supporter of principles and I thought I’d like to get in on the design of some basic pointers for world journalism educators. Unfortunately, most of the deliberations and drafting was done behind closed doors among a fairly select group of people. Ethical Martini is not one of those.

Anyway, there was a bit of discussion and a couple of boisterous Australians objected to some of it.
I’m actually seriously reading it for the first time as I key it in, so my comments will be interspersed, I’ll use a bold red font, so you know when I’m talking and not my esteemed colleagues on the WJEC steering committee.

Declaration of Princples of Journalism Education
World Journalism Education Congress
Singapore, June 2007

We, the undersigned representatives of professional journalism education associations share a concern and a common understanding about the nature, role, importance and future of journalism education worldwide. We are unanimous that journalism education provides the foundation as theory, research and training for the effective and responsible practice of journalism. Journalism education is defined in different ways. At the core is the study of all types of journalism.

The keywords here are ‘professional’, ‘effective’ and ‘responsible’

Journalism should serve the public in many important ways, but it can only do so if its practitioners have mastered an increasingly complex body of knowledge and specialized skills. Above all, to be a responsible journalist must involve an informed ethical commitment to the public. This commitment must include an understanding of and a deep appreciation for the role that journalism plays in the formation, enhancement and perpetuation of an informed society.

Nothing about freedom or democracy in this bit…keep reading, you never know. The ‘enhancement and perpetuation’ of an ‘informed society’ could easily mean keeping dictators in power.

We are pledged to work together to strengthen journalism education and increase its value to students, employers and the public.

Increase its value to employers? So journalism education is actually the provision of docile, cheap indentured labour?

In doing this we are guided by the following principles:

  1. At the heart of journalism education is a balance of conceptual, philosophical and skills-based content. While it is also interdisciplinary, journalism education is an academic field in its own right with a distinctive body of knowledge and theory.
  2. Journalism is a field appropriate for university study from undergraduate to postgraduate levels. Journalism programs offer a full range of academic degrees including bachelors, masters and Doctor of Philosophy degrees as well as certificate, specialized and mid-career training.
  3. Journalism educators should be a blend of academics and practitioners; it is important that educators have experience working as journalists.
  4. Journalism curriculum includes a variety of skills courses and the study of journalism ethics, history, media structures/institutions at national and international level, critical analysis of media content and journalism as a profession. It includes coursework on the social, political and cultural role of media in society and sometimes includes coursework dealing with media management and economics. In some countries, journalism education includes allied fields like public relations, advertising and broadcast production.
  5. Journalism educators have an important outreach mission to promote media literacy among the public generally and within their academic institutions specifically.
  6. Journalism program graduates should be prepared to work as highly informed, strongly committed practitioners who have high ethical principles and are able to fulfill the public interest obligations that are central to their work.
  7. Most undergraduate and many masters programs in journalism have a strong vocational orientation. In these programs experiential learning, provided by classroom laboratories and on-the-job internships, is a key component.
  8. Journalism educators should maintain strong links to media industries. They should critically reflect on industry practices and offer advice to industry based on this reflection.
  9. Journalism is a technology intensive field. Practitioners will need to master a variety of computer-based tools. Where practical, journalism education provides an orientation to these tools.
  10. Journalism is a global endeavour; journalism students should learn that despite political and cultural differences, they share important values and professional goals with peers in other nations. Where practical, journalism education provides students with first-hand experience of the way journalism is practiced in other nations.
  11. Journalism educators have an obligation to collaborate with colleagues worldwide to provide assistance and support so that journalism education can gain strength as an academic discipline and play a more effective role in helping journalism to reach its full potential.

This is a fairly bland and, IMHO, an unsatisfying and uninspiring list of fairly bog-standard descriptors. It doesn’t really read like the foundation principles of something I’d like to do for a living.

If journalism is about afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted surely the principles informing the training and education of practitioners and the scholarship of the field should contain some lofty ideals of freedom, liberty and equality. If we’re to play an ‘effective role’ in helping journalism educators globally to reach their full potential then don’t we have an obligation to stand for universal human rights, not to kowtow before the various demands of national difference?

I’m going to have a go at drafting my own set of principles and I’d love some advice. Any suggestions or comments?

Let’s start with “responsibility”. To whom are journalists responsible. What is the “balance” in the dialectic between responsibility and freedom. This is an age-old debate (well at least since John C Merrill‘s The Dialectic in Journalism (1989) reviewed here).

Then we might move on to the contradictions between the commercial imperative (serving media employers’ quest for profits) and the ethical imperative (the real public interest)…and so on. You can read all about these issues in the second edition of Journalism Ethics: Arguments and Cases (Hirst & Patching 2007, OUP).

An alternative view of journalism education, and one that I have some sympathy with, is provided by Eduardo Meditsch in this piece:

Journalism as a way of knowledge: a Brazilian pedagogical experience

Here are a couple of excerpts that sum up for me a better way of approaching the question of journalism education and scholarship. An approach not based on ‘professionalism’, but more on the role of journalists as ‘public intellectuals’. In fact journalists are the ‘quotidian intellectuals’ — the thinkers of the ‘everyday’:

Journalism, as a way of knowing, is conditioned by its industrial production as a commodity, by the ideological values of its producers, by the authoritarianism of its shapes, by the arbitrariness of its choices, by the false categories that its tradition and technique have built.

The possibility of the emergence of the new, given by the way of knowing of Journalism, creates a fundamental contradiction in its practice, seldom perceived by theory: because it is, formally, so positivistic as the most positivistic of the sciences, Journalism is always loaded with negativity.

The difficulty to perceive this paradox lies in that it isn’t apparent neither in the analysis of a journalistic product, nor in the analysis of the manuals that define it, both traditionally subject to the critics of the theorists. This paradox is only perceivable from the viewpoint of its very production, from the process and its movement, its periodicity, in the aphorism that “there is nothing older than yesterday’s newspaper”. The contradiction between a periodical and its periodicity is the same as between the synchronic and the diachronic in the comprehension of Historical movement.

The movement of Journalism is the same false movement of the sciences, a succession of immobilized pictures. But the speed of this movement in Journalism is so much faster that there is a qualitative change in the result. It reinforces its crystallization in the singular and destroys any lasting possibility of systematizing the produced knowledge.

In this process, the velocity of the emergence of the new does not allow the stability and the regularity of the positive order. A second aspect to be considered in this velocity, one that has once lead Journalism to be called “point-blank written history”, is the peculiar way in which its statements participate in the social dialogue. Given the nearness to the facts, to its agents and to the ones hit by them, the subjectivity of the news is hardly hidden by its formal objectivity. It is this critical potential relating to the hermetic concepts that distinguishes and makes Journalism necessary as a social form of knowing.

This is the materialist dialectic in journalism — the push and pull (flux) of social forces and unequal power (hegemony) — not the tamed and tired idealistic version of Merrill. There is no resolution of the dialectic in the term “responsible freedom”, it’s an oxymoron. Freedom, by definition, means the freedom to be irresponsible. It also means the freedom to challenge orthodoxy and normative rules of behaviour.

We could do a lot worse than begin establishing a new, more vigorous, set of principles for journalism education based on Meditch’s pedagogy of journalism as a form of social knowledge. We also have to recognise that this is constrained by the commodity form (what I have called in my PhD thesis, Grey Collar Journalism: The social relations of news production (2003), the ‘duality of the news commodity’.

The current set of principles are based on a normative standard that assumes the commodity form – journalism within a never-changing social framework of global capitalism and nation-states. It also signals a defensive “circling of the wagons” to fend of the non-traditional, non-professionals who are “invading” ‘our’ patch. We can do better.

I also recently found this paper by Kaarle Nordenstreng, from the first JourNet international conference on Professional Education for the Media, held in Newcastle Australia in 2004, which looks at journalism education globally. There are some other interesting and useful presentations on this website – a good jumping off point for our discussions.

Singapore Slings and Arrows

July 2, 2007

I was in Singapore last week for the first World Journalism Education Congress. It was a bit weird, being in a nation where press freedom is an oxymoron to talk about, well, press freedom among other things. You also don’t discuss politics, religion or race and certainly you don’t say anything against the government.

On the first morning a former government minister and a senior member of the Singapore Press Holdings’ board of directors was speaking. I didn’t get to here this keynote address. Once the guy was in the conference venue it was locked down. I, and hundreds of other delegates were locked out. One poor Australian guy left to take a pre-talk leak and couldn’t get back in. This inauspicious start set a pretty good standard for the rest of the week.

Don’t misunderstand, there was plenty of good stuff too. The presentations on digital convergence and the journalism curriculum were mostly excellent. The after-session sessions were also lively. One key topic was the very future and nature of journalism and journalists. Does convergence mean that everyone’s a journalist and therefore no one is?

The arguments were endless and so was the expensive booze. A beer in most Singapore hotels cost around $17.50 (plus service tax and GST), while in the backstreets a half-litre of Tiger could be easily drunk for only $5.80.

The tourist traps though are very pricey. The famous “Raffles” bar in downtown Singapore serves up a sugary Singapore Sling for $20-something (plus taxes that take it to nearly $30).

And don’t get me started on the Martinis. They were expensive and fairly ordinary, except for the one I had with a lychee in it.

Most of the non-Singapore delegates were fascinated by the only local English-language daily, The Straits Times. It really is no more than a mouthpiece for the government, which is, incidentally, the biggest shareholder.

Everything in Singapore, it seems, is really only part of Singapore Inc. I was out one night in a local food market, eating chili crab (another tip for the new traveller, if it’s being sold by the 100g weight rule, make sure you watch it being weighed), and got into a conversation with a couple of locals (an Austrian married to an Indian). They were eager to chat, saying they were normally starved of intellectual conversation.

Singapore, a great place to shop, but who’d want to live there!

A couple of interesting stories during the week of the conference – a woman’s body found floating in the Singapore river, and an employer fined for keeping his foreign workers in a public toilet block.

In that story there was plenty of official comment from government ministers and bureaucrats, but the poor workers were not interviewed. More intriguing, who was that woman in the river. I saw the news as a crawler along the bottom of the local 24 hour news channel, but nothing at all in the Straits Times. You’d think a body in the river would be newsworthy, but not here.

This story is even more interesting in the light of my recent checks. In the 2 July edition online there was a story about the murder of a man and a woman, even a picture of the body in one item. The bodies were found in different parts of the city, but could the deaths be linked?

It seems that it was a sad love story. The man’s wife and a 16 year-old youth were arrested and charged with murder.

But there’s also a huge difference between accounts in the Times and what was reported on Channel NewsAsia. It seems that the murders were not linked. The woman may have been the victim of her husband; the man perhaps killed by his wife and the youth.

Who was that woman in the river? I’ve tried to find out, but the only references on the web are to the original NewsAsia story, which is only a few pars and gives no details, except that she was Malay, in her mid-20s and very dead.

the dialectic of press freedom

May 29, 2007

Challenges for the press and freedom – Fiji Times Online

This is an edited transcript of the speech given by Australian Press Council member, Chris McLeod to a Fiji Media Council-sponsored seminar at the University of the South Pacific last night on World Media Freedom Day. The theme of the day was Media Freedom in a State of Emergency.

The point I want to make here is that legislative attempts to enshrine media freedoms in law are a double-edged sword. The dialectic of the front page is clearly shown in the examples mentioned here.
For example, the real purpose of a law to guarantee freedom of speech and media accountability in Zimbabwe is to guarantee that the government of Robert Mugabe can stifle criticism by both local and international journalists.

In Fiji, under military law and a declared ‘state of emergency’ is also a case in point. The repeated attacks on journalists, including detention, intimidation and physical beatings are excused by the military as necessary to maintain good order. The real purpose is, of course, to stifle dissent and criticism.

Unfortunately the Australian government turns a blind eye to such maneouvering when it’s regional interests are seen to be supported by draconian regimes.

Intimidation of journalists via judicial and legislative means is the dark side of arguments in favour of government ‘guarantees’ of media freedom. It is not freedom, but rather a set of fur-lined shackles.