| Asia Pacific Report/Melanesia Media Freedom Forum/Pacific Media Watch | Extract
BRISBANE - Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie has condemned the Australian and New Zealand governments and mainstream media for their “deafening silence” over the West Papua crisis.
Speaking before next month’s Melanesian Media Freedom Forum at Griffith in Brisbane, Dr Robie said Canberra and Wellington needed to get behind the Vanuatu-led Pacific initiatives on West Papuan self-determination or face growing insecurity in the region.
He told the audience – which included experienced ‘Pacific hands’ Dr Tess Newton Cain, Lee Duffield, Sean Dorney, Bob Howarth and Stefan Armbruster – that the 1969 UN-mandated plebiscite on the future of West Papua was a sham and that a fresh vote was needed.
While praising public broadcasters ABC and RNZ Pacific for their coverage of West Papua, Dr Robie described the mainstream commercial media’s reporting of recent protests in Papua as “shameful.”
Dozens of people have been killed and many thousands forced to flee over the past three months as Indonesian military and police clashed with Papuan demonstrators protesting against racism.
Dr Robie said some Pacific media were doing a better job of covering the crisis than mainstream Australian and NZ news organisations.
He also said it was embarrassing that international news agencies were doing a better job of covering something “right on our own doorstep”.
“West Papua has generally been poorly covered by New Zealand mainstream media – and only slightly better in Australia – apart from RNZ Pacific and a handful of specialist websites such as the Pacific Media Centre’s Asia Pacific Report,” he said.
Dr Robie spoke about the principles of “human rights journalism” as a guiding framework for covering conflicts in the region.
He commended specific journalists and media practitioners who have incorporated this into their work and “stuck their necks out in defence of a free press.”
“It takes serious guts to do so in the Pacific.”