AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch / Pacific Scoop): Journalists and human rights advocates talked to by Pacific Scoop this week believe New Zealand media “ignores” many critical news stories and issues about the region.
With recent political changes in the Pacific region – including the post-coup Fiji elections due next month, the debate over extraction industries in New Caledonia, and human rights violations and media law changes in West Papua, the lack of New Zealand’s mainstream media coverage has been criticised.
Radio New Zealand International deputy editor Don Wiseman says “without a doubt” when asked about the lack of coverage of issues in the Pacific region. He says there are a heap of Pacific stories that never get covered in the mainstream media.
“The average news punter in New Zealand would have no idea of, I would say, some of the things that happen,” he says.
Wiseman says the West Papua region has been covered widely by RNZI – and hardly any other media.
He cites the lack of current issues in Bougainville as another example.
Wiseman thinks it is “the responsibility of the media to know what’s going on”.
Human rights advocate Paula Makabory challenged the New Zealand media recently in Auckland on a visit to campaign for West Papua.
She says the West Papuan people cannot solve their problems on their own.
“I think this is the time for all international journalists to stand up together including New Zealand’s journalists as our neighbor to support West Papuan indigenous journalists,” she says.
Victor Mambor, editor of the Jayapura-based newspaper Tabloid Jubi, says foreign media support could help.
He says it is important for foreign journalists to visit, not only to bring the truth, but to bring an alternative perspective.
West Papuan journalists have been subject to violence and intimidation under Indonesian occupation and Mambor says pressure from the authorities makes it difficult to function.
“I’m West Papuan so it’s important for us to bring the true story about West Papuan people.
“The truth is being manipulated by the United States, Australia and some foreign countries.”
Independent New Zealand journalist Paul Bensemann says getting media to the region is not as easy as it seems, due to the lack of resources and dangers that foreign journalists may encounter.
But he believes when there have been resources available, these stories often are “ignored”.
“It’s quite ironic we don’t hear about this issue. It’s not in the media and there’s no incentive to report on it,” he says. “It’s a vicious circle”.
Wiseman thinks the lack of representation may come from public perception.
He suggests there is not enough knowledge about the region and a lot of people tend to see the Pacific the same way they see Africa.
“(Like) it’s one place, you know, which of course it isn’t,” he says.
Wiseman says that although there have been some “spectacular” stories covered, the way forward is just to keep “chiseling away at it”.
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