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Asia NZ Foundation: Media Newsletter


Asia NZ Foundation: Media Newsletter

12 January 2005

In this issue:

Shaken to the core; a media overview

Ethnic broadcasters take up aid challenge

School officials face overwhelming task

Aceh newspaper rebuilds despite huge losses

Lanterns for Auckland and Christchurch

Chinese New Year at Te Papa

Research on track

Art from Jakarta

Turning the tabla

Rooster traits

Kia Ora. Welcome to the first Asia New Zealand Foundation media newsletter of the year. We have selected you to receive this bulletin of Asia:NZ news. Our thinking is that we would like to keep journalists better informed about what we do, and to inform journalists how they can use Asia:NZ’s resources to their advantage. If you want to keep receiving this newsletter, please click on subscriptions at the end of the newsletter.

We at Asia:NZ are expecting another interesting 12 months ahead but sadly, the year begins amidst the aftermath of the Asian tsunami disaster. We at the Asia New Zealand Foundation have been deeply shocked by the horrific loss of life and livelihoods. We, like all New Zealanders, will be remembering the victims on Sunday, January 16 which the government has designated as a Memorial Day.

Shaken to the core; a media overview

The final death toll from the Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami catastrophe that originated off the coast of Sumatra may never be exactly known. But with some survivors at least likely to succumb to deprivation, disease and injury, it could surpass 200,000.

The magnitude, scope and timing of the quake took the region and the international community by complete surprise. The disaster struck on the morning of an international public holiday with breathtaking reach, lashing communities on different coasts around the Indian Ocean.

Waves up to three storeys high in some places delivered scenes of utter devastation to the shores of up to 12 countries around the quake’s epicentre. And, reflecting the reality of today’s internationalised world, at least 30 other countries – many of them first world Western nations – also lost citizens to the oceanic surge.

Now, with an estimated five million people made homeless and what has been described as the world’s biggest disaster relief operation underway, it has become evident that the aftermath is as big a news event as the initial shock and tidal waves.

From the global outpouring of charity, the destruction appears to have affected nearly everyone. People of all faiths - Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Jains, Parsees and Hindus – all had dead to mourn and the casualties cut across lines of nationality, race, class, wealth and education.

For journalists, it was the biggest international news story since the September 11 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. But due to the timing of the Asian catastrophe it took some 24 hours for global news networks to respond with a momentum to match such a big and complex story.

In New Zealand, the country’s news media were able to utilise overseas feeds until they could react with their own journalists reporting from disaster scenes. Thailand was always going to be the focus of New Zealand attention because of the number of New Zealanders holidaying or working on Phuket Island and at other resort beaches along the Andaman coast. As this was happening, a crystallising picture was emerging that north-western Sumatra was where the quake and tsunami had hit the hardest.

Asia:NZ responded to freelance journalist Jon Stephenson’s request for travel assistance, enabling him to travel to Phuket where he filed articles for The Press and The Sunday Star Times. Requests from other journalists for assistance with sources and contacts were also dealt with.

We were able to connect Radio New Zealand’s Summer Report programme to Bangkok-based New Zealand journalist Vaudine England to report on reaction in Thailand. Presenter Todd Niall spoke with the President of the Indonesian Association in New Zealand, Yasuca Tumumdo, on community reaction here. RNZ assigned two reporters to Asia – parliamentary reporter Corin Dann travelled to Phuket and Auckland reporter Monica Holt was despatched to Jakarta ahead of the international aid summit.

The New Zealand Herald – pursuing thorough coverage of the disaster- moved to get deputy political editor Helen Tunnah reporting from Sri Lanka’s devastated southern coast and another reporter, Catherine Masters, into Phuket. David Fisher of the Herald On Sunday was also despatched to Thailand where he filed stories for both APN newspapers.

Fairfax had David Courtney of The Press filing stories and blogging from Phuket. NZPA began its coverage of the crisis with reporter Marcus Brogden, who was holidaying in the region, but soon had Ian Llewellyn reporting from the Phuket area.

Television New Zealand was able to send its Asia correspondent Charlotte Glennie to Phuket from her base in Hong Kong, and she was backed up by reporter Andrew Potter. TV3 soon had its reporter Bob McNeil in south-western Thailand.

The drive by media organisations in this country to get their own journalists reporting on the ground in Asia on a news event that did not involve a visit by a New Zealand government head is a rare journalistic phenomenon. Only TVNZ has a reporter who is permanently based in Asia. Perhaps only the Bali bombing in 2002 and the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1999 came near to the scale of coverage by New Zealand journalists.

News editors might now look again at devoting more resources to raising the base level of ongoing reporting of Asian news in New Zealand, as well as responding with such alacrity to major regional news events. If anything, the story that will forever be known as the Asian Tsunami Disaster has demonstrated New Zealand’s close links to a region which justify more regular and detailed attention.

Parallel coverage of the tsunami disaster by the Australian media provided an interesting aside. Those watching the third cricket test between Australia and Pakistan on Sky Sport saw Australia’s Channel Nine - which relays the cricket to Sky under licence - breaking out from its ball by ball coverage to bring a live exchange between veteran cricket commentator Richie Benaud and Channel Nine presenter Ray Martin in Banda Aceh.

It made a thought-provoking link. Viewers were transported from the cricket to the disaster scene, creating a seemingly spontaneous connection to those directly affected by the catastrophe. Benaud summed it up perfectly when he finished the discussion with the poignant comment "Nothing but sadness up there" It was a perfect news moment.

Quote of the month

“It was wholly appropriate that the government’s aid package was increased from $500,000 to $5 million (since increased to $10 million) as the magnitude of the disaster became apparent. If, as then Prime Minister Jim Bolger told us in the mid 1990s, we are part of Asia, more is required. Ironically, reading about the scale of this tragedy that crossed the borders of 10 countries may have given New Zealanders a more telling geography lesson about their Asian neighbours than any other.” Sunday Star Times Editorial – January 2, 2005

Ethnic broadcasters take up aid challenge

The ethnic media in New Zealand has responded to the disaster by launching their own appeals to help the victims.

The Acom media group – which consists of World TV and Chinese Voice Radio – in partnership with the Auckland Chinese community Lions Club, have begun an appeal aimed at its viewers and listeners.

It includes a special campaign to encourage the business community to contribute. For any company which donates over $500 to the Lions Club charity fund, Acom will provide a free advertising package on Chinese Voice Radio in return.

Radio Tarana in Auckland has launched a tsunami relief fund with support from Telecom. Listeners are being urged to pledge their contributions by calling 0900 82 72 62.

The amount donated by listeners will be sent to affected areas in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand through the Red Cross.

School officials face overwhelming task

Aceh’s education infrastructure has been dealt a shattering blow by the tsunami. The most recent statistics recorded by the National Department of Education in Indonesia say up to 25,000 school students and more than 1,000 teachers are missing in the province.

Authorities say they are not sure exactly how many thousands of school students were killed by the disaster. But their estimate is based on the fact that about 25 percent of missing victims are school aged students.

The earthquake and tsunami also destroyed about 50 percent of the schools in the province. This consists of 914 primary schools, 155 junior high schools, 67 senior high schools and 15 vocational educational institutions.

Obviously massive funding is needed for rebuilding schools and providing equipment for teachers and students to use and for students to replace clothing and books lost in the disaster.

(>From Asia EdNet, an Australian Ministry of Education, Science and Training project for educators interested in studies of Asia and Asian languages)

Aceh’s newspaper rebuilds despite huge losses

Spare a thought for Banda Aceh’s only daily newspaper. Despite the loss of over a third of its staff to the tsunami, the Serambi Indonesia newspaper has made a return to the newstands after an enforced six day absence.

Serambi - which is part of the nationwide Kompas Gramedia Group - is now being published at a branch office in Lhokseumawe after its head office was engulfed by the waves that levelled large swathes of the provincial capital on December 26.

For a newspaper that has had reporters kidnapped, delivery trucks hijacked and its executives threatened by both the Indonesian army and Aceh separatists, it was by far the biggest blow in its 16-year history.

As many of 80 journalists and office staff are still missing out of a total complement of 225. A Serambi reporter Ayi Zulfida told the Wall Street Journal that the survivors feel a great sense of loss. “It’s very sad and also confusing because such a big portion of our friends haven’t been found.”

But Serambi’s 60-year-old founding editor Syamsul Kahar says it was imperative to get the newspaper running again. “This is media. It’s passionate. I just wanted to get printing again; we’ll worry about the contents later.”

Mr Kahar was about 300 kilometres to the southeast of Banda Aceh when he felt the magnitude 9.0 earthquake. He raced back to the city to find almost total devastation. All that remained of the office was smashed computers and broken wiring. The bodies of two people were found washed up in the building.

The newspaper is now being run by 10 people, made up of Serambi employees and others from the Kompas group. Copies of Serambi – 10,000 published compared to 100,000 before the disaster – are being distributed free with Kompas’ national paper.

Lanterns for Auckland and Christchurch

A giant rooster lantern, celebrating the Year of the Rooster, is to take pride of place at the sixth Chinese New Year Lantern Festival in Auckland’s Albert Park on February 25-27.

The following weekend, Cantabrians will have their first chance to enjoy Asia:NZ’s magical Lantern Festival. On March 5-6, Victoria Square in Christchurch will become a fairyland of glowing Chinese lanterns, all specially imported from China and Singapore.

As well as the feature lantern displays, there will be non-stop entertainment at both festivals, including spectacular Beijing Opera stilt walkers from China, as well as dozens of traditional food and craft stalls.

The Lantern Festival is traditionally held on the 15th day of Chinese Lunar New Year. In 2004, 130,000 people attended the Lantern Festival in Auckland. HSBC is the principal sponsor of both Asia:NZ festivals in 2005.

Chinese New Year at Te Papa

Te Papa is seeking Chinese New Zealanders to participate in a panel discussion and presentation to mark the start of the Chinese New Year. Event coordinator Eric Ngan says he would like to talk to possible contributors to the event which will be at Te Papa on Saturday, February 12.

He says in past celebrations, Te Papa has included events like Chinese Lion dancing and other traditional arts presentations. This year, however, the museum is seeking to do something different. It wants to explore the personal stories of Chinese New Zealanders who were born in New Zealand but have travelled to China and returned with a stronger sense of culture and history.

Research on track

As one of its Seriously Asia follow up initiatives Asia:NZ will release a research report next month on New Zealand's ‘Track 2’ engagement in the Asia Pacific region.

The term 'Track 2' refers to the semi-official, semi-academic discussions on political, security and economic issues which have helped to shape the Asia Pacific region over the past 40 years.

Such discussions have advanced important agendas which have had a significant impact on New Zealand. Research conducted by the Australian National University will document and analyse key Track 2 institutions in the Asia Pacific region and provide recommendations on how to enhance New Zealand's engagement.

Once completed the research paper will be available on the Asia:NZ website and a workshop will be held with interested parties.

Art from Jakarta

The first exhibition in New Zealand of Indonesian contemporary art is currently on show at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth.

The collection includes ceramic sculptures, sculptural installations, photography, video and design by leading Indonesian artists.

Gallery director Greg Burke developed the exhibition in collaboration with an Indonesian curator, Rifky Effendy, who is based in Jakarta. Burke says the show focuses on the diversity of art making in Indonesia and provides insights into contemporary Indonesian culture at a time when the focus of international media coverage has been on geo-politics and not culture.

Transindonesia; scoping culture in contemporary Indonesian art will be on at the Govett-Brewster until February 27.

Turning the tabla

It has been confirmed that renowned Indian tabla maestro Zakir Hussain is to perform a one-off concert at the Auckland arts festival in March.

Hussain, whose visit is being assisted by Asia:NZ, is regarded internationally as a classical tabla virtuoso of the highest order. He has recorded and performed with artists as diverse as Ravi Shankar, George Harrison, Van Morrison, Jack Bruce, Tito Puente and Pharoah Sanders.

The concert, part of AK05 and entitled Masters of Rhythm and Movement, will take place at the Auckland Town Hall on March 6. Hussain will be accompanied on stage with two percussionists and a violinist.

The show will also feature special guest dancers including the great Kathak dancer, Antonia Minnecola, and members of the Manipuri Jagoi Marup, an ensemble of dancing folk drummers from Manipur.

Rooster traits

Were you born in the Year of the Rooster? If so, according to the Chinese zodiac, you are an excellent debater and extremely persuasive. You are also highly disciplined and responsible, but you sometimes suffer from a lack of discretion. Roosters enjoy dressing up and love the good life.

The next Asia:NZ media newsletter will be available in February.

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Articles may be reprinted with acknowledgement of Asia New Zealand Foundation

© Asia New Zealand Foundation 2004

Asia New Zealand Foundation is grateful to its key sponsors - Fonterra, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade - for their commitment to the Foundation's activities.


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