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Asia New Zealand Foundation Media Newsletter

Media Newsletter

July 2006

Kia ora, xin chao and welcome to the July edition of the Asia New Zealand Foundation media newsletter. In this issue, we report on reaction among Kiwi Indians to the Mumbai blasts, profile a visiting Shanghai journalist and highlight other news with a Kiwi Asian flavour. In the weeks ahead are events highlighting Chinese identity in New Zealand, Maori language and understanding Islam. And there’s also an excellent and timely commentary by Sangeeta Anand of The Global Indian.

• Bombs strike at hearts of Kiwi Indians
• More Asian news needed, says Shanghai journalist
• Changing country, unchanging media
• Survey marks slow attitude shift
• Getting ready for Diwali
• Culturally-embedded in Malaysia
• Return of the banana conference
• Looking at NZ’s Muslim heritage
• Thais honour Kiwi landmine campaigner
• NZ doctor wins India with positive thinking
• Te wiki o te reo Maori
• Learning Hindi on the web
• Final beckons for beauty queens

Bombs strike at hearts of Kiwi Indians

A relative of at least one Indian New Zealander was injured in the blasts that struck suburban trains in Mumbai on July 11, killing at least 190 people and injuring over 600.

The bombs – all in first class compartments – exploded on seven trains within eleven minutes at the height of Mumbai’s evening rush hour on the city’s Western Railway line.

Sapna Samant, a member of the Aotearoa Ethnic Network online community, reported to the network that a nephew was lucky to survive with relatively moderate injuries when his compartment was torn apart by an explosion.

“A surgeon examined him, removed glass shards from his arms and hands and sent him home. The poor boy is completely disoriented,” she told AEN in an email.

Meanwhile, members of New Zealand’s Indian communities expressed their shock at the coordinated attacks on Mumbai’s suburban trains which carries more than six million commuters each day. The city is India’s financial and commercial capital.

The managing editor of the Global Indian, Vaibhav Gangan, wrote in the NZ Herald that while the story was covered by the New Zealand media as world news, most overlooked the fact that the bombings were a tragedy that affected up to 100,000 Kiwi Indians.

He said Mumbai was a city to which people from throughout India migrate, so almost every Indian New Zealander has friends, relatives or colleagues there.

Another publication, Indian Newslink, reported most readers contacted had said their families and friends in Mumbai were safe, but a few complained of the problems trying to reach loved ones because of the disruption caused to phone lines by torrential rains in western India.

The Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand, Kadakath Pathrose Ernest, offered his condolences to the families of those killed in the bomb blasts.

“We offer sympathies and prayerful wishes to all those who suffered injuries in these explosions. We share the anxiety, sorrow and shock of those members of the Indian community in New Zealand, who may have friends or relatives who may have been affected by the terrorist acts,” he told Indian Newslink.

More Asian news needed, says Shanghai journalist

Visiting Chinese journalist Chen Liying says she is not surprised by the relatively low level of coverage about Asia to be found in the New Zealand media but she thinks that will change.

Ms Chen is on a one month posting to the New Zealand Herald as part of an Asia New Zealand Foundation-sponsored deal with her newspaper, The Shanghai Daily.

She said Asia is a new economic power in the world and everything – economy, culture, international relations – would “radiate strongly” from the region for decades to come.

“While there might be more coverage than in the past, there still is not enough,” the 28-year-old business journalist said. “Maybe it is because I am from China but it is necessary to let people know about Asia.”

“I have a feeling that there’s a lack of basic knowledge about countries like China and New Zealanders are not curious enough about my country but Asia is changing the world,” Ms Chen said.

She is impressed by the professionalism of New Zealand journalists but she says there are too many front page crime stories. “The people’s perception is that the crime rate is high but in reality it is probably not so.”

Ms Chen who was born in Shanghai, studied journalism at university and has worked at the Shanghai Daily for six years. While she is employed as a business journalist, she says she also writes about other subjects.

Her placement at the New Zealand Herald was brokered by Asia:NZ as part of a reciprocal arrangement which has the Shanghai Daily host a graduate from Massey University’s School of Journalism for several weeks each year. This year’s Massey graduate was Amanda Strong. Ms Chen is due to return to Shanghai next month.

Changing country, unchanging media

By Sangeeta Anand

“It has often been said that journalism’s role is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted,” said Frank Vogl in ‘Journalism And Power: Why Ownership Matters’.

He adds, “In World Bank circles our immediate concern may be to find fault with the media of developing countries, but we also need to look at the growing ailments of our own media here in the United States.”

And Frank’s concern is well placed. An individual’s perception of reality is a manifestation of their own beliefs which in this age are, in many ways influenced by the media.

And how much do the mainstream journalists know about New Zealand’s largest trading region – Asia? Look at iBall editor Lincoln Tan’s experience. I was perturbed, but not surprised, to read about Lincoln’s experience of trying in vain to find a job as a journalist after migrating to Auckland.

It reminded me of my initial days in Auckland when I was asked for the first time in my life how I managed to speak English so well, with an assumption that I must have been born in New Zealand to speak that way. I felt an adrenal gush while shirking the question. Being born and bred in the largest English-speaking country in the world, India, I was dumb struck and fell short of words to hide my obvious embarrassment, while knowing that it was a predicament many others like me must be confronting often.

Well, this experience has been more regular than I thought, as I reminisce about the words of David Crystal: “With an English-speaking population now likely to have surpassed that of Britain and the US, India with its dynamic variety of English, is set to become a linguistic superpower”. (The Guardian November 2004). Unfortunately, these words appear to be of minuscule relevance in New Zealand where it is an ongoing battle for most of us to diffuse some ignorant beliefs.

If we look at the reasons for this, ignorance of the South Asian culture comes up as a predominant factor. New Zealanders who are well travelled and have visited India know Indians’ supremacy over the language. But they don’t represent a majority of New Zealanders. Lack of exposure to the India’s corporate culture where English is the only language of business has created misinformed opinions.

For example, most New Zealanders (on a good day) know about India’s Bollywood and IT industries, but how many know that India’s media industry is the largest in the democratic world?

Abstract generalisation is another aspect of human nature that we often have to deal with. When a few individuals from a segment of the community do not meet the expectations of New Zealanders, it becomes a generalised perception about everyone from that community.

This ignorance has its effects on all of us. It translates into what we see today: South Asians are one of the largest ethnic groups in New Zealand, yet ironically they are one of the most under-represented in media. This can often lead to misinterpretation of the issues of the community leading to wide-reaching implications. It also results in misinformed news coverage of the Indian subcontinent, feeding reassuring news about poverty, corruption, nuclear weapons and pollution.

How are the communities dealing with this? Public opinion is like a river; if you build a barrier in its path, the water finds another way to flow. Several South Asians have now opted for blogging, which allows them the freedom to publish their opinion.

Blogs are one of the new media tools that the Internet makes available. The basic concept is that if people have the tools to create their own content, they will do that, and that this will result in an emerging global conversation. The Global Indian was born out of one such need.

As a way forward, New Zealand can look at some overseas examples. Countries like the UK and the US have utilised the talent of Indians and have appreciated the contributions of Indian writers. Indians are the highest paid ethnic group in the US.

With a rapidly changing demographic profile of ethnicities, New Zealand can take a fresh look at its self-image. When you have a continent that will come to influence the way of life for the world, mainstream media will have to re-examine its priorities.

After all, media is a reflection of the culture of a country. Do I need to say more about the mainstream media?

Sangeeta is the publisher of The Global Indian (www.theglobalindian.co.nz), a leading e-zine for Indians in Australia and New Zealand. The author can be contacted at sanand@theglobalindian.co.nz.

Survey marks slow attitude shift

A tracking survey on New Zealanders’ attitudes to Asia reveals that there is a continuing positive trend but indicates there still needs to be wider and deeper knowledge of the region.

Asia continued to be seen as the most important region for New Zealand’s future while Europe maintained second place.

The survey also revealed there has been a significant increase in personal involvement with Asian people and culture (up to 44 percent). But the majority of New Zealanders (55 percent) still declared not much or hardly any personal involvement.

These results indicated the importance of learning about Asia from other sources, such as schools, universities and the media.

‘The results show that we no longer need to make arguments about the importance of Asia to New Zealand’s economic future, but perhaps we do need to expand our understanding of Asia’s impact on New Zealand beyond economics into broader areas,” said Asia:NZ’s research director Dr Rebecca Foley.

Interest in Asian art and culture had increased to its highest recorded rate (38 percent) but the survey showed the majority of New Zealanders were still not interested in living or working in Asia (65 percent).

Positive views on Asian students increased (up 3 percent to 57 percent) as have views on Asian immigration with 38 percent now expressing positive views, the highest recorded level.

These results suggest the development of a more welcoming environment for Asian students and migrants and underline the continued importance of settlement strategies involving the host community.

Economic reasons still dominate the reasons for Asia’s importance with the region’s significance in security and socio-cultural spheres requiring further explanation.

But there is some ambiguity around the economic importance. While 53 percent of New Zealanders are interested in learning more about this country’s economic links with Asia, there has been a decline in positive views on Asian tourism, trade and investment since the 2002 survey.

The results are based on a nationwide UMR Research telephone survey of 750 adults aged 18 years of age and over. It was carried out in April this year and will be available at www.asianz.org.nz.

Getting ready for Diwali

Organisers of the fifth Diwali Festival of Lights in Auckland and Wellington are calling on Indian community performing groups, Bollywood dancers and food and craft stall holders to help them make this year’s events the most spectacular yet.

Last year over 100,000 people attended the Diwali Festivals, organised by Asia New Zealand Foundation in partnership with Auckland and Wellington City Councils.

The fifth Diwali Festival will be held in Auckland’s Britomart precinct on October 14-15, and in Wellington on October 22 at the Wellington Town Hall, Civic Square and Michael Fowler Centre.

To find out more about participating at this year’s Diwali Festival or to download application forms check out Asia:NZ’s website: www.asianz.org.nz/diwali from July 28, 2006.

Diwali, also know as Deepavali (literally a "row of lamps"), is perhaps the most important and ancient of the Indian festivals, celebrated throughout India as well as in Indian communities around the world.

Culturally-embedded in Malaysia

As a multicultural and moderate Islamic country, Malaysia is perfectly placed to play a reformist role in the ongoing debate on human rights and Islam, according to a visiting Malaysian social anthropologist.

Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin is the director of both the Institute of Malay World and Civilisation and the Institute of Occidental Studies at the National University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

He will be giving a public lecture at Victoria University on Tuesday July 25 entitled Islam and human rights in culturally-embedded Malaysia.

Prof Shamsul is a respected commentator who researches, writes and lectures extensively on politics, culture and economic development with a focus on Southeast Asia. He is also a frequent commentator on Malaysian current affairs for the BBC, Radio Netherlands, ABC and other international news organisations.

He says his presentation in Wellington is about the reformist route being the most appropriate one for Malaysia because leaders of the country’s multi-religious and multi-ethnic groups are essentially pragmatic in their approach and concerned about fostering political and economic stability.

Prof Shamsul’s visit is organised by the university’s Chair of Malay Studies. For more information, contact Prof Ungku Maimunah Mohamed Tahir at Ungku.Maimunah@vuw.ac.nz.

Return of the banana conference

Organisers of this year’s Going Bananas Forum say the event’s theme will be the evolving identity of Chinese New Zealanders with a spotlight on the country’s changing ethnic demographics.

The forum’s chairperson Kai Luey says the day-long event is also designed to appeal to non-Chinese as well. “Anyone with an interest in the conversation around New Zealand's shifting national identity should attend.”

Mr Luey is also president of the NZ Chinese Association’s Auckland branch which is organising the event on August 12 at the Auckland University of Technology.

The forum, following on from last year’s highly successful and popular event, will also be a showcase for burgeoning Kiwi Chinese creative voices, ranging from film-makers and architects to visual designers and musicians.

Interested attendees are encouraged to register without delay. For more information including a schedule of speakers and topics, visit www.goingbananas.org.nz.

Looking at NZ’s Muslim heritage

Not many New Zealanders would know that the first Muslim migrants to this country were Chinese gold diggers working in the South Island, as recorded in a government census of April 1874.

That fact is one of many that the organisers of Islam Awareness Week will be promoting in efforts to increase understanding about New Zealand’s Muslim heritage.

They say the week of activities is to promote increased awareness of Islamic beliefs, values and practices, and to tackle misinformation about the religion in a positive way.

For example, in 1950, there were only about 150 Muslims in New Zealand. Their number was swelled by about 50 European Muslims from Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia who were among shipload of post war displaced people.

In the 1960s, small numbers of Asian Muslims began arriving. In 1979, the national body for Muslims, the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, was formed.

There was an influx of Muslim Indo-Fijians in the 1970s, mostly to Auckland. In the 1990s Somalis and Middle Eastern people began arriving in the main cities. There's also been a steady trickle of converts to Islam with the 2001 census recording 23,000 Muslims in total.

While few in number, NZ Muslims are ethnically diverse, originating from over 40 countries, including 3000 European Muslims and 700 Maori.

Islam Awareness Week runs from August 7 to 13. There will be mosque open days and other information displays. For more information, visit www.islamawareness.co.nz.

Thais honour Kiwi landmine campaigner

New Zealander Brian Hayes has received an award from the government of Thailand for his campaigning against the use of landmines.

For the past four years, Mr Hayes has been fundraising to assist landmine survivors on Thailand’s borders as part of an effort by the New Zealand group Campaign Against Land Mines.

The funds raised have been sent to the Chiang Mai Prosthetic Foundation and have provided for the fitting of artificial limbs to more than 200 men, women and children.

Mr Hayes received the award Companion of the Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand in Wellington as part of celebrations in Thailand marking the 60th anniversary of the Thai King’s accession.

“My wife Leang told me that her relatives in Thailand saw the award ceremony on Thai TV,” Mr Hayes said in a media release this month.

NZ doctor wins India with positive thinking

A New Zealand doctor has caught the eye of an Indian publisher with two self help books that are now available in India in several languages including Hindi.

Tom Mullholland’s books Healthy Thinking and The Power of Healthy Thinking attracted the attention of publisher Shobit Arya of Wisdom Tree Press at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Apart from books on topics such as cricket or Sir Edmund Hillary, Mr Arya said Dr Mulholland was probably the first author from New Zealand who has caught the fancy of Indian readers.

“It is as relevant to someone in Delhi as it is to someone in Auckland,” Mr Arya said. “Readers can relate with Dr Tom and his wisdom and I am sure it will help smooth many lives.”

Dr Muholland was also the host of a weekday TV2 daytime chat-show The Attitude Doctor in which he uses his own life experiences to offer advice to viewers.

The Taranaki-based medical practitioner has worked in New Plymouth, the Chatham Islands and as a doctor to the Taranaki and Fijian rugby teams. He also founded Doctor Global, a pioneering internet medical company.

His books were launched on the Indian market at an event at the New Zealand Embassy in New Delhi on July 4. Tom Mulholland is due to visit India in November on a speaking tour.

Te wiki o te reo Maori

Haere mai! Korero Maori! Maori language week begins later this month and it is an important annual feature aimed at getting all New Zealanders to broaden their knowledge of the language.

This year Maori language week is from 24-31 July and focuses on Maori language in sport. For more information you can visit the official website for Maori Language Week at www.nzreo.org.nz.

You can also watch Kôrero Mai, the programme for beginners on Mâori Television at www.maoritelevision.com.

Learn Hindi on the web

People wanting to learn the basics of the national language of India can use a New Zealand-based resource called Hindi Teacher that is available on line.

The lessons are published online by Bharat-Darshan, a bi-monthly New Zealand Hindi literary magazine edited by Rohit Kumar.

Mr Kumar, who is based in Auckland, said the magazine which he began in 1997 aimed to promote Indian languages especially Hindi and Indian culture and gets about six to ten thousand hits a day from overseas as well as in New Zealand.

The link for Hindi Teacher can be found here: http://www.asianz.org.nz/redir.php?l=431

Final beckons for beauty queens

One of the twelve finalists in the 2006 Miss Chinese New Zealand Pageant is destined to win a new car and a return trip to Hong Kong to compete in an international beauty pageant.

Organisers WTV say the finalists were selected at a semi final at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Auckland on July 1 with the eventual winner to be chosen at the grand final in the Aotea Centre on September 2.

The winner will take home a new Toyota worth $22,000 and qualify for the Miss Chinese International Pageant in Hong Kong on February 3.

The first runner up will receive $5000 while the second runner up will receive $2500. Apart from the top three, there will also be other awards to give out on the night.

For more information, contact WTV media communications manager Ling Ling Liang at lingling@wtv.co.nz.


In an item in the June media newsletter, Plains 96.9FM was mentioned as an Auckland-based community radio station. It is in fact in Christchurch. The community access station in Auckland is called Planet FM. The error is regretted. Thanks to Nikki Reece of Plains FM for pointing that out.

The next Asia:NZ media newsletter will be available in August. The views expressed by various contributors to the newsletter do not necessarily reflect the views of the Asia New Zealand Foundation. If you are interested in contributing to the newsletter, please contact Asia:NZ’s media adviser Charles Mabbett at cmabbett@asianz.org.nz

Toitu he kianga; whatungarongaro he tangata - people are transient things but the land endures.

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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