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Scoop Disaster Photographer Cricitises Some Media

Scoop Disaster Photographer Cricitises Some Media

AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): The New Zealand photographer who took the first pictures of an isolated Pacific island ravaged by cyclone Zoe, published and broadcast by many media yesterday, was sharply critical of some unnamed news organisations today.

On his new temporary website,, Geoff Mackley accused some media of using his images in breach of copyright and said there was "widespread misreporting" of what he had observed on Tikopia island, in the Solomon Islands.

Mackley, who specialises in disaster photography and is currently based in Vanuatu, flew with Australian pilot Harold Tavner in a single-engined Cessna on New Year's Day while disaster workers in the Solomon Islands were still pondering how to reach the island.

According to the New Zealand Herald, which gave extensive front page coverage to Mackley's exclusive story and a picture yesterday, the pair used a GPS unit and a crude map to navigate hundreds of kilometres of ocean to reach Tikopia.

Mackley and Tavner flew 160km from Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu to Mota Lava island, where they refuelled from drums of fuel carried on the plane. They flew another 160km to Tikopia, circled the island six times and then flew back to Mota Lava.

After refuelling, they returned to Vanuatu. The flight took a total of four hours and 15 minutes.

Mackley, 39, was forced to establish a temporary website after his main site crashed under the heavy media demand over the exclusive Tikopia pictures.

In a "message to the media" posted on his website, Mackley pointed out the digital images of the destruction on Tikopia posted on his website were copyright.

"There has already been widespread unauthorised use of my images and video," he wrote.

"There is also widespread misreporting of what I observed on the island, namely that everyone is dead - that is not true. Also that the island was flattened by tornadoes. That is also not true.

"I said that the damage is similar to tornado damage, my statement of facts is [below], period. Anything else is unfounded speculation."

Mackley's brief statement:

Fate Of 1300 Unknown After Cyclone Zoe

"I flew over Tikopia Island at 0900 on Jan 01 in a Cessna and the island is a scene of total devastation. In my experience with severe weather the maximum winds on the island would have been between 300 and 350kph.

"Tikopia Island would have been in the eyewall of Cyclone Zoe when it was at its peak strength. Every tree on the island has been blown over or shredded, the island is completely denuded of vegetation.

"Almost every building has been damaged, quite a few traditional huts remain intact, while others have been shredded, and the sea has come through some villages and run into the lake which is the island's only water source.

"This sort of destruction is normally seen only after a strong tornado or volcanic eruption.

"A number of people, maybe 20, came down to the beach to watch us fly over. My pilot said he counted about 100 people in total.

"Some signalled us with sheets of white plastic, others just sat there, we were unable to land as the island has no airstrip.

"I will not speculate on the likely casualties or fatalities. If it is not large it will be a miracle."

Tikopia had 1300 people and nearby Anuta had 600 before cyclone Zoe ravaged the islands.



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PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government
organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media
workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability,
censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region.
Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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