Author: E.J. De Lara

POVERTY PROJECT: Laotian Film on Rural Population Banned

E.J. DE LARA WRITES – Looks like The Rocket didn’t take off, at least not in Laos. In a country where media is government controlled, Laotian authorities banned the distribution and showing of the internationally acclaimed film, The Rocket. The controversial work exposes ongoing problems in Laos caused by residual effects of the Vietnam War and the government’s exploitation of the poor. According to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, 270 million cluster bombs were dropped in Laos during the Vietnam War 40 years ago, and many still remain undiscovered. Unexploded ordinance is one of the main causes of poverty and lack of land development in rural areas. Australian director Kim Mordaunt captures this, among other problems, in his film. Taking place in Laos, the film revolves around a 10-year-old Laotian boy, Ahlo, and his family. They are forced to leave their village, as it must be torn down for dam construction. Due to government restriction of several areas for infrastructure and for fear of leftover bombs, the family has a difficult time finding a permanent home to restart their lives. Eventually, they settle in another rural village. The movie tells the endearing story of how Ahlo makes the best of his situation and works with his family to join a rocket competition. The Director, Kim Mordaunt, effectively shows the limitations the boy faces due to lack a of land and resources because of the government’s...

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NEW ZEALAND: New Media Rule Sparks Controversy

E.J. DE LARA WRITES – Imagine giving popular blog sites such as Perez Hilton and Just Jared the same legitimacy as newspapers. The New Zealand Press Council, the self-regulatory body that resolves complaints involving the press, has made this idea a reality by announcing its decision to allow digital media, namely blogs, membership to the council. While this move gives digital media outlets legitimacy and access to the council’s benefits, these sites must abide by the council’s rules are subject to complaints. According to John Drinnan, a reporter from the New Zealand Herald, the change will be very useful for this year’s elections because it will hopefully decrease the use of dirty politics. In the past, political parties have used blogs to report disparaging news about their competition. But, bloggers, such as Peter Aranyi of the popular site blog site Kiwiblog, think the addition of digital media to the council will diminish the raw, candid nature of blogs. Though the New Zealand Press council claims it’s paving the way for more legitimacy, is it actually taking away the integrity and blunt truths found in blog stories? The decision will not be in effect until May, but many government sectors, namely the Law Commission, approve of the council’s decision, as it makes all forms of media officially subject to the same rules and regulations. With this new rule, critics wonder whether digital media sites...

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NEW ZEALAND: Work Issues Should Not be Reported to Unions?

E.J. DE LARA WRITES – Unions and the media are not the place to report work related issues. At least that’s the message the Philippines ambassador to New Zealand recently delivered. The New Zealand Scoop reported that during a meeting with Filipino migrants, the Ambassador of the Philippines, Virginia Benavidez, made a controversial statement about the relationship of migrants to unions and the media. According to several sources at the meeting,  Benavidez said, “If you have problems with your job, don’t approach the unions and media especially those posting stories in the New Zealand Herald.” Shortly after, several dismayed workers reported her statement to the First Union and Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG) in New Zealand. Marty de Lima, a host of the Filipino Migrants meeting, expressed that the Unions are helpful to workers, and doesn’t understand why Ambassador Benavidez would be against them. Similarly, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines agrees that Benevidez’s anti-union statements were uncalled for and embarrassing for their government. Even the Asian Pacific Mission for Migrants believes that the Ambassador should have refrained from expressing her personal biases against unions and the media. Within a few days after the meeting, General Secretary and main spokesperson of UNEMIG prompted for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to demand a formal apology from the Ambassador. According to Filipino news site GMA News, the Philippine Embassy denied...

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NEW ZEALAND: Spying Here, There, and Almost Everywhere

E.J. DE LARA WRITES – Several reports have criticized New Zealand for its intrusion of privacy. Many have raised concerns over Parliament passing a bill for the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) – the intelligence agency of the New Zealand government – to spy on people with a search warrant. In addition, the GCSB reported this week that other countries can intercept New Zealanders’ stored data overseas. This news has caused uproar and concerns amongst the nation’s citizens. Through the Five Eyes intelligence alliance composed of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, these countries have the ability to intercept any stored information of any visitors of each other’s countries. Imagine going on vacation in another country and having the government being able to read any text or email you send. This may sound alarming, but Ian Fletcher, the head of the GCSB, insists that it only gives countries the ability to take action if necessary. Many critics have expressed concerns over the United States spying over New Zealanders, but Fletcher argues that New Zealand should not fear being targeted. In the same way the Parliament attempts a push for a new spying bill, this agreement among other countries is another measure intended to grant New Zealander’s safety. Despite calling these spying efforts measures of safety, are they really that? Do governments simply enjoy having authoritative right to supervise the playground or...

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LAOS: Crusade Against Christians, but Only a Concern in the US?

E.J. DE LARA WRITES – This past September, several villages in Laos have gained media attention from Catholic and Christian outlets for isolating and evicting Laotian Christians. Laos, known for being predominantly Buddhist, has avoided religious conflict until recently. Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom reported that several villages in Laos have warned Christian residents to leave their properties to avoid eviction. Similarly, in the Huay village, media sources claim that the local officials forced 53 people to leave their homes if they refused conversion. Many critics believe these actions reflect a general angst of local governments toward Christianity. Interestingly, many  national and local newspapers do not cover any of these events. It begs the question of whether the national government cares about the injustice towards Christians. It also sheds light on the media’s centralization towards national issues rather than local problems. Predominately covered by United States Christian journals and websites, the injustice towards Christians seems to be more of a concern in the United States rather than Laos. For more information please visit:

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