Why are more and more Aboriginal people dying in custody?

In the last week, ACIJ journalists have published the results of two major investigations in major Australian media outlets.

A Deadly Scandal in NSW Prisons

A special investigation in Crikey by ACIJ Associate Inga Ting examines the NSW prison system’s appalling record of deaths in custody.

Twenty years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody delivered its final report, deaths in custody have risen and inmates are still dying as a result of lethal practices the Royal Commission sought to eliminate.

Over the next ten weeks, the  series will reveal the bureaucratic bungling, breaches of procedure, and failures or lack of policy that continue to contribute to deaths in our jails. Continue reading

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Green slime, coal seam gas, firebombs and independent journalism

Welcome to the ACIJ Director’s Blog – News, Views and Reviews from The Australian Centre for Independent Journalism.

We hope the blog will be a way for you to keep in touch with what’s going on at the ACIJ.

The big news today in NSW is Labor’s crushing defeat in the state election. In its dying months, the Keneally government struggled with perceptions that it was too close to influential property developers, and all-too-ready to set aside planning laws and give controversial new developments the green light.

ACIJ journalists Nicole Gooch and Wendy Bacon published a series of articles in New Matilda last week focusing on 2 such developments: Catherine Hill Bay, a 600-lot residential development on sensitive coastal conservation land south of Newcastle — and Kendall Bay Marina, a 172-berth commercial marina on a contaminated stretch of the Parramatta River.

Read their reports Labor’s High-Rise Legacy and What Will the Libs do about Part 3A?

and while you’re at it, check out the links between one of the same property developers, and the burgeoning (and equally controversial) coal seam gas industry:

Meet the Inner-City Coal-Seam-Gas-Drillers

In the next few weeks, the ACIJ will be publishing the results of a major investigation into the bottled water industry.

As well as letting you know about the journalism and research we’re publishing, we hope the blog will be a space to discuss and reflect on what independent journalism is, and what it should be doing.

Arif Zulkifli, one of our region’s top investigative journalists, really got us thinking about what independent journalism is when he visited the Centre recently.

Arif is Executive Editor of Tempo Weekly News Magazine – for many years the only source of independent journalism in Indonesia under the Soeharto regime.

There’s perhaps no better indicator of Tempo’s independence than the fact that it was banned twice by Soeharto.

That independence was reaffirmed in dramatic fashion last year when Tempo’s offices were firebombed after the magazine published a hard-hitting investigation of corruption amongst Indonesia’s top police generals.

By Arif’s own account, he’s part of the “new generation” of young, energetic, militant journalists who grew up under Soeharto. Now 41, he first read Tempo at high school and dreamed of becoming a journalist at the magazine. That dream became reality when Suharto stepped down and Tempo reopened in 1998. Arif was one of a group of young journalists hired to reinvigorate the magazine while keeping alive “the Tempo values” .

Arif says he and his colleagues faced a whole new dilemma – suddenly everybody could talk, power and information were decentralized. But for independent journalists, it was no longer enough just to be brave, they had to be careful to verify everything they were publishing.

UTS journalism students who came to Arif’s talk were relieved to learn that they don’t have to go through the same initiation ceremony as Tempo journalists when they graduate to the rank of editor. After surviving a rigorous and demanding professional apprenticeship, the new editors are thrown into a swimming pool which hasn’t been cleaned for months and ritually bathed in green slime.

Arif told us some other hilarious stories. When the issue of Tempo carrying that story about police corruption rolled off the presses last year, readers complained they couldn’t find it on the newsstands. Mysterious buyers were buying up the entire stocks of newsagents. In the space of a single night, half of Tempo’s circulation of 100,000 disappeared.

Economically, it was great for us” said Arif, “but lots of our readers never got to see the magazine.” Shortly afterwards, reports began to surface that threw some light on who Tempo’s anonymous eager readers might be. Uniformed police had been seen in central Jakarta buying bundles of the magazine from newsstands – and loading them into a police truck!

In one sense, you could say Arif and his colleagues are blessed with an apparently unending supply of good stories for investigative journalists – if they want to, he says, they can publish “a scandal a week”.

But see to their work translate into actual political change in institutions and government is “a very long job”.

We cannot afford to get frustrated” says Arif, “the role of the media is not to send the bandits to jail, but to let the public know that something happened that they should know about”.