Thursday, December 10, 2009

2009: A Reporter's Notebook of the Year Gone By

In 2009 I began the year by attempting to bring attention to the plight of indigenous Australians - as downtrodden and disenfranchised a group as I have encountered - and ended it discussing issues of freedom of expression, secularism and women’s rights with a Bangladeshi author here in Europe. It was, as it turned out, a year during which I had the opportunity to visit a place that I had long wanted to see but never thought I would be able to get to (Papua New Guinea) and returned to my first love, Haiti, for the first time in three years, only to find it dishearteningly poised to lurch away from tentative progress to yet another politically-inspired crisis.

It was a year that began with great hope as we watched Barack Obama, whose candidacy I strongly supported, inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States, and ended with more trepidation in the wake of the strong whiff of violence, racism and xenophobia that characterized opposition to Obama’s plan to reform America’s broken healthcare system, and the sober realization that 30,000 more American troops would be sent into harm’s way in Afghanistan in the coming months.

As the whittling down of serious, investigative foreign coverage became ever more dire, I found myself speaking to audiences at places such as the Florida International University in Miami, and the Indonesian Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies in Denpasar, Bali, wondering aloud what the future holds for a profession in which many of those in positions of power have become ever-more timid in the face of demands that the news business serve as little more than light entertainment for an otherwise-occupied populace.

Since I began reporting professionally a decade ago, I have never for a moment doubted the value of independent journalism, and how it gives voice to suffering and helps to advance the concerns of the disenfranchised in the global discussion of their fate. I have always believed that the highest goal the profession can have, and the reason that we ultimately have to exist as journalists, is to serve the people, not to repeat what the powerful would have us say.

Those wanting to stifle debate about important issues come in many guises, whether as executives of rapacious big-businesses, or as well-heeled intellectuals who seek to deform the struggles of places as complex as Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo to fit into their own narrow and often dilettantish understanding of the world. But I continue to believe that we as journalists, whatever the cost and whatever the financial and societal pressures we may feel, must continue to work for the poor majority that make up this world and whom, in my experience reporting now for a decade from six continents, want little more than an honest wage and a decent government for all their hard labours.

It is to those people who took time to speak with me this year - people such as the Gurdanji, Yanyuwa, Garawa and Mara of Borroloola in Australia’s Northern Territory, and the peasants of Haiti’s Artibonite Valley - that I dedicate these articles, and with them my hope for a gentler, more human and more just 2010.

Much love,


Women’s untold stories: A Conversation with Taslima Nasrin for Le Monde diplomatique (5 November 2009)

A few notes on the dismissal of Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis for AlterPresse (3 November 2009)

A conflict of interests: Corruption case against three African leaders throws into question economic relationships between developed countries and former colonies
for Foreign Direct Investment (15 October 2009)

Haiti: Back to life for Foreign Direct Investment (15 October 2009)

Challenges to Haiti’s Security Gains: An Address to the Applied Research Center and the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University
for AlterPresse (10 October 2009)

Haiti: "We Have Never Had Justice" for the Inter Press Service (21 July 2009)

Tentative calm brings optimism to a 'failed' Haiti for the Washington Times (19 July 2009)

Haiti: Deportees from U.S. Face Culture Shock, Retain Hope for the Inter Press Service (8 July 2009)

"The Elites Are Like a Huge Elephant Sitting on Haiti": Michael Deibert interviews Haitian Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis for the Inter Press Service (3 July 2009)

Measuring the Drowned and the Saved in Sudan: A Review of Mahmood Mamdani’s Saviors and Survivors : Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror for the Social Science Research Council (15 June 2009)

Manufactured diversity: Economies of North Africa’s Maghreb region are branching out into manufacturing as the demand for hydrocarbon exports continues to decline for Foreign Direct Investment (12 June 2009)

Papua New Guinea: Time to explore for Foreign Direct Investment (12 June 2009)

More Calls to Ban Zimbabwe’s Blood Diamonds for the Inter Press Service (24 May 2009)

The Final Testament of Rodrigo Rosenberg
for the World Policy Journal (15 May 2009)

World crisis spurs protest from French workers for the Washington Times (11 May 2009)

A Note on Violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University for the World Policy Journal (4 May 2009)

‘‘King of Kings’’ Gaddafi Tries to Flex Regional Muscles for the Inter Press Service (24 April 2009)

Australia’s Parched Landscape for the World Policy Journal, (26 February 2009)

Bone dry to blazing in Australia for the Washington Times (20 February 2009)

Xstrata Dreaming: The Struggle of Aboriginal Australians against a Swiss Mining Giant
for CorpWatch (16 February 2009)

Echoes of Obama on Australia Day for the World Policy Journal (26 January 2009)

Selectively shrugging off world conflicts: A review of Stealth Conflicts: How the World's Worst Violence is Ignored for the Miami Herald (20 January 2009)

Drugs vs. Democracy in Guatemala for the World Policy Journal (Winter 2008/09)

Politics of brutality: A review of An Encounter with Haiti
for the Miami Herald (4 January 2009)

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