Centre for Ideas - Theses

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    The responsibility of the media: occupation in East Timor and Western Sahara
    Baranowska, Carmela ( 2015)
    The military occupations of East Timor and Western Sahara almost mirror each other, but they are small and insignificant according to the rules of traditional realpolitik. The thesis asks: What was the responsibility of the media in the occupation of East Timor and the continuing occupation in Western Sahara? In Chapter 1 – “Letting East Timor Speak and Breaking Indonesia’s Information Blockade 1975-1978” - the Indonesian military’s bloody invasion of East Timor and its campaign of “encirclement and annihilation” was broadcast by Radio Maubere, an illegal and underground radio network, to an increasingly disturbed and alarmed group of Australians led by Denis Freney. While the broadcast was heroic, Radio Maubere was ultimately flawed. In Chapter 2 - “The Responsibility of Filmmakers: Before and After the Santa Cruz Massacre” - I discuss Noam Chomsky’s argument that the American media were responsible for the genocide in East Timor. However, in 1991, Max Stahl’s film footage of the Santa Cruz Massacre helped in turning around years of international indifference and apathy. In Chapter 3 – “Scenes From An Occupation: East Timor 1999” - I return to my documentary film, Scenes From An Occupation, which I filmed in 1999, during the last six months of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. In order to re-examine my own responsibility as a video-journalist and filmmaker, I interrogate documentary filmmaker Pamela Yates’ statement that “sometimes a story told long ago will speak to you in the present”. In Chapter 4 – “Who Speaks For Fetim Salam?” - and Chapter 5 - “Western Sahara: How To Stop A National Liberation Movement” - I explore the irresponsibility of filmmakers via a discussion of the controversial and discredited Australian documentary Stolen (2009). This film, which was publicised heavily online and shown repeatedly at international film festivals, alleges that the black-skinned Saharawis are slaves in the Polisario-run camps in Algeria. As such, after almost four decades of media neglect of Western Sahara, Stolen managed to combine both mendacity and sloppy documentary practices. In these two chapters I deconstruct both the film and its critical reception, taking Carlos González’ film, Robbed of Truth: The Western Sahara Conflict and the Ethics of Documentary Filmmaking, as a starting point. In Appendix 1: As part of the practice-based component of this thesis I write a feature length script, based on my previous research on East Timor called The American Brother. In Appendix 1 – “Notes to The American Brother” - I examine the relationship between history, character and the responsibility of the media.