[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]
I’ve been following a few different stories these last few weeks. Thousands of miles apart and separated by decades, they might seem at first to have little in common.
The first is the story of over 500 websites in China that have decided to mark the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre by voluntarily taking themselves offline for ‘non-technical maintenance’. The censored are boycotting the censor.
The second story is the ongoing suppression of media in Fiji. In a June 2nd statement, Fiji’s interim Permanent Secretary for Information, Lieutenant-Colonel Neumi Leweni indicated that the current state of emergency would continue into August at least. It’s not clear whether this means that state censorship of media will continue as well.
Following decades of patient, determined investigation, the facts of the Balibo case have at last come to light. In the years following the murders, nobody – not even Australia – wanted the full extent of Indonesia’s depredations in Timor to see the light of day. Through a combination of determined neglect and deliberate distortion, countries in the region and across the globe allowed Indonesia to act with impunity against the Timorese people.
All of these stories have one thing in common. Every single one of them has been shaped by our collective complacence. The passive-aggressive self-imposition of censorship by Chinese website operators is more an act of sullenness than outright protest. According to one commentator, the increase in censorship activity in the lead-up to Tiananmen’s 20th anniversary is a “minor annoyance for most, perhaps making them remember, but they don’t care that much.”