Talk for Article "Updated: Murder and abuse – the price of your sashimi"

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  1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    If you have been interested in this story it may be worth knowing that the Papua New Guinea parliament has been told that eighteeen PNG observers have gone missing from fishing boats in the past five years: https://postcourier.com.pg/missing-without-trace/

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    Yair Rand post I agree with. The tone of this article does not maintain objective-style reporting. Also, the author is quoting his extensive research is off-putting.

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      Interesting. Thanks. The point of referring to his extensive research is to try to establish credibility or commitment over time to the story. What do you think a more “objective” approach would be? More from tuna boat owners?

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        I think rewording that particular sentence could change the sentiment. Something similar to “The research that I have conducted over the years…” makes it feel a little less off-putting in my opinion.

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          I’ve made that change. Thanks.

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    I would like to make a couple of corrections to this article: 1) Under the title “Disappeared”, APO didn’t conduct the interview with the family. This was provided to us from another journalist who was working there on the issue. 2) Also under “Disappeared”, there is a mention of observer salary. A couple observers mentioned to me that the figure of $30-40/day is not correct. I don’t think it’s too far off though for the Pacific Islands observer programs (FFA, NORMA, PNA). The salaries vary and observers are often getting cheated by their programs. For instance, I heard that FFA was supposed to pay observers $75/day with a debriefing score (post trip evaluation of data) of 95% or better. But at least one observer reported that despite a high score, this observer received only $45/day. Observers in the United States can make over $200/day.

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    Thank you for covering this story. I know how difficult it is to find observers who will share information, especially with their name on record. Many reporters come to the APO wanting to talk with observers. Although we have almost a 1000 members on our Facebook group, very few will discuss details about what they witness at sea. They fear losing their jobs and I imagine, given the recent disappearances, some fear losing their lives. Observers are muzzled under strict confidentiality agreements with the agencies.

    The victory pride following the success of the passing of the WCPFC observer safety measures in 2016 was short-lived. Not even a year had passed before another Papua New Guinea (PNG) observer disappeared. National Fisheries Authority (NFA) claimed James Junior Numbaru didn’t have his 2-way communication device turned on when he boarded and the NFA didn’t bother to check why they were getting no signal from him. Someone, whose program or country stood to be embarrassed at the complete lack of their own follow-through to implement these measures, LIED to the press, claiming the vessel followed all the measures.

    It was only through Global Fishing Watch that we were able to determine that the vessel continued fishing. Two reviewers of the data and a third expert witness concluded that the vessel continued fishing. However, we lack the VMS data from NFA (or Nauru – I’m not sure who has this data) to compare with the GFW AIS data (Automatic Identification System) and conclude beyond a doubt that this is true. We should be demanding from the NFA to compare the two data sets and publish the results.

    The vessel operators also cut the film in 3 sections, deleting the remaining footage, saying they didn’t have enough computer space, which is laughable and another violation of the measures (to preserve all evidence). Nauru authorities would have known this at the time of their investigation before turning them loose. They let the other observer fly home to the Solomon Islands in less than 24 hours without any investigation (another violation). If it weren’t for the family conducting their own investigation, we wouldn’t have this information.

    James is seen on the CCTV footage arguing with someone up above on the upper deck (which is out of the view of the camera). Despite his disorientation and apparent intoxication, he is seen covering his genitals when he faces the wheelhouse, which indicates someone was up there and leads me to believe he was coerced and that there was, at the very least, a witness to him falling overboard. They also have a responsibility toward the safety of the observers and should never allowed the drinking to occur in the first place (if it was alcohol). The vessel operator claims all were asleep and they were drifting, yet the GFW data indicates they were moving. What authorities wanted was an easy story – observer got drunk, fell overboard in the middle of the night, blame it on the observer, end of story.

    Observers in this program advise each other to always keep their notebook in hand in order to keep the crew from accessing what they are recording. Just recently one observer caught a crewman thumbing through his notebook. Some programs advise observers not to record anything until they return. We should remain open to the possibility that James was drugged, especially in light of the footage being partially deleted. Three days before he disappeared, James recorded a notation in his notebook with a position and a simple reference to “pollution”.The CCTV footage shows James throwing down his notebook on the deck and then undressing. The PNG NFA are still “investigating” but we have heard no new news since August 2017. They’ve refused my requests for more information on Wesley Talia, Larry Gavin, and Charlie Lasisi.

    Very few observer programs report on observer interference, harassment and assault and, in fact, most information that observers report is kept from the public, including the violations they witness and even human trafficking. In the United States, only ONE observer program in the entire country reports on observer harassment and it’s very difficult to find information on the violations they report.

    In 2012, a Hawaii longline crew member died from bed bug pesticide poisoning, which prompted a massive cleanup at the dock to destroy dozens of infected mattresses and carpets from the fleet. Long-suffering Hawaii longline observers have been reporting these conditions for years (at least since 2006). They were also reporting on the potential human trafficking conditions for at least 10 years and some reports had enough credible evidence to justify the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to involve the Homeland Security Victim Assistance, prompting in 2015 the posting of signs at the docks in Honolulu that warn against human trafficking. Yet when the story broke in 2013 and again in 2016 about possible human trafficking in that fishery, the longline fishing industry leaders led a media propaganda campaign. They said they would implement a ‘rapid assessment of fleet’ to determine the perpetrators. They formed a ‘task force’ and drew up a mandatory ‘universal crew contract’. All of these efforts were bogus whitewash used by the industry to deflect accountability, while NMFS stood by in silence sitting on reports of multiple observer witnesses spanning over 10 years that could have quickly isolated the repeat offenders of human rights abuses.

    The public should be completely outraged that the management of these observer programs are mandating observer coverage, while ignoring observer welfare and keeping the information from the public. We should be demanding transparency of observer information and data and not just blindly accept the words “sustainable” or “certified”, just because a fishery has observer coverage. Likewise, we shouldn’t ask for more observer coverage without simultaneously demanding guarantees that the observer can do their job safely. Ask what they use to determine these certifications – none require the safety and welfare of observers or gauge the agency’s transparency and management.

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      Thanks. I’ll talk to the author. It’s an amazing story.

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    There’s a *lot* of non-neutral writing in this article.

    Some of the more serious problems, from the top:
    * Using a second-person pronoun in the title .
    * List of quotes, all on one side of a debate. The article is littered with quotes that are almost all advocacy, and all on one side.
    * “…suspicious circumstances”, “mysterious deaths”. Non-neutral writing style.
    * “appalling conditions”. This is a value judgement, not a statement of fact.
    * “fallen victim to”, “virtual slavery”, again.
    * “a murky world where borders are hard to define and justice hard to come by”, assertions of opinion.
    * “As 46-year-old skipper Xie Dingrong lay in his bunk he might have reflected on how tough it was to bring sashimi from the seas of the South Pacific to the world.” … Bizarre speculation, trying to promote a narrative using imagery to establish a certain ambiance.
    * “reckons”, please avoid synonyms for “state” in these contexts. “…is one of world’s most dangerous jobs.” Be specific.
    * “Xie’s wife back in Fuijan, China, would become a widow. Their 12-year-old child would start at middle-school without a father.” …I really hope the problems with this is obvious to all.
    * “Despite the curious irony…”, that’s a statement of opinion.
    * “Xie’s killers would face harsh justice”, “harsh” is an opinion. Either be specific, or leave it out. Idioms like “face justice” are non-neutral expressions.
    * “Standing between order and high seas anarchy”, non-neutral.
    * “The deaths of these observers has won little media coverage despite their colleagues fighting to keep the issue in focus.” “won”, “fighting”, non-neutral framing.
    * “The tough life of a tuna fisherman”, opinion.
    * “Independent fisheries officials, with no reason to lie…”, opinion.
    * “Vessel owners claimed…”, “claimed” is a non-neutral synonym of “said”/”stated”.
    * “skipper Xie headed into the northern Pacific, perhaps hoping for an increasingly rare north Pacific bluefin”, speculation.
    * “…But it was the only food there was.”
    * “They were still unpaid.” Use of “still” here is editorializing.
    * The final quote, “Because for some of the people involved, human life is worth less than the fish they pursue.”, is clearly not there just to describe the positions here.

    This article is presenting a narrative, and advocating a position. To be at all neutral, one must write about disputes, not engage in them. Writing neutrally is difficult, but “high quality, neutral journalism” is the whole point here, so it’s worth working on.

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      We are going to run a Q&A with the author of this piece. That may help.
      I can also be clear that the author has spent many years covering this issue. Neutral is not the same as being uninterested.
      The story makes very clear that the conditions on the ships are often poor for the workers and that they are often put in the position of not being paid for their work or paid on time.
      The conditions which amount to “modern slavery” are well documented in the sources and links as are the detailed investigations by the reporter and the sources he quotes.
      It is also clear in the story that we made extensive inquiries with the ship owners and representatives.
      I am not sure finding someone to say “it’s all fine and these people would be unemployed if they didn’t work in dangerous conditions on fishing boats” would make it more balanced.

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      I have changed “claimed” to “said”.
      I don’t believe the facts of this story are in dispute. You can also see we have made every effort to try to get the viewpoints of the fishing boat owners.
      It may well be advocating a position in the sense that the unexplained deaths of fishing observers, the poor working conditions of fishermen (“fishers”) and documented cases of murder, abusive behavior and over-fishing are things I think we can agree are worthy of scrutiny.
      It’s an interesting question how far a neutral point of view goes. “Slavery: good or bad, we canvas the views”. To be slightly facetious.
      Neutral is not the same as uninterested (not disinterested). We will not be politically biased but a piece of reportage about this subject is not going to be entirely without perspective nor without a small amount of licence to speculate in the sense of wondering what the feelings of a skipper about to be murdered might have been. It may not to be everyone’s taste but that is — to my mind — a matter of style rather than a text book or reference work.

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        So, my understanding of “neutrality” is quite heavily influenced by Wikimedia, which is rather, shall we say, “absolutist” on that issue. If someone were to write or imply that “slavery is bad” or anything similar on Wikipedia or Wikinews, that would be reverted immediately. You cannot make a value judgement on anything and still remain neutral. (Take a look at the Wikipedia article on slavery; can you tell whether the authors are pro- or anti-slavery? Would it look any different?)

        Neutral is not synonymous with uninterested, and one can present a neutral point of view and not be uninterested, but if one can tell from the writing that the author is not uninterested, it’s not neutral.

        I understand that Wikitribune is completely independent from and unrelated to Wikimedia, but given that Wikitribune was opened with Jimmy Wales’ “Neutrality is nonnegotiable” tagline (the same phrasing he’s been using for the past ~15 years on Wikimedia), and that he helped build many of the standards that led to Wikimedia’s current understanding of the concept of neutrality, I would have thought that Wikitribune would at least come somewhere close to those standards. If speculation, value judgements, and promotion of a particular viewpoint are all allowed, what does neutrality mean?

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          Interesting. We’re all learning the ropes.
          I don’t believe a “news” or investigation which brings to a larger audience the story which exposes people living in shocking (value judgment) conditions, probably classed as modern slavery (2nd value judgment), and involves the unexplained disappearance of multiple inspectors in “highly suspicious” (third value judgment) is going to be the same as an encyclopedia entry about the phenomenon of modern slavery (though it would be an excellent link if someone wanted to know what it’s all about).

          The very idea of authors being “pro slavery” makes me quite uncomfortable.

          We could, perhaps, have found someone to say: “I like tuna very much and I don’t want to pay more for it so now that you have told me that people die because of it and live in terrible conditions, I have to say that is an acceptable price to pay.”

          These are very interesting questions and will no doubt be discussed as we try to achieve an appropriate level of evidence-based neutrality without slipping in to the horror of moral equivalence and “whataboutism”.

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        I agree with Peter Bale here that news reporting is different than encyclopedic rhetoric. A narrative that is interesting, while bringing the pertinent facts to the surface will have language that is not neutral in the sense of personal point of view. However, this experiment – Wikitribune – is professing the attempt at producing the best, most accurate, and non-biased news on the planet. And therefore should be subjected to the most stringent of examinations. It seems to me that the story here is about the disappearance of and the ill treatment of people in the tuna fishing industry of the South Pacific.

        Saying things like “the plunder of the fishery” is a value judgement that exposes a political leaning towards the environmentalist view point. While I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with environmentalism, but it is a point of political bias. I think the article can be written without the environmentalist rhetoric and still be very interesting and informative.

        The news should alert people to things that are wrong with the state of the world so that the light of truth can be shown on them. But the news shouldn’t be the ones to say which side of an argument is the “Right” side.

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    As a reader I found the reference to your own work in the first paragraph immediately up regulating my skeptic genes. I agree it is a great way to market a book.

    “based on reports and my own extensive research.”

    Mixing speculative statements with facts (e.g., court documents) simply compels me, the reader, to question the veracity of what I am reading.

    “As 46-year-old skipper Xie Dingrong lay in his bunk he might have reflected on how tough…”

    Do you have evidence that Xie was a reflective individual?

    “As Xie’s bleeding body was stacked in a freezer with tuna…”

    Was the body still bleeding when transported to the freezer?

    Is WikiTribune embracing a tabloid writing style?

    1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      Jeffrey,

      I agree that this is a lot more of an editorial piece than a report piece. The thing that jumped out to me was the point of the authors extensive research; which the link leads me to a new interview.

      I would much rather read his extensive research in order to see where the facts are arising from vs learning that the author wrote a book and is promoting it via the radio interview.

      Unfortunately, I don’t feel that this is the right piece for WT and doesn’t quite fit.

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      Thanks. I know of few tabloids that would devote 5,000 or so words or the years of investigation that underly the work. Your point about reflecting is perfectly valid of course.

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        I present my observations from the perspective of an “educated” (citation needed) reader with an interest in general news that approximates a NPOV (e.g., Geopolitical Futures in the area of geopolitics); my presumption is that you approach the essay from the perspective of journalist-editor.

        I restate my argument: Mixing speculative statements with facts (e.g., court documents) simply compels me, the reader, to question the veracity of what I am reading.

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      Here is the description from the post-mortem which suggests the body was highly likely to be bleeding when it was put in the freezer.
      +A post mortem report, presented to the Vanuatu Supreme Court nearly a year later, showed the dead skipper’s body had 41 wounds to his head, neck and body, causing massive hemorrhaging.+

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        The post-mortem report does not “suggest” anything, it is a report of what was observed at the time of the autopsy (post-mortem examination).

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          The big question that I would have is how long between the stabbings and the move to the freezer? Was it done right away – than yes, he could have still be bleeding out; however, if he was only moved 20mins later, there’s a good chance that the Captain had already bled out. The post mortem presented or quoted did not specify that piece of information.

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      To be clear, if it helps, the writer has spent literally years on this subject and is one of the few voices to continually report it at substantial personal cost. I doubt the promotion of the book is the issue so much as establishing evidence of commitment.

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