I thought my first true post for the By Microwave blog would be about the race relations debate which screened on Close Up this week. It had obviously struck a nerve with me but as I pottered around home doing a few chores this morning I got to thinking.
Since Close Up screened the story about Wikatana Popoto and the debate that followed there has been a crazy level of response to it. Much of it I agreed with, some I didn’t, but I have come to see that what I personally think about it will not add to the conversation. I simply have my opinion and that is that, I am not sure if there is anything that will change it too much and while I did find some of the information about Ansell’s beliefs interesting I have realised that news consumers are already engaging in the discussion about it and so I have decided to take this post in a different direction.
I want this blog to inform and inspire. Its purpose, and therefore focus, should not be about commenting on the issue itself (although, I imagine, there is no getting away from that part of it) but to discuss whether the treatment by the media was appropriate, enlightening, fair and balanced, fulfilling, needed, expected etc.
This got me thinking about Mihi Puriri. A Northland mother of Maori descent, Puriri was the woman who travelled to Algeria with her husband Mohamed Azzaoui and their three children last August. Their intention was to visit Azzaoui’s father, who was said to be terminally ill, and spend a family holiday in Algeria.
However that turned out not to be the case and last month Puriri and her husband, who is a boxer of some talent that was born in Algeria but has lived in New Zealand for more than a decade, were thrust into the spotlight when a story about a Kiwi diplomat’s attempted rescue hit the headlines.
The story was sensational and that quote, well, you couldn’t ask for more.
But where were the follow up stories? Apart from a story about Welton’s position being made redundant the issue didn’t seem to move forward over the past few weeks as I would normally have expected.
That was until Monday night when Maori Television screened a story on their Native Affair’s programme that finally featured Puriri and gave a bit more of an insight into the situation.
The interview with Puriri was conducted via skype and a little stunted but it was obvious that this was not a clear cut situation. Reporter Annabelle Lee Harris also interviewed two of the Puriri’s aunties who are based in Australia and co-ordinating support for their niece.
It was clear through the interview with Puriri and her aunties that the family believed Welton’s attempt to support their whanaunga had had a negative effect on the situation.
It was also mentioned that so far the family had spent $100,000 supporting Puriri in her bid to get her children back or at the very least get to see them – they’re only babies after all and she, like most mums, believe they need their mother.
Issues around custody battles are often complex, particularly when it stretches across international borders, and I don’t pretend to be an expert in this field but the question I was left wondering is: does the New Zealand Government have a responsibility to this New Zealand uri and her children?
The fact that Welton had said she was “not leaving this building without my citizens" implied that she was working in her official capacity as a Kiwi diplomat. If this is the case then shouldn’t the question be put to the Government about their expectations of overseas deployments when acting as diplomats and what are they doing to help Puriri especially given one of their employees had made a bad situation worse.
I was therefore left wondering why was the Native Affairs programme the first time we had heard from Puriri and the family, in any depth, since the initial reporting of their situation. I mean, again, where were the follow-up stories?
I couldn’t help but wonder why a newspaper hadn’t backgrounded the story. I am old school and like to read about an issue, I enjoy feature-length articles and thought it surely was worth a backgrounder in some newspaper? Maybe I missed it, there is a lot of media to consume out there, and would appreciate the heads-up if I have but it has been four days since Native Affairs screened the story and there are still more questions I would like to know the answers to – what about you?
If you want to follow Mihi’s journey or donate to help her out visit her webpage mihipuriri.com.