SBS seems to have splurged more on promoting its new Dateline anchorman, George Negus, than the millions it spent securing the Ashes coverage – witness the full page ads in national papers this week featuring collosal photos of the network’s latest celeb recruit.
So it was a relief to learn that last night’s first edition under Negus was not all about George. In fact, it was a cracker.
Global troubleshooter John Martinkus, safe home from his kidnapping in Baghdad, filed a penetrating account of the Aceh troubles. Swapping the war zone of Iraq for the Indonesian frontline, Martinkus showed versitility and intelligence in documenting Indonesia’s military as it seeks to mop up the GAM rebels under the guise of an internernational tsunami relief operation.
It’s in war zones where Dateline’s solo video journalist model excels – there’s no room here in the Aceh jungle for Richard Carleton, his crew, his make-up assistant, wardrobe extra, stunt bulletproof vest and gourmet picnic hamper.
Particularly compelling was an interview with a grieving mother whose high school son had been hunted down and murdered in a refugee camp by TNI soldiers – juxtaposed against high level TNI assurances from field commanders that the Indonesians are only conducting “active defensive operations”.
“GAM are expert liars,” a TNI officer told Martinkus. And the TNI, what of their record?
Martinkus cleverly drew parallels between the TNI in Aceh and its operations in East Timor against Fretelin. In some cases, the same officers are leading the same kind of operations aimed at eradicating rebels in a trouble-spot that Indonesia wants desperately to keep the lid on.
What will international aid agencies and Indonesia’s regional neighbours make of Martinkus’ evidence that the TNI is manipulating the aid effort in its battle to eradicate GAM?
Our own Foreign Minister seems to be taking a hands-off approach, as he pursues his mid-life crisis. He was last seen whizzing around the racetrack in a sports car practicing for Sunday’s “celebrity” Grand Prix.
Check out the Dateline transcript here.