Foreign Correspondent

It was revealed at a Senate estimates hearing today that the new season of Foreign Correspondent will air at 9.30pm Tuesdays when it starts this year, directly against Dateline on SBS: article
It’s the first time I hear that Foreign Correspondent is moving timeslots. Up until last year the show airs at 8pm Tuesdays.
What a dumb idea to have two shows specialising international current affairs going head to head.

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The show returns Tuesday March 15 at 9.30pm according to a promo aired tonight.

###Rosie’s Journey

Tuesday 15 March at 9.30pm

Foreign Correspondent returns for the year on Tuesday 15 March at the new time of 9.30pm on ABC & iview.

In our first episode of the year we ask: Does gender equality free women from family violence? Campaigner Rosie Batty (2015 Australian of the Year) and reporter Sally Sara journey to gender equality heartland, Sweden, to find out. What they discover will surprise.

Progressive Sweden has long been a world leader in equality between the sexes.
But while Swedish women enjoy more rights and opportunities than most, there is a dark and shameful side to this story.

Despite all the progress, Sweden has among the highest levels of family violence in Europe. Nearly half of all women in Sweden will face physical or sexual violence by men, usually their current or former partner.
“It’s difficult to realise that in the beauty of these places there is also the real ugliness of the worst of human behavior.”
– Rosie Batty, family violence campaigner and 2015 Australian of the Year

To try to understand this paradox - why violence pervades this bastion of gender equality - Foreign Correspondent invited Rosie Batty to Sweden. It was her first big overseas trip since her son Luke was murdered by his father at cricket practice barely two years ago.
“In some ways it seems a long time ago; other times it just seems like yesterday.”
– Rosie Batty

For Rosie, this trip is no holiday. From the capital Stockholm to the remote far north where temperatures sink to minus 29, she is trying to understand what lies behind family violence in Sweden.

Foreign Correspondent films Rosie meeting fellow activists – men as well as women – politicians and victims. And for the first time since Luke’s murder, she comes face to face with a perpetrator.

“I don’t feel in the least bit intimidated. After the journey I’ve had with Luke’s father I don’t think I could ever be intimidated in the same way again.”
– Rosie Batty to Sally Sara on their way to meet an offender named Emanuel

Remarkably, Rosie finds some rapport with Emanuel, as she and Sally Sara get a step closer to understanding why gender equality is just one part of the solution to family violence.

###The Zombies from Wall St

Tuesday 22 March 22 at the new time of 9.30pm

They’re back. The crazy loans that triggered the Global Financial Crisis have morphed into “zombie mortgages” and, as Paul Barry discovers, they’re cutting a swathe through some American cities.

A preview of this episode is available on request and Paul Barry is available for interviews
Next time the dinner party conversation turns to property values, consider this: in once-proud American neighbourhoods, two-storey houses are being dumped at auction for a few hundred dollars. Some are literally being given away.

In Cleveland, Ohio – once America’s economic powerhouse – it’s almost a daily event, a legacy of the banking villainy that gave us the GFC.
And now, believe it or not, the banks are playing havoc again.

“Is this a family show?” – Cleveland politician and activist, Jim Rokakis, when asked for a comment on the banks.
When reporter Paul Barry visited the Midwest city in 2007, “subprime” loans were pushing thousands of families into default. Many were evicted. Others just walked away, emptying out once thriving neighbourhoods.

“Everybody’s gone. I’m the old lady on the street now” – East Cleveland resident Stephanie Benifield.
Now Barry returns to Cleveland to find prices have plunged so far that many houses are worthless. Banks don’t even bother to foreclose on defaulters. And homeowners are now being stalked by “zombie mortgages”, which leave them liable for property taxes and maintenance costs they can’t afford, even if they’ve left their homes and declared bankruptcy.

“We’re the guys behind the elephant cleaning up the mess - and it’s a big bucket that we’ve gotta carry these days” – local councilor, Tony Brancatelli.
Brancatelli’s “big bucket” must hold the debris of 20,000 decaying homes, shunned by banks or buyers and now being reluctantly bulldozed by local authorities.

“Vacant lots, like broken teeth on a smile” – Jim Rokakis, surveying a local streetscape.
The price collapse means thousands of people in Cleveland have had their most precious asset stripped of all value. Nationally, the devastation beggars belief

“It’s estimated… that the minority community, African-American and Hispanic, have taken a $1.2 trillion hit between 2000 and 2010 to their net worth” – Jim Rokakis.
It’s not only Americans who are taking a hit, but also speculators from China, Russia and Europe – even a Coptic bishop in Egypt

But as Paul Barry reports, a few locals are finding surprising opportunities amid the ruins. Not everyone flees from The Zombies of Wall Street.

###One Night in Cologne

Tuesday 29 March at 9.30pm

A mob sexual assault on young women revellers on New Year’s Eve snapped Germany’s celebrated tolerance of mass migration. What happened? Why was it hushed up? How has it changed the nation? Barbara Miller investigates.

“Welcome culture” – the generosity that has seen Germany embrace more than a million new migrants in the past year – is wearing thin.

If there was a single moment that sowed doubt in the national psyche, it came during New Year’s Eve festivities outside Cologne’s Gothic cathedral.

“The whole place in front of the cathedral was full of people and after some moments we realised it was just men. They were pushing and pulling at our clothes” – Michelle, New Year’s Eve reveller

Just as Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered her televised New Year’s speech with a plea for tolerance and integration, hundreds of women in Cologne were being surrounded, sexually assaulted and robbed by rampaging bands of drunken men. Two women were allegedly raped.
“They touched us everywhere they could, between the legs and at our breasts” – Michelle

“The girls pushed them away but they forced themselves on the girls” – Yassin, Moroccan migrant and eyewitness

As Europe Correspondent Barbara Miller reports, police and media initially downplayed the incident. But as days went by, Germans learned that more than 1000 complaints of sexual assault and theft had been lodged, with the alleged assailants being described as North African and Middle Eastern.

So Germany has been plunged into a culture war. Refugee supporters, derided for politically correct “misguided tolerance” of migration, are suddenly on the defensive. The German Right is on the march.

“There has always been a small right wing movement… but a lot smaller than neighbouring countries because Germany really learnt its lesson after the Nazi era. But I am convinced that we have, for the first time since 1945, a growing right wing movement" – veteran magazine editor and feminist Alice Schwarzer
By delving into the New Year’s Eve incident, Barbara Miller explores what some Germans call a “culture of silence”, born of Nazi times, that has long stifled national discussion on race issues. She asks how that one night in Cologne might change Germany. Will it be seen as a trigger for more open debate, or as a convulsion that further divides Germans and stokes the fires of racism?

###Mafia Hunter
Tuesday 12 April at 9.30pm on ABC

Inside the life of Pino Maniaci, the irrepressible Sicilian journalist who campaigns daily against the Mafia, defying constant threats to his life.

Journalist Pino Maniaci starts most days with a cigarette and espresso in his favourite cafe in the town of Partinico, near Palermo. He’s well looked after there.

To protect his loyal customer and fellow patrons, the cafe owner has installed expensive bullet-proof windows – with good reason.

Pino Maniaci is a target. Most afternoons on the local TV station he runs with his wife and family, Maniaci names and shames, delivering scoops and rants urging fellow Sicilians to fight the corruption of the Mafia

“I want to send a clear message to everyone – protection money must not be paid!” – Pino Maniaci
Maniaci’s car has been burnt and his beloved dogs hanged. He’s been badly beaten up, sustaining a broken leg, broken ribs and broken teeth. These days police escort him to work and watch over his morning editorial meetings at the cafe. He refuses to be intimidated.

“This land is beautiful – sun, sea and beautiful architecture. This land is also known all over the world as the land of the mafia – and that #*!@ me off!” – Pino Maniaci

“Mafia Hunter” – the small town journalist with a big agenda – on Foreign Correspondent at 9.30pm, Tuesday April 12 on ABC & iview.

###On Thin Ice

Tuesday 19 April at 9.30pm

A budding ski industry has sprung up in the remote alps of Afghanistan. But this enterprise – and the local people – face the menace of a resurgent Taliban, as James Bennett reports.

Aspen it is not. No chair lifts means skiers must trudge through knee-deep snow up to the top of the mountain. Local kids fashion skis from roughly hewn chunks of wood. And you can forget about après-ski.

This is skiing Afghanistan-style, in central Bamiyan province, drawcard for a handful of adventurous westerners and a hardy band of locals.

“It’s pretty surreal to be here. You just have to stop for a second and appreciate the moment” – Jeff Olson, a snowboarding lawyer from Texas

The skiers know their joy could be short lived. Heavily armed police patrol the ski slopes in a constant reminder of a lurking threat from the Taliban just over the mountains.

So far, the snow-capped ranges that ring Bamiyan have helped to keep the Taliban out. But the Taliban is on the march in the rest of the country, and they have Bamiyan in their sights when the snows thaw.

They’ve been there before. Few could forget their destruction of Bamiyan’s “un-Islamic” 6th century giant Buddhas in 2001 – 1500 years of history obliterated just months before the twin towers fell in New York.

Bamiyan is also the stronghold and ancestral home of the Hazara people, a persecuted minority who are Shia Muslims – infidels in the eyes of the Sunni Taliban.

“I remember three of my uncles – they took them from their shops and lined them up with more than 300 people and shot them” – Hazara man Jawad Lakoo, on life under the Taliban in the 1990s

Now the Hazara of Bamiyan are on edge, wondering when the Taliban will next come after them.
“They will start killing Hazara people again, just as they did before” – Hazara woman skier Zakia, 21
Many Hazara are thinking of fleeing, but for now locals and tourists enjoy the distractions of the races at the annual Afghan Ski Challenge. The winner, local mechanic Shah Aqa, savours the moment.

“Skiing sends a message of peace and unity. It’s special for Bamiyan” – Shah Aqa
It’s a message that may be lost on the Taliban.

“On Thin Ice” - reported by South Asia Correspondent James Bennett, on Foreign Correspondent at 9.30pm Tuesday April 19 on ABC & iview. Repeat screenings are at 10.30am Thursday April 21 on ABC and 6.30pm Saturday April 23 on ABC News 24. Also on iview.

###Saudi Arabia Uncovered

Tuesday 26 April at 9.30pm

Undercover cameras provide a rare window into one of the world’s most secretive countries, revealing how Saudi Arabia ruthlessly crushes internal dissent – and how some people are fighting back.

Saudi Arabia is one of our key allies in the Arab world. It’s a major trading partner whose defenses are plumped up by billions of dollars worth of arms and equipment bought from western powers…
…which might help explain why its atrocious human rights record slides by largely unremarked.

“In Saudi they say, ‘the walls can hear’. There is no freedom of thought.” – Saudi dissident

Journalists – if they are allowed in – cannot operate freely. But now a British documentary team has skirted those restrictions, using secret cameras to expose the harshness of life inside the strict Wahhabist kingdom – public beheadings, floggings, stark poverty and women harassed by religious police.
Dissenters risk life or liberty.

“I’m now on Ghweifat Road. I’m trying to drive across the Saudi border, so let’s see what happens.” – activist Loujain Hathloul, jailed for 73 days after defying a ban on women driving
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” – blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1000 lashes and 10 years in jail

“Ali is just a normal Arab boy who dreams of freedom.” – mother of Ali Nimr, who was arrested at age 17 then sentenced to death by beheading for his role in street protests
“No country is the perfect ally, perfect partner without reservations whatsoever. So you know, welcome to the real world, welcome to the premier league.” – General (Ret.) David Petraeus, former CIA director

“Saudi Arabia Uncovered” – on Foreign Correspondent at 9.30pm on Tuesday April 26 and 10.30am Thursday April 28 on ABC TV; 6.30pm Saturday April 30 on ABC News 24. Also on iview.

The show has won two silver at this week’s New York Festival, in the Television – Documentary/Information Program (Social Issues) category, for #BlackLivesMatter (young black people shot dead by white policemen) and Education, Gangnam Style.

###False Economy

Tuesday 3 May at the special time of 8.40pm (after ABC’s Budget 2016 Special)

Thousands of Australians book their holidays on cheap foreign airlines – but how safe are they? This Foreign Correspondent special report by Samantha Hawley and Suzanne Smith reveals troubling evidence about the safety of some budget carriers.

A dogfight has broken out in the skies to Australia’s north. As Australians demand cheaper travel and Asia’s swelling middle classes take to the air, airlines are waging a cut-throat war for market share.
But in the quest for bums on seats, is safety being sacrificed?

“Maybe it’s not a good idea to fly some of those airlines. Aviation’s not really forgiving.” – Asia-based airline captain
Foreign Correspondent reveals disturbing issues with poor safety standards and pilot training in some Asian budget carriers – including one that shuttles thousands of vacationing Australians to Bali every year.

“Some airlines that fly to Australia don’t meet international standards and they should be banned.” – independent aviation expert

Experts point the finger at one foreign regulator in particular, accusing it of failing to enforce standards and awarding pilot licences to people who should never fly.

“Almost 300 people are reliant on you. If you cannot crew the plane those 300 will be your victims.” – instructor to student pilots

“False Economy” - a special report by Samantha Hawley and Suzanne Smith - on Foreign Correspondent at 8.40pm Tuesday May 3 (right after the Budget coverage); repeated 10.30am Thursday May 5 on ABC TV and 6.30 pm Saturday May 7 on ABC News 24. Also on iview.

###Persian Jam

Tuesday 10 May at 9.30pm

Hairy hipsters, beautiful girls, funky cafes, pulsing live music. This isn’t inner city Aussie cool. This is Iran, where young artists and musicians are testing the tolerance of the Islamic regime, as Matt Brown reports

Think of Iran - think of austere Islamic clerics, anti-American sloganeering and disquieting nuclear ambitions.
It’s true, but not the whole truth. A shift is under way inside Iran as international sanctions start to ease following the historic, tortuous deal over its nuclear program.

Optimism is in the air.
“It’s the golden years of Iran - the new history I think!” – impresario Ehsan Rasoulof
As Middle East Correspondent Matt Brown discovers, Iran’s young musicians and artists are finding voice, bit by bit, in the flourishing café culture of the capital Tehran. And they’re pulling crowds from a young population whose entire lives have been lived under the rule of Islamic clerics.

Bomrani used to be an underground band, only getting to play their raucous brand of gypsy punk at hit-and-run gigs. Now they’ve cut a CD and been ticked to perform by the cultural enforcer, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

“We want to reach more people so they listen to our music. It’s what drives us to get better.” – Mani, Bomrani’s trombonist
“There’s been an artistic blossoming here. Things have become more relaxed. People can come and see how we live - and see that we’re human!” – singer Reza Koolaghani

Iran may be loosening but it’s still a conservative state, so artists need a keen sense of what they can get away with. Otherwise they face jail.
“You can’t just sing anything – there are red lines.” – trombonist Mani

Members of 25 Band know only too well the consequences of overstepping. A video they made a few years ago – tame by western standards, raunchy by Iran’s – ruffled the censors and sent some of the group to jail. They now live abroad, putting on occasional performances in neighbouring Turkey - with their Iranian fans in tow.

“The fact that they travel from Iran to support us, show us they love us, means so much… it makes it all worthwhile.” – Tamin, 25 Band vocalist

“Persian Jam” – Matt Brown’s report on the latest twist in Iran’s rich history of music, art and poetry – airs on Foreign Correspondent 9.30pm Tuesday May 10 and 10.30am Thursday May 12 on ABC & iview; and 6.30pm Saturday May 14 on ABC News 24. Also on iview.

###Come in Spinner

Tuesday 17 May at 9.30pm

A giant leap for mankind or a hazardous lurch into the unknown? A tiny Australian venture is racing to rule the skies – as drone companies vie to deliver mail, medicines and margherita pizza to your door. Zoe Daniel reports

Drones, remotely piloted by an ever-expanding army of hobbyists and commercial operators, are filling the skies. But we’ve barely glimpsed what lies ahead.

“I see a not too distant future where drone deliveries are ubiquitous, where seeing a drone delivering a package to you or your neighbour is more common than seeing a postman or Fedex van deliver packages today.” – Matt Sweeny, drone entrepreneur

Competition to be first and best is fiercest in the US. Up against behemoths like Google and Amazon is brash Australian start-up Flirtey which claims a victory in being the first drone company to make an approved commercial delivery.

The ideas are big. So too is some of the hype.
“Today the drone business had what some are calling its Kitty Hawk moment.” – TV newscaster on Flirtey’s commercial milestone, invoking the Wright brothers’ historic 1903 flight

Flirtey is teaming with experts in Nevada to develop smarter flying robots that won’t plummet from the sky onto people’s heads. They’re also working with NASA to design air traffic systems for drones, safely away from airline space.

But many people still remain wary about drones on safety and privacy grounds – and dire warnings are coming from America’s aviation industry. Last year commercial pilots reported about 1000 close encounters with drones near airports.

“They do have batteries in them … that will wreak havoc on an aircraft. Whether it hits the windscreen, some piece of the flight control system or is ingested in the engine, this is going to be a significant event.” – US Airline Pilots Association president

Stuck in the middle is the regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration. It’s under pressure from the drone lobby – and the Congress - to open up the skies while keeping everyone safe.

“We’re dealing with commercial aviation that has zero fatalities a year. We don’t want that number to change.” – Mike Whitaker, FAA

Come in Spinner - by ABC Washington bureau chief Zoe Daniel, on Foreign Correspondent 9.30pm Tuesday May 17 and 10.30am Thursday May 19 on ABC TV & iview; and 6.30pm Saturday May 21 on ABC News 24. Also on iview.

Into the Zone

Tuesday 24 May at 9.30pm

Mark Willacy travels to radiation-poisoned Fukushima to uncover startling new evidence about the dangers that still lurk there and the near insurmountable task of cleaning it up.

Willacy was one of the first journalists on the scene after the double headed tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011, and has reported on it extensively since. He is available for interviews.

It’s like a postcard of rural Japan… lush forests, waterfalls and bubbling streams; quaint villages where pink cherry blossoms festoon the streets.

But there’s a grotesqueness here. Houses which rang with the sounds of life and laughter are being swallowed by weeds and vines; inside they are choked by cobwebs and dust.

This is the countryside of Fukushima. Five years after the nuclear meltdown, it remains full of radiation, and virtually empty of people.

“In the beginning I felt extremely lonely. But now I’m used to it.” – Naoto Matsumura, a farmer who stayed put to care for abandoned animals – and who is described as Japan’s most contaminated person.

In contrast the stricken Fukushima plant is thronging with activity. About 6500 courageous workers toil to contain the radiation but, as former Japan Correspondent Mark Willacy reports, it could scarcely be said that they are winning.

Willacy was one of the first journalists on the scene after the double headed tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011, and has reported on it extensively since. Now he has been invited on a tour of the plant courtesy of the operator TEPCO.

“What’s happening? They don’t want to go any further.” – Willacy with TEPCO guides as levels spike on the radiation meter
What Willacy discovers is truly unsettling.
The task of neutralising and retrieving hundreds of tonnes of melted nuclear fuel turns out to be far greater than previously thought. So too might be the eventual cost, as well as the time that will be required to remedy the site – that is, if it can ever be fully remedied.

“There’s no playbook – they’re making it up as they go along.” – former US chief nuclear watchdog Gregory Jaczko
Mark Willacy interviews Naoto Kan, Japan’s Prime Minister at the time of the crisis. He is a convert to the anti-nuclear cause and – along with Gregory Jaczko – a sceptic about whether the clean-up will succeed.
“There was a risk that half or all of Japan could have been destroyed. So in a way the accident took us to the brink of destruction.” – Naoto Kan

“Into the Zone” - Foreign Correspondent 9.30pm Tuesday May 24 and 10.30am Thursday May 26 on ABC & iview; and 6.30pm Saturday May 28 on ABC News 24. Also on iview.

###Surgical Strike

Tuesday 31 May at 9.30pm

The anatomy of a military scandal… Why did US forces attack a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Afghanistan, killing 42 people? An Australian doctor is among the survivors who tell their chilling stories.

“It had a very particular “VOO-PAH” sort of noise. It vibrated in your chest. I waited for this moment of clarity or my life flashing before my eyes, the moment I’d seen on TV shows. It was just overwhelming fear” – Australian doctor Kathleen Thomas

It was the instant in which an American AC-130 gunship pumped the first of 211 artillery shells into the MSF-run hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last October 3.

“The whole building – the glass, the ceiling, the iron – everything collapsed” – Afghan doctor Esmatullah Esmat
Horrifically wounded patients screamed for morphine. Hospital staff frantically triaged the maimed. At the end of it all, amid smouldering ruins, 42 patients, family and medical staff were dead, and 37 wounded.

“My brother and my sister are always crying. Nothing will compensate for the loss of my father” – Samiullah, son of a patient killed on the operating table
"People here were telling me that they will not bomb the area. But they did bomb" – father of three year old girl Shaesta, who had been recovering from a leg amputation

So why did the Americans attack? Was it anything to do with MSF’s strict neutrality policy that saw it treat wounded Taliban just like any other patients – a policy deeply resented by Afghanistan’s military? And have charity-run hospitals like MSF’s now become “fair game” in the world’s conflict zones?

In Foreign Correspondent’s “Surgical Strike”, survivors including Australian Kathleen Thomas relive the terror and chaos inside the hospital as it was pounded by the gunship.

And what of the aftermath? What is the public to make of shifting explanations from the US military which apologised for “a tragic mistake” but rejected calls for an independent inquiry or war crimes investigation?

“Surgical Strike” - produced by Mark Corcoran - on Foreign Correspondent 9.30pm Tuesday May 31 and 10.30am Thursday June 2 on ABC TV, and 6.30pm Saturday June 4 on ABC News 24. Also on iview.

There’ll Always Be An England

Tuesday 7 June at 9.30pm

Quit Europe or stay? It’s the English who hold the whip hand in the coming UK vote - and many want out. So what’s up with the Poms? Lisa Millar explores the essence of “Englishness”.

Rural Somerset: a quaint old England of rolling pastures, stately manors and tweedy country folk tending horses or swapping tales on croquet lawns.

In places like these people cherish their Englishness – and they’re at the forefront of the push for the UK to ditch Europe in the June 23 referendum.

We’ve lost the pride to say ‘Hi, I’m English or hi, I’m British’… I think we’ve lost that pride in who we are – Simon, pub owner

As polls tighten ahead of the vote, Foreign Correspondent goes to Somerset in England’s heartland to get a sense of why the English – more than the Scots, the Welsh or the Northern Irish – want to divorce the EU after more than 40 years.

London bureau chief Lisa Millar follows the Leave campaign with local Tory MP, Eton-educated, Bentley-driving Jacob Rees-Mogg.

They don’t even have an imperial state crown. They’re boring dowdy people who wield the people’s power without so much as a by your leave – Jacob Rees-Mogg on EU bureaucrats

Polls vary but the bookies have the Remain side narrowly ahead. It’s pitching to Britons’ economic self-interest.
I class myself as a Great Britainer through and through, but I’m a European. We’re a small island on the edge of a Europe with a population of half a billion, which we should be looking at as a customer base – farmer, businessman and Remain campaigner Derek Mead

A big threat to the Remain campaign is a simmering resentment to immigration - not just from the Middle East or Africa - but from Europe too. That’s causing confusion for millions of Europeans in the UK who are unsure what will happen to their right to live and work there if Britain votes itself out of Europe

I worry, I don’t feel confident, I don’t feel safe – Malgorzata, Polish woman migrant
But as Millar discovers, the Leave campaign is not just about immigration and sepia-toned nostalgia for the Britain of yore. It’s also tapping into a newfound boldness about Britain’s ability to strike out on its own.

People are no longer as scared as they were in the 1960s and 70s because Europe no longer seems to be the lifeboat. If anything it seems to be the Titanic - historian Robert Tombs

Will the UK stay or stray? “There’ll Always Be An England” - Foreign Correspondent 9.30pm Tuesday June 7 and 10.30am Thursday June 9 on ABC & iview and 6.30pm Saturday June 11 on ABC News 24. Also on iview.

A two-part special airing Tuesday 14 & 21 June at 9.30pm

A puff of rumour grew into a tempest of accusations that led to the jailing of seven people for alleged child abuse at an elite international school in Jakarta. Was justice served - or was it a case of moral panic?

Canadian couple Neil and Tracy Bantleman came to Indonesia as idealistic young teachers in search of adventure. They scored dream jobs at the prestigious Jakarta International School, teaching the scions of wealthy Indonesians and expats.

Now Neil Bantleman is serving 11 years in a Jakarta jail after being convicted of sexually assaulting three little boys.

It’s like, is this a movie? Is this a nightmare? – Neil Bantleman

A westerner accused of preying on the children of the nation’s elite… The case triggered a media frenzy, transfixed the Indonesian public and galvanised prosecutors. But Bantleman is not alone: teaching assistant Ferdi Tjiong was jailed for alleged child abuse. So too were five school cleaners, including a woman. A sixth cleaner died, suspiciously, in police custody.

My eyes were burned with cigarettes. They stapled my ear. They hit me with a metal chair and a hose – one of the male cleaners who say they were beaten into making confessions

Critics call this case a serious miscarriage of justice, citing the alleged torture and a general absence of credible evidence. Now Bantleman, his fellow accused and their supporters are fighting to clear their names.
Foreign Correspondent goes behind the scenes of that fight and traces the scandal from its beginnings, when a mother first alleged an assault on her five-year-old son…

So the man grabbed him and locked him in the toilet and undressed him – mother at school parents’ meeting
… to the same boy’s identification of the cleaners - who were promptly arrested and paraded before a media pack - and the subsequent allegation that put Bantleman and Tjiong in jail.

They had been abusing our children and threatening all of them with “I’m going to kill your mum or dad if you tell them what happened here” – mother of schoolboy

This two-part investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Foreign Correspondent asks hard questions about an extraordinary case that has seen seven people jailed and another die in police hands.
“Accused” – A two-part Foreign Correspondent special airing at 9.30pm on Tuesday June 14 & 21 on ABC & iview.

###A Fleeting Freedom

Tuesday 21 June at 9.30pm

As supporters battle to free seven people jailed in a child abuse scandal at an elite Indonesian school, Foreign Correspondent digs into the evidence – and turns up some surprises.

“I am prepared to offer my personal and professional reputation to unequivocally declare that these seven people did not commit the offences for which they have been convicted.” – former top Australian police detective, interviewed by Foreign Correspondent

The declaration could hardly be more absolute. But the veteran investigator’s evidence for the defence was thrown out by judges who slammed him for “insulting Indonesia’s integrity”.
The seven people he speaks up for - Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman, his assistant Ferdi Tjiong and five cleaners - are all serving long jail terms for allegedly sexually abusing children at the prestigious Jakarta Intercultural School.

Last week Foreign Correspondent presented their story as told by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Now, in part two, come the concluding twists and turns – and some developments unearthed by Foreign Correspondent including:
• A key prosecution witness alleging that judges misconstrued his evidence in finding that Neil Bantleman was a paedophile;
• A former commissioner of the official police watchdog agency urging a reopening of the case;
• A call for the UN to investigate allegations that police tortured the cleaners into making confessions.

Indonesia Correspondent Samantha Hawley also meets two women who come from vastly different worlds but who are united in grief and purpose. Tracy Bantleman lives in Jakarta’s wealthiest precinct; Sunarti is from a tougher part of town. Both are fighting to free their husbands, the teacher Neil Bantleman and the cleaner Agun Iskandar.

“Words cannot explain my sadness. My heart cries.” – Sunarti
“It’s no longer a marathon, it’s an ultra marathon…You really need to pace yourself because it’s exhausting and stressful.” – Tracy Bantleman

“A Fleeting Freedom” - Foreign Correspondent 9.30pm Tuesday June 21 and 10.30am Thursday June 23 on ABC & iview and 6.30pm Saturday June 25 on ABC News 24. Also on iview.

Honouring Noah

Tuesday 28 June at 9.30pm

It’s the question posed after Orlando and every other massacre: Will America ever regulate guns?

Lisa Millar revisits a mother who lost her little boy to a mass shooter and who – remarkably – sees positive signs of change.

Veronique Pozner has “cried enough tears to fill an ocean” in the past three years. Her six-year-old son Noah was ripped from her by a man with a military style assault rifle at Sandy Hook school, Connecticut, in December 2012.

If these things can be measured, Sandy Hook – with 20 first-graders among the 26 dead – exuded a unique horror. It was seen as a wake-up call, maybe even a tipping point in America’s debate over assault rifles.

“They are weapons of mass carnage that are designed for the battle field… They should be made illegal.” - Veronique Pozner, interviewed by Foreign Correspondent just weeks after Noah died at Sandy Hook elementary school
But what followed Sandy Hook was more Congressional inertia. Then came San Bernardino (14 dead) and now Orlando (49 dead).

“It was just that feeling of ‘here we go again.’” - Veronique Pozner, June 2016

In the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub killings Foreign Correspondent’s Lisa Millar catches up again with Veronique Pozner. Despite a lack of progress on gun reform she is surprisingly upbeat, likening the campaign to the long haul of the civil rights movement.

“We woke up as a nation to the injustices. So this is our next fight - the violence in society is our next fight.” – Veronique Pozner
Her resolve is all the more extraordinary in the face of a vicious trolling campaign by conspiracists or “gun truthers” who claim that Sandy Hook never happened, that the family are all government-sponsored actors – and that Noah never died.

Noah’s dad Lenny devotes himself to repelling the online assault.

“I have to absolutely defend the memory of my son; I have no choice.” – Lenny Pozner
The Pozners are now part of a landmark case which they hope will radically reframe gun laws, stripping legal immunity from gun makers and sellers when guns are used in a crime.

“Drug manufacturers and tobacco manufacturers do not enjoy that (immunity). There are consequences and it’s about time people brought that to the forefront.” – Veronique Pozner

“Honouring Noah” - Foreign Correspondent airs 9.30pm Tuesday June 28 and 10.30am Thursday June 30 on ABC & iview.

###Freedom Riders

Tuesday 12 July at at 9.30pm

How do you free troubled kids from the violence and poverty of South Africa’s broken townships? For starters, you teach them surfing. Sally Sara reports on the idea that’s inspiring youngsters to unleash their best.

In addition to airing on Tuesday night on ABC & iview, this episode of Foreign Correspondent: Freedom Riders will be launched as a dynamic interactive documentary. The ABC is the first Australian media outlet to use Verse, a groundbreaking platform that allows audiences to navigate their own way through the story with extra footage and features. Meet new characters, explore locations, ask questions and discover more. Live the story.

The URL: will go LIVE from 6am (AEST) on Tuesday July 12.

A preview link for media to view the Foreign Correspondent: Freedom Riders interactive documentary using Verse, is available on request.

If you’re a child growing up in South Africa’s Masiphumelele township, chances are you’ve seen the worst of violence – shootings, stabbings, assaults – or have been a victim yourself.
“It kills them, it doesn’t give them any hope – and when you’re traumatised you have a lot of anger issues, you can’t control yourself.” - Noncedo, 19

But every afternoon a van rolls into Masiphumelele, offering kids the chance to escape the traumas of township life, if just for a few hours. Bodies and boards and wetsuits cram inside as they head for the rolling surf of the Cape coast.

Surfing is changing the lives of township kids. Every wave is a challenge to mind and body, a teacher of discipline and persistence and a potential spark to self esteem.
“For me this is freedom. It gives me more hope than I ever had before.” – Noncedo

It’s all part of Waves for Change, brainchild of a travelling British surfer who first coaxed a few local kids into the water five years ago. Now it’s running across three townships with 250 children and 20 coaches.
“Surfing has made me wise and made me stick to my values and to have principles for myself.” – Apish Tshetsha, first youngster to join Waves for Change, now one of its coaches

Waves for Change works on dry land too. Coaches are mentors, connecting with children and their schools, keeping tabs on their emotional health.
In this exquisitely filmed story, reporter Sally Sara gets inside the lives of the Waves for Change kids and follows them as they excitedly prepare for their first surfing tournament.

They hit the water in sight of Robben Island, Nelson Mandela’s old prison during the apartheid era, a time of segregated beaches and “white feet for white sand”.
“I’m feeling I’m gonna win!” - Likho, 11

This will be the first time that Likho’s proud mum has seen him surf. She thinks he’ll win too, but she’s worried about the sharks.
Win or wipe-out, kids like Likho and Noncedo are scoring their own triumphs by the simple act of paddling out and catching a wave.

Freedom Riders - Foreign Correspondent airs 9.30pm Tuesday July 12 and 10.30am Thursday July 14 on ABC & iview and 6.30pm Saturday July 16 on News 24 & iview.

Explore more with the Freedom Riders interactive documentary. The URL will go LIVE from 6am (AEST) on Tuesday July 12.

###The Labours of Mr Zhang

Tuesday 19 July at the earlier time of 9.20pm

As China’s economy stumbles, Matthew Carney taps into the anger of a growing mass of unemployed workers, and meets a labour activist who’s risking his freedom to fight for their rights.

Zhang Ziru has lost count of how many times he has been arrested. One week he remembers it was five times. He lives under constant police surveillance. He has moved away from his family to keep them safe.

Such are the occupational hazards for the labour activist who has helped organise some of China’s biggest strikes.
“Even if I’m falsely accused of disrupting social order, it’s just a matter of a three to five year jail sentence. I can accept that.” – Zhang Ziru

These days Mr Zhang is busier than ever. His base is the fishing village-turned-boomtown Shenzhen, in China’s south. But here too the economic slowdown is biting, with factories closing, jobs lost and wages cut.
Workers are pushing back. Last year there were nearly 3000 strikes in China – twice as many as in 2014, with a lot of them turning violent.

“I understand how hard and miserable it is to be a worker and how much unfairness they suffer.” – Zhang Ziru
Mr Zhang is one of the last labour activists who have not been silenced. A self-taught lawyer and former shoe factory worker, he tries to work within China’s opaque laws and stops short of calling for workers to rebel – but only just.

“The present Chinese Communist Party does not represent the interests of the majority of people, but the wealthy class.” – Zhang Ziru

Mr Zhang gives China correspondent Matthew Carney rare access as he plays cat and mouse with authorities and shuttles between meetings with workers. He fears a collision between growing economic hardship and a rigid political system.

“If the existing system is not improved and the government fails to make political reform, the grievances and grudges will worsen and will explode.” - Zhang Ziru

The government worries too, especially about the spectre of mass unemployment threatening its control. Millions are being laid off. One of them is Mr Yao, a coal miner forced into early retirement.

“The bosses exploit us. It’s like the slave system. I ask, ‘Why is the government so corrupted? Why can’t it give us a good life and a stable job?’” – Mr Yao

Mr Yao is one of thousands of unemployed who hustle for work every day at an informal labour market in Shenyang, in China’s north eastern rustbelt. Most get turned away.

When Matthew Carney films there he is surrounded by angry men – but their fury is not directed at him:
“The most corrupt dynasty in human history!”

“They say the happiness level of Chinese people is rising. Bullshit! Only by coming here could you know the reality of China!” – Man at the labour market

Matthew Carney explores the internal fallout from China’s slowdown in “The Labours of Mr Zhang” - Foreign Correspondent 9.20pm Tuesday July 19 and 10.30am Thursday July 21 on ABC & iview, plus 6.30pm AEST Saturday July 23 on News 24.