PNG media council appeals for ‘respect’ for role of journalists

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A UPNG student strike campaign demanding resignation of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill - three mainstream media organisations banned from campus. Image: UPNG Student

The  Media  Council  of  Papua  New  Guinea  has  appealed  to  government  institutions  and individuals  to respect the  role of  the media and to allow journalists to report without fear or favour.

The concerns coincide with World Press Freedom Day celebrations earlier this week on May 3 and  follow  local  journalists  being  subjected  to  “intimidation  and  threats  of harassment” when reporting on issues relating to the arrest of high profile personalities, says the MCPNG in a statement.

Some media  were also banned from covering related stories.

The  MCPNG,  as  an  example,  highlighted  recent  incidents  that  bordered  on  intimidation  and harassment of journalists.

April  18,  2016:  Members  of  the  Royal  Papua  New  Guinea  Constabulary  (RPNGC),  including  a  deputy  commissioner,  shouted  at  members  of the  media  and  told  them  to leave  after  they  arrived  at  the  National  Fraud  and  Anti-Corruption Directorate (NFACD) premises at Konedobu in the National Capital District (NCD).

April  22,  2016:  A  journalist  from  a  daily  newspaper  was  called  by  members  of  the RPNGC  and  advised  that  he  would  be  interrogated  over  mobile  phone  text  messages that  he  exchanged  with  the  NFACD  director,  Chief  Superintendent Mathew Damaru.

April 28, 2016: Journalists from the  Post-Courier were barred from entering the University  of  Papua  New  Guinea  (UPNG)  in  Port  Moresby  to  cover  student  preparations for an anti government protest calling on Prime Minister Peter O’Neill over corruption and erosion of democracy  allegations.

-Partners-

April 30, 2016: Student leaders at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) advised that three media organisations – PNG Post–Courier, The National and the television station EMTV – were  banned  from  entering the campus to cover the student protest and boycott of classes.

Subject to scrutiny
MCPNG  president  Alexander  Rheeney, who is also editor of the Post-Courier,  said  the incidents  pointed  to  a  trend  where  officials  “choose  to  be  discreet  in  their  dealings,  despite  holding  public  offices  that  are  and  should  be  subject to scrutiny”.

“Policemen are officers of the law and in the course of dispensing justice should be subject to public scrutiny, including media coverage for the benefit of ordinary Papua New Guineans,” he said.

About  the  attempted  interrogation  of  the  reporter,  Rheeney  said  the  act was  a worrying  development for journalists who swore an oath to protect their sources when writing stories in  the public interest.

“The actions of the policemen in attempting  to  interrogate the  reporter  concerned are unwarranted. While media organisations do not wish to stand in the way of and respect police  investigations,  the  reporter  and  his  or  her  employee  should  be  contacted  and a meeting arranged in the presence of a third party, preferably a company lawyer,” added Rheeney.

Recent events at UPNG which led to the banning of three media organisations recently  also needed  to  be  put  in  perspective, according  to   Rheeney.

The ban only put the student  movement  at  a  disadvantage  as  coverage  by  media  organisations  would  give  them  a  nationwide footprint.

“Including the two daily newspapers in your media strategy can instantly give you close to 100,000 readers on any given day. Throw in the coverage of EMTV and the story gets into the homes of over a million  viewers,” Rheeney said.

‘Smart media’ for students
“Students need to be smart in how they  use the media, a ban  doesn’t help their cause.”

Rheeney  said  concerns  of  bias  in  news  coverage  should  be  raised  directly  with  the media  organisation concerned, or  the  MCPNG.

It should be submitted with evidence, if any, to enable the media organisation or the council to consider it on its merits and for action to be taken.

Contact the Media Council of PNG

 

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