By Annette Kora in Port Moresby
A TV Wan female journalist and two National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) reporters in Papua New Guinea have been assaulted by a plain clothes police officer while covering a story about a group of high school students who were behind bars because they were alleged to have been caught drinking.
As the media team entered the Boroko Police Station juvenile office in the capital of Port Moresby around 4pm on Wednesday, there were about 16 students inside, most of them females, reports the digital news service Loop PNG.
They were a bit intimidated by the media groups’ presence but after much reassurance, they were able to talk to the reporters about how they ended up there.
The TV Wan reporter said that after the interview, one of the students asked her if the officers could give them back their cellphones so they could call their parents.
She first asked Superintendent for Operations Brian Kombe, reported Loop PNG.
He reportedly sent an officer to tell another officer holding onto the phones to return them to the students. However, after 30 minutes, the students still did not get their phones back.
“I later walked in and kindly asked the civilian officer why he had confiscated their phones when they had not been formally arrested, and if he could give their phones back so they could call their parents to come down to the station,” the unnamed journalist said.
Manhandled and kicked
“He told me that he would not give back their phones and that I would have to step outside and do my job so he could do his job.
“I told him that I heard clearly from the Superintendent for Operations, there were no arrests made yet and that they were still waiting for the commander to come and an arrest can be made, therefore the students must be given back their phones to contact their parents.”
The civilian officer then came towards the female reporter and tried to manhandle her out of the office, ripping her shirt in the process, Loop PNG reported.
The officer then kicked her in her ribs and she fell down. He later went outside and started assaulting two other female reporters from NBC, but Superintendent Kombe arrived and stopped him.
TV Wan chief editor Glenda Popot condemned the action of the civilian officer as her police reporter was only doing her job and she should not have been treated in such a manner.
Popot said this was police brutality against journalists and the media industry would not tolerate such actions from the police officers.
“We will not be intimidated,” she said.
Popot called on the police to take action about this, adding that journalists had the freedom to report and ask questions and the police should let journalists do their jobs without fear or favour.
Annette Kora is a reporter with Loop PNG News. This report has been relayed by the Pacific Media Watch freedom project.