PNG government plans media tribunal to target social media abuse

Communications Minister Jimmy Miringtoro ... negative reactions first,even "bashing" the government. Image: PNG Post-Courier

Report by Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby

Item: 9509

Communications Minister Jimmy Miringtoro has announced plans to set up a Media Appeals Tribunal in the New Year targeting abuse of social media and other related mediums.

The tribunal is expected to deal with abusive matters including defamation of character, deliberate misinformation, spreading of “falsities” and malice on the social media including Facebook and through the mass media.

Although no details have yet been released, the concept is aimed at instilling effective instruments or legislation to control what is currently seen as a totally uncontrollable and uncensored social media sector.

It is also aimed at protecting the characters of those abused and seeks avenues for redress for the many helpless victims that are targeted with unfounded and falsified accusations. He said plans for the concept were now being prepared for final approval which he will spearhead as the minister responsible.

The reason for the appeals tribunal is being driven by the gross abuse of the social media where users “get away with” outright defamation and misinformation.

Miringtoro said that preparations were afoot for this basic premise, given the idea that freedom of the press was not an absolute right, but must be balanced against individuals’ rights to privacy and human dignity.

In an interview this week, he said there was overuse of social media in PNG right now, and also in the media industry where there had been a lot of misinformation and false reports plus issues taken out of context on a daily basis.

Tribunal remedy
He said the establishment of a media appeals tribunal accountable to Parliament was thought to be a remedy to this situation. Further, if this is successfully established it will be headed and run by very neutral and professional people who would deal with complaints.

“You see the government was initially thinking about stopping social media because of so much wrong information and defamation of character that has been going on.

“But we said to look at options and the Media (Appeals) Tribunal was one for us to look into.

“There are a lot of issues that will involve this.

“We have to prepare many things on this so that we are not accused of trying to control the media in PNG,” he said.

Miringtoro said that at the first mention of this, many people would have had negative thoughts about it – even “bashing” the government – and especially him as the head of the communications portfolio.

He said the concept might be taken out of context as many would see it as a “political interference” which is not the case.

But he said that if they finalised a complete and proper [legal] instrument this would actually help PNG and the media control information.

Miringtoro said there were also a lot of issues to take into account in the planning process so once all was put in place an announcement would be made.

Source: Pacific Media Watch 9509

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