PNG police commander takes to social media to fight sorcery killings


Report by Pacific Media Watch in Port Moresby

A senior police officer in Papua New Guinea’s Enga province has used social media to combat sorcery-related violence by appearing with an alleged victim to demonstrate that he is alive and well.

Epenes Nili, Enga’s acting police commander, posted a video message on YouTube of himself standing next to the man, named Max, who was at the centre of accusations from October that alleged witches had killed him by magically removing his heart.

Video of the four suspected witches being tortured was watched around the world online, and one of the women later died as a result.

“Because of the false belief, they seriously tortured the four ladies,” Nili told ABC Pacific Beat.

The video shows the women being threatened with machetes and protesting their innocence.

Nili went to the area where the incident occurred and appealed to the community to hand over those responsible.

In the video, he introduced the alleged sorcery victim and demonstrated that he is alive and well.

He said he hoped the use of social media in this way would combat violence against those suspected of practising sorcery.

In October, a Lutheran missionary in the area, Anton Lutz, said prosecuting those who carry out these attacks can be difficult.

“Because so many people in the community believe that what they have done is the right thing, they are hesitant to turn over anyone to the police for an investigation or to cooperate in any way,” he said.

Papua New Guinea’s government is developing a national action plan to protect women accused of sorcery from violence.

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