Student protesters at the national university in Papua New Guinea demonstrating against the Peter O’Neill government, claiming it is eroding democracy, have targeted news media by burning 800 copies of the two daily newspapers.
Disgruntled students at the Waigani campus of the University of PNG in Port Moresby yesterday confiscated the weekend editions of The National newspaper and the Post-Courier from the distributors and burnt them to ashes.
This followed an earlier burning of newspapers at Unitech on Thursday in Lae where students are also boycotting classes.
The UPNG students set fire to about 600 papers from The National and 200 from the Post-Courier, NBC News/PNG Today reported.
The students said their action was to show their frustrations with the media for failing to report facts surrounding their week-long strike and protest.
They claimed the news media, particularly the two dailies, had been biased in their reporting.
The students told NBC News that they were not only fighting for themselves, but were fighting for the future and good of Papua New Guinea, but the media was deviating from the core issues the students were protesting against.
However, the two daily newspapers told NBC News they were only messengers and they reported on information provided to them.
The editor of the Post-Courier, Todagia Kelola, said media only played their role in disseminating the information and such actions by students was uncalled for.
A spokesperson from The National newspaper said: “If the students have issues with the government of the day, they should strive to resolve them through peaceful means.
“Burning newspapers is certainly not one of them, as media are only the messengers.”
The spokesperson said that if the students considered themselves to be future leaders, they should show PNG they could act rationally and responsibly.
The students this week held a sit-in protest with a three-point petition, calling on Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to receive it in person at the Waigani campus.
The petition calls for Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Police Commissioner Gari Baki to step down from office, and for suspended investigators of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate to be reinstated.
But Prime Minister Peter O’Neill did not receive their petition, and instead sent a team of government ministers. The students refused to hand them their petition.
Media Council disappointed
PNGFM reported that the president of the Media Council of PNG, Alexander Rheeney, was unhappy to see pictures on Facebook of UPNG and UNITECH students burning the two daily newspapers.
He said it was an unfortunate situation to see students doing this but blamed it on their own stand in banning some media groups from entering the campus.
“There was a ban issued on the two daily papers and some other media houses last week, which is why the papers were not able to talk to the student leaders or report on their activities on campus,” Rheeney said.
“There was another instance in which the reporters of the papers and their cameramen were turned back from the gate by the student leaders and the Uni Force”
Rheeney said reporters could not be sent to “hot spot” places where the situation was tense and their safety was not guaranteed.
This was why reporters of the papers, especially the Post-Courier, were reporting from other sources, Rheeney said.
“The students have to use the mainstream media as a platform to air their views and also if they can guarantee the safety of any reporter that goes into the campus, then they would give a balanced story from the students as well as the government.”