By Nadia Marai in Port Moresby
Media staff have been threatened and harassed by supporters of Western Province Governor Ati Wobiro, provincial administrator Madowa Gumoi and Fly Care Foundation chairman Norman May, drawing protests over a free press.
The three co-accused were found guilty of conspiring to misappropriate public funds, fraud and abuse of office by the National Court on Tuesday.
The media staff from the Post-Courier, The National and PNG Loop were at the Supreme and National court at Waigani yesterday when the three lost their bail application and were transferred to Bomana prison near the capital of Port Moresby.
The media staff, including two journalists and Post-Courier chief photographer Tarami Legei, were threatened by supporters of the co-accused when Legei started taking pictures of them in the prison vehicle.
The supporters threatened the photographer and tried to strip him of his camera but were stopped by court security guards.
The supporters verbally abused the journalists, saying their governor was “not a thief”.
The reporters told the supporters of the co-accused that they were just doing their job but they were still being intimidated by the crowd.
The police arrived later but the assailants had already fled the scene.
Media Council protest
The Media Council of Papua New Guinea made a statement today, condemning the attack on the newsmen.
Council president Alexander Rheeney, who is also editor in chief of the Post-Courier, urged the public to respect the role of journalists and photographers in Papua New Guinea.
“The harassment and attacks directed at the media personnel at the court precinct on Wednesday were unwarranted and unacceptable,” he said in the statement.
“The Media Council of PNG condemns the actions of those who do not seem to understand the role of the media, especially the need for the media to ensure leaders, including politicians, are accountable to their constituencies and are transparent in the eyes of the people.”
Rheeney thanked the court security and the police for their quick action.
Two women journalists were threatened and abused in Papua New Guinea during recent protests by university students calling on Prime Minister Peter O’Neil to step down as Prime minister.
One of the journalists was abused and threatened by police officers when she was at a police station asking questions, the other was threatened and kicked when police opened fire on University of Papua New Guinea’s students on June 8 to break up a peaceful protest.