PNG Media Council seeks opinion over Cybercrime Act’s ‘free speech’ impact

PNG's Media Council president Alex Rheeney (centre) talking at last year's World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) in Auckland. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

By Geraldine Kalabai in Port Moresby

The Media Council of Papua New Guinea is seeking a legal opinion on the effects of the government’s 2016 Cybercrime Act on press freedom, freedom of expression and public access to state information.

”The council, in its last meeting last Friday agreed that legal opinion should be sought on the impact that the August 2016 legislation will have on the ability of ordinary Papua New Guineans to express themselves through various communication platforms and whether the law hinders the ability of the PNG media to report without fear or favour,” the council said in a statement.

Media Council president Alexander Rheeney said the council supported some sections of the law that protected citizens.

However, he added the council was particularly concerned with Section 10 (on data espionage), 21 (defamatory publication), 25 (unlawful disclosure), 26 (spam), 31 (unlawful advertising), 33 (search powers), and 44 (criminal liability of ICT service providers).

The Media Council said there was no government consultation with the media industry when the legislation was first put forward before its enactment.

Rheeney said two experts would study Section 46 of the PNG Constitution on freedom of expression and provide their opinion on how the 2016 Cybercrime Act would impact on the rights of citizens.

The findings would be put to council members for their consideration and deliberation and to identify a course of action if needed.

Rheeney added that the current general election opened up the opportunity to the council and the media industry to lobby for changes to the legislation when the new national Parliament gets elected, depending on the advice of the legal experts.

Geraldine Kalabai is an EMTV News reporter who studied international relations and PNG studies at Divine Word University.

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