Juffa accuses O’Neill government of ‘shutting down’ free speech in PNG

Oro Governor Gary Juffa ... "the Prime Minister’s call threatens to destroy the very fabric of the freedom of the people". Image: PNG Parliament

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Oro Governor Garry Juffa says the people of PNG find it “frightening” and “alarming”  that the Papua New Guinea government is making a move towards shutting down their opportunity to have access to information and to speak freely.

He says the media freedom issue is not just about Facebook – it is about “fundamental democracy” and free speech in the country.

Juffa was responding to a Parliamentary Privileges Committee hearing about a criticism Opposition Madang MP Bryan Kramer made about Communications Minister Sam Basil in the controversy about a threatened shutdown of Facebook in Papua New Guinea for “research” into abuse.

“This criticism that they [givernment MPs] are complaining about, they are basically complaining about is their feelings of being hurt because of something that has offended them or has demeaned them in some ways, but this comes with the territory,” Juffa has said in the Post-Courier.

“When you are a leader you going to get criticised, that’s normal, [US President] Donald Trump gets criticised you know, the Australian Prime Minister gets criticised and they take it, they don’t go and refer these matters to the Parliamentary Privileges Committee in their countries, they don’t cry about it and demand apologies,” he said.

“We should be feeling hurt about the fact that we don’t have medicines in our aid posts and hospitals, we should be feeling hurt about the fact that our schools are shutting down because they are not getting funds they need, that our teachers are not being paid, we should be getting hurt about the fact that our economy is taking such a nose dive that ordinary Papua New Guineans are losing their homes, they are losing their business, they are not being paid, people are losing their jobs, these are the things that we need to be hurt about and expressing our concerns about.

‘World looking’
“But we have taken three days of Parliament over an issue because someone in Parliament is being hurt about what someone said about them, it’s quite ridiculous and in fact the world is now looking at Papua New Guinea and thinking what is going on in that country.

“This is not about Facebook.

“This is about the freedom of our people to have the opportunity to say what they want, I may not agree with what you say but we must always fight to protect your right to say it because that’s the fundamental hallmark of democracy.

“We are supposed to host APEC, I mean APEC nations that are coming here that promotes and subscribe to democracy will be aghast, will be shocked that here is a country that is deliberately moving to snuff out or stop the opportunity for its people to dissent.

“The Opposition walk-out from Parliament was a demonstration of our disgust at the fact that the government is deliberately moving against our peoples rights to express themselves.”

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