The Media Council of PNG has called on all state agencies involved in policing and securing the country’s borders and people against a potential novel coronavirus outbreak to collaborate more closely.
It has also called on them to ensure that all measures are “clearly articulated” to the mainstream media so that the people would be be kept informed and reassured about their safety.
Council member journalists who have been covering developments over coronavirus say state agencies are not working together, or have referred all responses to the National Department of Health.
A national executive council (NEC) directive restricting ministers – other than the Health Minister – from speaking on the virus response in each of their areas of responsibility, “has not helped in establishing whether ‘screening measures’ against an impending virus outbreak, are as effective as they should be”, said the media council in a statement.
“The MCPNG calls on all these state agencies to use the mainstream media more effectively,” the statement said.
“We stand prepared to work with every state agency which has some responsibility in being part of a one PNG government approach to installing protection and prevention measures to keep our people safe, and more importantly, informed of developments with regard to the coronavirus.
“We have already seen the onset of what has been confirmed as misinformation about positive cases of coronavirus in the country. This misinformation can lead to widespread panic and disorder, if our people do not have the relevant and credible information they need.”
The media council suggested the following to improve the way information is being made available to PNG citizens:
- National Department of Health, as the lead agency, to proactively schedule regular briefings and situation reports, and to make these open to all media organisations for coverage;
- All involved state agencies should proactively update the media on what measures each of them is responsible for; and
- All ministers responsible for these state agencies, should collaborate and consult more proactively, so that correct, detailed information is made available for public consumption and awareness.
The media council said it understood that a decision by the NEC had lifted a travel ban which was earlier put in place by the Immigration and Citizenship Authority.
“It is the MCPNG’s fervent hope, that corporate and diplomatic interests do not override our collective efforts to keep our people safe,” the council said.
“MCPNG members have continued reporting on the medicines shortage in the country; and cannot stress enough the enormity of the situation, should there be a coronavirus outbreak in PNG.
“Much of the drugs currently in short supply in our health centres and hospitals, are first-line antibiotics for cold and flu.
Physical checks at the main international gateway in Port Moresby, left the health of Papua New Guineans “resting on the assumption that every passenger arriving in the country from a port where there are positive coronavirus cases will be truthful and honest about their health and medical status”.
“We need the right screening equipment to be installed,” the council added.
“Mainstream media outlets continue to be the most credible source that the majority of our people will turn to for information and awareness. Please use us more effectively.”