Pacific Media Watch newsdesk
Suspension of the news manager of Papua New Guinea’s major television channel, EMTV, has sparked a flurry of protest from senior news personalities and independent who condemn the apparent political pressure on the broadcaster.
Long standing and experienced news manager Sincha Dimara has reportedly been suspended over news judgement in a move that a former EMTV senior news executive said “reeks of external influence” on the company’s top management.
“A CEO is a buffer between staff and any external pressure. You need a heart of steel and buckets of bravery to fend off political pressure,” said independent television journalist and blogger Scott Waide.
Waide was himself subjected to unfair suspension over airing a controversial story about then Peter O’Neill government’s purchase of luxury Maseratis for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference hosted in Port Moresby in 2018. He was later reinstated after an international outcry.
The Maserati saga continues to be a controversy in PNG.
“There is another way to correct coverage that does not ‘fit the aspirations’ of a news organisation — it’s called leadership,” said Waide in response to the Dimara suspension.
“If the CEO is too timid and cannot protect our Papua New Guinean staff, then please resign and go home! This is not the place for you.”
In responses shared on social media, former publisher of the PNG Post-Courier and a regional media consultant Bob Howarth, asked: “What does the Media Council have to say about political meddling in PNG’s struggling ‘free press’ …?”
Another former news executive, Joseph Ealedona, who headed the state broadcaster NBC and was himself involved in controversies, said NBC had built its reputation and integrity for years and “has the people’s protection”.
“It did happen to me but the people’s protest and insistence and the will of senior statesmen and political leaders to right the wrong saw me return for EMTV,” he said.
“in my view, it is just someone trying to protect oneself and fearful of losing privileges and has no guts to say no … and listening to just one or two people.
“I would believe that the PM [James Marape] is not happy with this this, it is at the detriment of the government if allowed to continue, especially when the NGE is around the corner [national general election is in June].
“The freedom of the media is very important to a free democracy but we in the [media] fraternity must carry [on] with utmost respect and do nothing but expose the truth as a responsible profession.”
Ealedona said journalists “must continue to fight against and with the might of the pen”.
He also asked what was the stance of the Suva-based Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) in response.