Inside PNG: Media must be watchdog not government-controlled

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Inside PNG opinion - PNG Parliament Haus
Inside PNG opinion . . . In the media utopia proposed through the Masiu Policy the media will be transformed into a propaganda machine that serves a government development agenda. Image: Inside PNG

EDITORIAL: Inside PNG

Papua New Guinea’s Communications Minister, Timothy Masiu, has proposed a new policy that, if implemented, will affect the constitutional rights of freedom of speech through the media.

The draft policy named The National Media Development Policy 2023 (we perceive it as the “Media Control Policy”) proposes changes which include the licensing of journalists and the re-establishment of the PNG Media Council as a government regulation agency.

In the media utopia proposed through the Masiu Policy the media will be transformed into a propaganda machine that serves a government development agenda.

Section 46 of the National Constitution under Part III stating the freedom of expression. Image: Inside PNG

The implementation of the proposed policy, will allow for the government to create laws that go against Section 46(1) subsections (a), (b) and (c) and Section 46(2) under Part III of the constitution which relate to the freedom of the press.

We at InsidePNG are not opposed to supporting a positive development agenda provided the government does its job! That means, making sure students are educated; making sure funding goes to where it is meant to go; making sure theft of public money is stopped; and that there is honesty in the manner in which the country is governed.

Communications Minister Timothy Masiu
Question for Communications Minister Timothy Masiu . . . Is the government going to license all the PNG content producers on Facebook, YouTube, Tiktok and other social media platforms?. Image: PNG govt

The absence of which requires the media to be the watchdog. It requires us to speak out and report on that which is wrong in society and wrong in the decisions that are being made.

In this government proposed utopia, journalists are licensed by the media council and any person not fulfilling the development agenda is penalized by having their licenses removed.

What if there is a ‘rogue government’?
Yes. Maybe, this government won’t do it. But what if, in Sir Mekere’s words, “We have a rogue government? Or a rogue Prime Minister in future?” And he/she chooses to use this policy to impose total suppression?

One question to Minister Masiu pops up: Is the government going to license all the PNG content producers on Facebook, YouTube, Tiktok and other social media platforms?

Journalists are content producers. Or should we all just call ourselves content producers to avoid paying for a journalist licence?

The Media Control Policy, as it should be called, states that it is designed to strengthen media freedom.

We at Inside PNG think otherwise.

We, 24 journalists and content producers, previously worked at a government-owned television station called EMTV. We were sacked because we protested against political influence in the newsroom.

We do not believe an additional layer of control will guarantee our freedom of speech. We believe licensing will be expensive for a start up like ours; and that government control of the media council will not serve our interests in upholding an essential and crucial pillar of democracy.

There is a reason why our founding fathers insisted on having a free media. It is to hold those in power accountable on behalf of the people of Papua New Guinea.

Look at real reasons
We ask that Timothy Masiu step back and take a look at the real reasons behind pushing for a policy that promotes media control.

Be the government that promotes media freedom. Be the government that promotes debate in public forums instead of a government that creates an environment that suppresses freedom of expression.

Invest in the education of journalists and media practitioners if you are serious about improving the media. Invest policies that lower internet costs. Provide scholarships for media practitioners.

In short, be the minister who promotes constitutional freedoms.

Inside PNG is an independent Papua New Guinean media and news company specialising news updates and other local content in the country. This editorial is republished with permission.

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