SYLVESTER GAWI | Graun Blong Mi | Edited
LAE - The greatest challenge facing journalism in Papua New Guinea is that there is no freedom of the press.
Journalists need much courage to speak and write the truth and to know how to use the right medium to express their views.
Almost everything that is printed in the press is scrutinised and controlled by the government or an agent in the newsroom - usually the editors.
Every day, Papua New Guinean journalists face a big challenge as they have to write according to what their editors will accept, or they can get sacked for insubordination.
In PNG, the term ‘kaikai man’ is used to refer to someone who writes propaganda in return for favours.
This syndrome is already deeply rooted and one cannot get away from it, even the reporter with full knowledge that someone is corrupt or lying will continue to write good about them. Glorifying parliamentarians and government bureaucrats is common in PNG.
So how do we expect a graduate journalist to deviate from this trend, which continues year after year?
The what, when, where, why and how questions we were trained to use have gone to the bunker. No journalist has the courage to ask such questions anymore.
Journalists in PNG get assaulted and some get taken to court. Not because they did the wrong thing but because of standing up for the truth. And of course the truth hurts.
The media has been suppressed by the very people it is supposed to keep in check and balance.
So where stands democracy and media freedom in Papua New Guinea?
Social media is the technology now accessed by almost 80% of PNG’s population. It is a more powerful tool than the mainstream media with its ability to reach millions of people.
Facebook has taken over the news media’s role with information, photos and half-baked stories published by anybody. Social media news can be inaccurate sometimes, well balanced at others and it does seem to be expressed more freely than in the mainstream.
The PNG government has passed laws on cybercrime but how soon these laws will be implemented for the good of our society is still unknown.
The other challenge is for mainstream media outlets to utilise social media platforms to disseminate news and information.
The social media policies of certain media outlets barricade journalists from having a view of issues and posting them. I have a personal blog entitled ‘My Land – Graun Blong Mi’ which I use as an extension to write feature stories on people and lifestyles in PNG.
All in all, the media in PNG cannot be defined as free. We face a lot of challenges to find our worth in this society of ours.