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The lure of the ‘kaikaiman’ – and the courage to speak & write truth

Sylvester Gawi
Sylvester Gawi at work

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.


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Mathias Kin

So many of our journalists are kind to people especially policians with power and money. Like Sylvester says the chief editors are the main targets of these politicians.

The editors are usually well cared for by O'Neill. TDirect phone calls are made on what to publish. It's that simple. A conversation would be like this:

Editor: Yes boss, how are you today. What can I do for you this time?

PM or his associate: You will meet Jenny at Crown at 12.30 pm. She will deliver you my statement on Ok Tedi. Put it tomorrow and don't cut anything. Today's coverage of Belden Namah was good.

Editor: Boss, embai mi wokim, noken wari.

PM or lackey: Good!

Conversation ends...that easy!

The young journos who leave school are sucked into this very corrupt life of journalism and their young brains, just out of Uni, cannot be utilised properly. The cycle of rubbish and corruption continues.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I was going to suggest that we don't really have a free press in Australia either.

Most of our media outlets, paper and electronic, are owned by vested interests that push a particular ideology.

Even the ABC is a bit suss these days.

We don't have a blatantly censorious government like PNG, which is a thing to be thankful for at least but they aren't beyond manipulating the press and putting pressure on people.

I'm currently reading Michael Wolff's book 'Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House' and that is a real eye-opener about the power of the media, Rupert Murdoch in particular.

According to that book America is currently being run by the President's spoilt daughter and her husband.

Bernard Corden

"It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message and myths that surround it"- John Pilger:

Australia's track record, especially with Wilfred Burchett is not crash hot.

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