CHUAVE - In the recent debate over the suspension of Facebook in Papua New Guinea, the conclusion of most people was that such a move would be both uncalled for and childish.
Facebook plays a significant role among the elites and the intellectual citizens of this country. It is used as a forum to discuss issues concerning PNG including the deeds, conduct and perceptions of the leaders who are administering its political, economic and constitutional affairs.
Communication minister Sam Basil came out publicly advocating the switching off of Facebook for a month to ‘research’ its use. It was a proposal that demeaned the competence of his leadership.
I hope the politicians read the valid criticisms and comments that were raised in defence of Facebook and to prevent PNG the country from descending into this debacle; an embarrassing story that is still being reported around the world as if it was being implemented.
Minister Basil, of course, was wise enough to defer taking this step – but has indicated it might be something he will do in future.
It seems the thinking behind the proposed Facebook ban was similar to the idea that led to the shambolic registration of mobile phone sim cards throughout the country (deferred a number of times because of implementation difficulties).
One has to ask whether this attempted social media regulation is for the benefit of our eight million citizens or the self-interest of a small number of politicians?
The essence of social media use in PNG is that it is often utilised as a forum of debate for issues affecting the country. Many people with great expertise and experience in government and elsewhere use it to air their views and speak freely in the best interests of this country.
Facebook plays a pivotal role in conveying information efficiently and widely. Discarding it will keep us in the dark. And it will drastically affect business activities, learning, emergency services and every activity requiring the rapid and complex transmission of communication.
If the politicians are serious about regulating every aspect of social media, they need to consider the great benefits it brings to PNG. National politician Allan Bird has referred to it as ‘hausman toktok’ – the people’s parliament.
‘Hausman Toktok’ is slang and philosophy and it can also enhance a leader’s role in the governance of a society. Such discussion can be enriching as was done in a traditional ‘hausman’ setting. In this modern era, there is no reason why the concept cannot change to embrace social media as a medium of enrichment of political leaders as well as the great mass of citizens.
But a harsh measure banning Facebook would be like discarding vital views which would guide leaders to be more reasonable and balanced in their decision-making. Facebook and other social media should be left alone to the discretion of the public to maximise both media and speech freedom.
Papua New Guinea is not a socialist or communist country where dictators remove the rights of citizens. The use of Facebook must remain with citizens to air their grievances and comments freely within existing and well-established laws relating to defamation, privacy and so on.
Facebook is dynamic,
It can sparks like lightning
And catch the attention
Spur intellectual debates,
Enable criticism and comment
Inform of news and happenings
It may be social or political
Business or economic
It can operate within our law
To communicate with one another
On the issues of the nation
An icon of free media and speech
So let us deal with the major issues affecting the nation and leave Facebook at the disposal of citizens as a modern form of hausman long toktok.