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PNG media: 'Crisis on multiple fronts'

Scott Waide - "“Politicians are put on a pedestal and adored, corruption is normalised and legalised"

| Pacific Media Watch | Edited extracts

AUCKLAND - Papua New Guinea’s two daily newspapers – the PNG Post-Courier and The National – which dominate the market, demonstrated “overwhelming deference” to the office of former prime minister Peter O’Neill, says a new report about the country’s media freedom.

Transparency International Papua New Guinea (TIPNG) released a preliminary statement from a research report saying it found “much wrong” with the PNG media.

Analysing a period from June 2017 to August 2018, the report examines the balance of coverage on governance issues in particular.

“The threats to PNG’s media freedom are most obvious when it comes to major national events that require objective reporting in the public interest,” the statement said.

“Recent instances where the ability of the media to report have been hampered by other interests (often political) include: the 2017 national election; the 2018 APEC leaders’ summit; the 2019 political transition after the ousting of O’Neill; and 2020 Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic public spending.

“Journalists in PNG are further disadvantaged by the lack of right to information legislation to enable them to obtain public documents from the state,” the statement added.

“In the absence of a right to information law in PNG the media outlets are further beholden to political interests as sources of information – which further erodes public trust in news outlets.”

Transparency International also said: “While PNG has enjoyed a relatively free media, this has been under threat in recent years. For instance, the World Press Freedom Index  assessed PNG to have a press whose independence is “endangered”, with a corresponding drop of eight places in rank since last year.”

Commenting on the report, Scott Waide, Lae bureau chief of EMTV News,  told Pacific Media Watch, “what we have here is a crisis on multiple fronts.

“Debate is stifled, journalists are threatened, abused and ridiculed, editors, CEOs and board members are put under pressure – you are excluded from events  or deliberately not informed,” Waide said.

“Politicians feel invincible because of the image we reinforce in the media. They want us to  report the facts  but  not  report the  why and how. They avoid live debates, or live interviews, unless  they feel they have some control over them.

“They avoid interviews unless you push them into a corner, if they cannot fully control them, they will influence them.

“Politicians are put on a pedestal and adored, corruption is normalised and legalised. Politicians feel that government policy should not be questioned, and critical thinking  is largely absent in public debate.”

The problems stemmed from the overall decline in the quality of training at universities where students took journalism as second or third choice.

“As well as the steady exit of senior  journalists, taking with them years of accumulated institutional knowledge, younger journalists leave after an average of five years, there is always a constant void that needs filling in newsrooms and the absence of critical debate driven by the media,” Waide said.

He pointed out there was a general absence of proactive action to question, analyse and explain bad government decisions, and fact checking of political statements was non-existent.

“The solution is cross-sectoral and  can’t be done only by media organisations.”


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Bernard Corden

Back in 1969, the Australian government refused Wilfred Burchett entry into Australia to attend his father's funeral:

Lindsay F Bond

Democracy is an ideal, a principle and a political practice - hard pressed in some nations.

In PNG, for instance, people are hard pressed by loyalty to hereditary clan and family.

Add to that restrictions upon truth-telling and skimping of completeness in news reporting, and what creeps in is selfishness and corruption.

News reporting calls for people of goodwill, of value and of valour.

In PNG, there is freedom of news reporting, although more engagement is needed or else it will be only a crop denied life-giving rain.

In that context consider what might occur where news is not allowed to be harvested. Journalist Chris Buckley is the 19th foreign journalist expelled or forced to leave China in the past 12 months, and the second Australian.

His reporting has recently been from Wuhan, the location from which the virus Covid-19 has spread.

China's Government refused to renew his press card when it expired in mid-February while he was reporting in Wuhan.


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