NOOSA – Australia’s Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) has condemned the suspension of 24 Papua New Guinean journalists by EMTV, PNG’s largest television station.
The MEAA is Australia’s largest and most established union and industry advocate for creative professionals.
The EMTV journalists walked off the job last week in support of their head of news and current affairs, Sincha Dimara, who was suspended early in February for ‘insubordination’.
The journalists said there had been political interference and accused EMTV management of intimidation. They may now lose their jobs.
The ‘insubordination’ consisted of running stories about the arrest of Australian businessman Jamie Pang.
On 5 February, the CEO of EMTV, Lesieli Vete, directed the EMTV newsroom “to drop all stories from EMTV on air and online on Jamie Pang, and any other related stories concerning Jamie Pang’s gym and sporting events.
“I will be working with you closely today until further notice to review EMTV’s news stories so as to ensure that we are broadcasting stories in the best interest of the public.”
Dimara said she stood by the decision to cover the story, particularly in light of recent parliamentary debates of drug laws.
Gregory Moses, vice-president of PNG’s media council, asked all journalists in PNG not to accept job offers from EMTV and to stand united with fellow journalists.
“Respect our colleagues who are currently affected by the decisions of the management and do not join the mass recruitment done by EMTVs management,” he said.
The incident is the third time in five years that senior journalists have been suspended for reporting public interest news stories.
“MEAA stands in solidarity with the journalists of EMTV and condemns the suspension without pay of news manager Sincha Dimara,” the union executive said in a statement.
It also noted that 24 journalists face dismissal for walking off in support of her:
“This is an assault not only on workers’ rights but also media freedom in PNG.
“No journalist should be economically sanctioned for alleged ‘insubordination’ involving a dispute over editorial balance or be terminated for taking industrial action in support of a colleague in this circumstance.
“This dramatic escalation by EMTV comes as MEAA continues to hold on-going concerns about allegations of political interference in the editorial decision making at PNG’s only national commercial broadcaster.
“Ms Dimara’s case, alongside those of former EMTV Head of News and Current Affairs Neville Choi and former Lae Bureau Chief Scott Waide, is the third in five years of senior journalists being suspended for reporting on matters of public interest.
“MEAA calls on EMTV executive management to reinstate Ms Dimara and her staff on full pay and guaranteed journalists’ editorial independence.”
Keith Jackson has been a member of the MEAA (formerly Australian Journalists Association) for 50 years