| Pacific Media Watch
AUCKLAND – The Paris-based global media freedom watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, has condemned the “unacceptable political meddling” at EMTV News, Papua New Guinea’s main public television news channel.
Sincha Dimara was suspended as head of news and current affairs at EMTV after three news stories annoyed a government minister.
After 33 years at EMTV News, Dimara was suspended without pay two weeks ago.
Reporters Without Borders has said she must be reinstated at once.
A leaked memo from Lesieli Vete, the CEO of EMTV owner Media Niugini Ltd, revealed that Dimara had been accused of “insubordination” and “damaging the reputation of the company”.
The “insubordination” consisted of three stories by Dimara’s news team about Australian hotel manager Jamie Pang’s legal problems in PNG and suspicions that police had violated criminal procedure in the case.
The news team’s reporting seems to have displeased Public Enterprises Minister William Duma, who — according to several accounts — was behind the decision to suspend Dimara.
Duma is also in charge of Telikom, the state-owned telecommunications company that owns MNL, and, by extension, EMTV News.
Two days after Dimara’s suspension, the Media Council of PNG issued a statement defending her decision to broadcast the three stories.
Dimara told Reporters Without Borders that she was very concerned that her suspension was “affecting the performance of my staff”.
“As Sincha Dimara’s suspension is clearly a ploy to intimidate the entire editorial staff at EMTV News, we demand her immediate reinstatement as head of news and current affairs,” said Daniel Bastard, head of the Asia-Pacific desk of Reporters Without Borders.
“This political interference weakening diversity in news and information is all the more unacceptable for having disturbing precedents and coming just four months ahead of next June’s general elections,” he said.
Political and commercial pressure aimed at limiting editorial freedom at EMTV News is not new.
Scott Waide, an EMTV News senior journalist of long standing, was suspended in November 2018 over a story suggesting that the government had misused public funds by purchasing luxury cars, as reported by Asia Pacific Report.
He was later reinstated after protests and has since become an independent media operator.
The political pressure on EMTV News is such that Neville Choi was fired as head of news in 2019 on the same grounds as Dimara — for “insubordination.” He was eventually reinstated.
Asia Pacific Report and Pacific Media Watch collaborate with Reporters Without Borders