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New PNG media plan ‘threatens a free press’

| Pacific Media Watch

AUCKLAND - The New Zealand-based media research and publishing group, Asia Pacific Media Network, has called for an “urgent rethink” on Papua New Guinea’s draft media development policy.

The Network said the PNG government’s proposed regulation plan for the country’s media council and journalists threatened a free press.

The Network, which publishes the research journal Pacific Journalism Review, said it supports the plea of PNG’s Community Coalition Against Corruption (CCAC) for more time to be granted for public consultation.

The CCAC is a loose coalition of NGOs chaired by Transparency International PNG and the PNG Media Council and supported by churches, chambers of commerce, the PNG Ombudsman Commission and the Office of the Public Solicitor.

The Information and Communications Technology Ministry granted an extra week in addition to the original 12 days for submissions on the draft National Media Development Policy.

But the Asia Pacific Media Network said this was still “manifestly inadequate and rather contemptuous of the public interest.

The Network’s statement was signed by its chair Dr Heather Devere, deputy chair Dr David Robie and Dr Philip Cass, editor of the Pacific Journalism Review.

The statement continued:

“In our view, the ministry is misguided in seeking to legislate for a codified PNG Media Council which flies in the face of global norms for self-regulatory media councils.

“This development would have the potential to dangerously undermine media freedom in PNG.

“The draft policy appears to have confused the purpose of a ‘media council’ representing the ‘public interest’ with the objectives of a government department working in the ‘national interest’.

“If the ministry pushes ahead with this policy without changes it risks PNG sliding even further down the World Press Freedom Index.

“Already it is a lowly 62nd out of 180 countries after falling 15 places in 2021.”

The Network called on the ministry to “immediately discard” the proposed policy of legislating the PNG Media Council and regulating journalists and media “which would seriously undermine media freedom in Papua New Guinea”.

It also asked the ministry to extend the public consultation timeframe with a “realistic deadline to engage Papua New Guinean public interest and stakeholders in a meaningful dialogue”.

“Essentially journalism is not a crime, but a fundamental pillar of democracy as espoused through the notion of a Fourth Estate.

“Media must be free to speak truth to power in the public interest not the politicians’ interest.”


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