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Cautious notes for social media activists

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Publicly criticising the judiciary is usually a bad idea.
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PORT MORESBY – The recent arrest and refusal of bail for social activist and political commentator Samson Komati arrest is reminiscent of Bryan Kramer’s arrest before he became an MP. Bryan was an activist and a prolific social media commentator on politics and related matters.

Under two prime ministers, Papua New Guinea has become a place where social media activists are arrested and jailed.

If you’re a social media commentator, or have aspirations to become one, here are a few things to remember.

Who to complain to

If you have a complaint as a public servant, or if you have evidence of corruption or wrongdoing, don’t post on social media. Use the procedures laid out in the Whistleblower Act, and lodge your complaints with the police, Ombudsman Commission or ICAC.

If you’re a leader as defined in the Leadership Code, make your complaint to the Ombudsman Commission. If you’re not a public official or CEO of a company, go to ICAC or the police.

The ICAC and police can deal with all corruption cases whilst the Ombudsman Commission can only deal with leaders currently occupying office.

ICAC commissioners are all non-Papua New Guineans, so probably not politically affiliated. The organisation is still new so we don’t know how effective it will be.

If you complain on social media, it’s not a formal complaint and the Ombudsman and ICAC are not required to investigate, although the police can if they choose to.

If you're a private citizen

If you’re not employed and have nothing to lose, you don’t need Whistleblower law protection. You can go through the agencies listed above.

Social media & the law

Social media is proving to be more vibrant than traditional media in holding leaders accountable. Leaders are forced to respond when a post goes viral and potentially informs many thousands of people.

But social media platforms generally do not have an editor to ensure that information is correct. Wrong information or attacks on people can open you up to potential prosecution or litigation.

It’s better to post facts that can be traced back to a legitimate source. For instance, if you claim someone owns a company, you can search on the Investment Promotion Authority website to  verify the claim.  The claim is based on a publicly available, legitimate source.

But if you say someone was paid corruptly, to avoid being sued for defamation you will need material evidence (such as a verified copy of the signed cheque).

[For more information on how to stay out of trouble on social media, link here to About PNG Attitude and scroll down to sections on censorship, anonymity, conflict, accuracy, fairness, criticism and plagiarism. PNG Attitude is an edited blog. – KJ]

Don’t fight the judiciary

Whatever you do, stay out of the way of the courts. It’s a terrible idea to criticise a judge. You may end up standing before a judge to be judged. I’m not saying this is fair but the record shows it’s a terrible idea. Just ask Brian Kramer how he was dismissed from office.

Is public commentary worth it?

I know many of us would want to fight corruption, but you must first ask yourself if raising the matter publicly is sensible.

If you’re the breadwinner in a family, leave political criticism to others. It’s not worth it.

See Social media & the law above for other options.


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Bernard Corden

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


Bernard Corden

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” - George Orwell

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