‘Freedom of Expression is not an option, it is a right’ – MCPNG

PNG Police vehilce
PNG Police vehicle

The Papua New Guinea Media Council is deeply concerned about the conduct of police officers in the detaining of a media company employee in Port Moresby today, for taking mobile phone videos of a police operation.

The MCPNG has been kept abreast of developments surrounding the detaining of Media Niugini Limited Sales Representative Richard Magei, after he was spotted using his mobile phone to take videos of police officers removing betelnut market vendors in efforts to disperse them in compliance with COVID19 policing measures around public gatherings at Port Moresby’s 5-Mile area.

While the MCPNG acknowledges that Magei is not a news reporter or journalist, the treatment by police, adds to recent concerning reports of citizens being detained without being charged for any crimes, and being physically abused in the process.

Magei was fortunate to have the support of other EMTV staff, and the public, resulting in his release. Many other citizens do not have that same level of support and resources.

The MCPNG Executives point out that the role of citizens today, increasingly includes using available technology to express their opinions about how their communities are being managed, or in this case, policed. And that role is enshrined in the national aspiration of freedom of expression. It is a right held by every PNG citizen.

The council also highlights the important role the RPNGC will play in approaching national election events in the country.

‘We are less than 100 days away from the national general elections, and on the eve of a by-election in the nation’s capital. The role and independence of our law enforcers, must be a necessary focus for all civil society groups who represent our people and communities.’

The MCPNG says organisations like Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) have commenced advocacy engagement programs with the media in the country, and national leadership alike to develop media reporting skills in areas of public accountability.

Issues of accountability and transparency of process and leadership will soon become public discussion topics, and public concerns like police brutality and abuse of process in violation of basic citizenry rights, will be spotlighted.

We call on media newsrooms to be actively involved in TIPNG’s Media Engagement programme, and to be fearless in reporting instances of abuse of public office, funds, or responsibilities in the line of duty.

We call on the leadership and management in the RPNGC to proactively uphold their rules of engagement across the rank and file, and to do all it can to regain public confidence in the force, for a safe, more trusting community for everyone.

Authorised for Release by: Media Council of Papua New Guinea (MCPNG)