‘Increase in intimidation of journalists in PNG’


Renowned Papua New Guinea journalist Scott Waide says that the country has seen an increase in cases of intimidation against journalists in the last ten years.

Speaking at the inaugural Press Freedom Day breakfast in Port Moresby, Waide pointed out that there has been an increase in attacks on journalists, producers and the media in general.

Waide also drew from his own experiences in 2018 as a news director when he faced management pressure over content he produced during his time in television.

While he has since moved on into private ventures, Waide also spoke on the recent mass resignation of TV journalists from his former employer, and the implications the saga had on media freedom.

Waide said: “It is about the decade marked with an increase in attacks on journalists, producers and the media in general.

“The 24 staff that were terminated and protested against the historical backdrop of the instances of abuse and intimidation of the newsroom leaders, as well as the failure of organisational heads to protect them against that external pressure, was the crux of the matter.”

Waide also spoke about the use of wages and employment as leverage to get journalists to do what they are told.

“We’ve never really experienced the absence of media freedom that other countries have seen.

“While we talk about suppression, we talk about intimidation. We’ve never really experienced the absence of media freedom,” he said.

“And maybe it’s because of that, we take it for granted and don’t appreciate it as much. We, as citizens, shouldn’t take media freedom for granted.

“Journalists shouldn’t take media for granted, it should be celebrated, nurtured and promoted in every way possible.”

Transparency International PNG chairman Peter Aitsi emphasised the importance of a free press.

Aitsi said: “World Press Freedom Day is a day that should be used by communities around the world to remind their governments of their commitment to freedom of media and it’s a day really where we reflect on the work of media practitioners and journalists.

“The global acknowledgment and recognition given to media signifies the important role the media plays in our society.”

He also spoke on the importance of the media operating as the “fourth estate” – keeping the three arms of government in check.

But he questioned: “The importance of the media as the fourth estate – are we upholding that in PNG? Are we keeping our executives, our legislature and judiciary in check? Are we keeping our government departments in check?

“I can say we do a reasonable job, but what about the other watchdog agencies that also have that responsibility – are they doing their part?”

Meanwhile, work on the ‘Access to Information’ legislation is currently under way.

Journalists will now soon be able to gain access to information not made public before.

Minister for Information and Communication Technology Timothy Masiu announced this during the celebration of the World Media Freedom day marked this week at the University of PNG.

“I am pleased to announce that my ministry, through the Department of Information and Communication Technology, within the Open Government Partnership initiative are developing a legislation on ‘Access to Information’ that will obligate all public organisations to make available public information for consumption,” he said.

Addressing the UPNG journalism and public relations students and a few members of the media fraternity, he added: “It will make it easier for you as media to have access to some of the information that you never had the opportunity to access.”

Masiu said that because of the importance of information dissemination, the majority of public offices and organisations have a public relations practitioner whose roles allow for information to flow freely.

He also announced the Department of Information and Communication Technology’s role as the chair of the Information of Cluster within the open government initiative as well as the government’s intention to work with the Media Council.

“I want to announce to you that this government is taking a policy direction towards empowering the Media Council to ensuring that ethical standards of reporting, advertising and commentary are maintained at all times” said Masiu.

The World Media Freedom Day event organised was part of the UPNG final year journalism and public relations students’ academic assessment on event management.