The government must be sensitive to mainstream media roles and responsibilities before drafting a National Media Development Policy, says a Papua New Guinea provincial assembly member.

That is a comment from deputy governor of New Ireland, Sammy Missen, after sighting a draft copy of the National Media Development Policy which has been circulating for the public to see.

Speaking on behalf of the New Ireland government, he said the Department of Digital Transformation, Media and Communication would be in charge of overseeing, monitoring and evaluating the media industry through regular data collection and monitoring media content.

He said while it was important for the media to be responsible in its reporting, it should not be made to feel restricted or oppressed and forced to fit into a mould created by the government.

He stated that the mainstream media, especially news organisations, are already self-regulating and have their code of ethics for journalists to follow.

“If there is a greater time for the media to be more vibrant and speak out about the state of the country, and that time is now,” Missen said.

He said the role of the media as the fourth estate in a democracy should not be undermined and must bear equal standing as the executive arm, legislative and judiciary.

“Media being the fourth estate acts as a watchdog over our Constitution.

“It plays a crucial role in ensuring there are checks and balances in all areas of society.

“When we formed this country, the media was with us from day one.

“Thanks to institutions like the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), a thousand tribes united to the beat of one drum, one song, to form one nation, one country,” Missen said.

On removing government funding from NBC,Missen said it does not make sense that an institution that is the mouthpiece of the government and covers almost all government programs and events should be stripped off funding and still be expected to carry out its expected roles and responsibilities.

He said if anything, main stream media should be left alone and more focus be put into regulating the general distribution of information on social media sites and applications.

“More awareness and education is needed for ordinary Papua New Guineans who are not familiar with the ethics and consequences using such social media platforms for improper conduct or malicious reasons,” Missen said.

He said New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan had fallen victim to the malicious use of social media where persons with ill intent had intentionally released false information about him, leading to undue distress to his family.

Meanwhile, senior journalist Scott Waide has questioned the Government on what it actually wants to regulate in regards to the draft national media development policy.

During a policy consultation workshop in Port Moresby , he said “in the media ecosystem, there are many professions”.

“There are radio broadcasters, directors, editors, producers, camera operators, photographers, engineers, who have to be licenced, ICT professionals, public relation professionals, bloggers, podcasters, video content producers, social media influencers and a whole heap of them. What do you want to regulate?” he said.

“And there’s the problematic niche of news media and journalism. That’s the part politicians and legislators don’t really like.”

He said as a journalist, he was expected to follow rules which were enforced by the editor and the organisation.

“I am not supposed to lie, defame, slander, be disrespectful, harm, show nudity on the platform that I operate on. Those are the rules,” he said.

“And I disagree with the presenter from NICTA who says self-regulation does not work. This is my self-regulation right here.

“I am supposed to be honest, have integrity, accuracy, provide contextual truth, transparency, have respect and fairness, and be independent. All these are already self-regulation in the industry,” he said.