Two days after terminating his employment, Papua New Guinea’s EMTV has re-instated News and Current Affairs manager Neville Choi, and he says he will be back at work this morning.
Choi was sacked for what EMTV management alleged were human resources breaches.
However the action against the respected journalist created a storm of protest from his local and international colleagues and EMTV viewers.
The President of the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), Kora Nou had urged the parties in to quickly meet and resolve the issue, and offered to act as a mediator.
The Pacific Freedom Forum, a media rights watchdog, took a stronger line: “We stand in solidarity with Neville, who is a well respected and leading Pacific journalist who has mentored and trained journalists across his nation. We also call on PNG Communications Minister Renbo Paita --given his powers over board appointments for EMTV's parent company-- to support a swift and independent mediation between all parties to resolve an escalating issue ,” said PFF Chair Bernadette Carreon of Palau.
“Our concern at this time is that a quality news service cannot be suspended because news workers feel intimidated, unheard and unable to report without fear or favour, in the current environment,” says Melanesia PFF co-chair Ofani Eremae of the Solomon Islands.
Senior members of the EMTV newsroom, including Meriba Tulo- the journalist named to replace him, called for his re-instatement and asked that EMTV’s Acting CEO be sidelined, as they “no longer have confidence in her leadersihip.”
In a statement, newsroom leaders Tulo, Scott Waide and Sincha Dimara said: “The action to terminate Mr Choi is one that is wrong, and in direct challenge to the separation, and indepdence of the News Media Code of Ethics.”
Their support for Choi meant there was no news bulletin aired on Monday night.
EMTV's coverage of expenditure related to last year's APEC meeting and industrial action by the PNG Defence Force raised the government's ire.