Former PNG PM worried about laws to curb media, freedom of speech


The Papua New Guinea Government plans to introduce laws to curb free speech and freedom of the press, former prime minister Peter O’Neill says.

In a statement, O’Neill said the same law would jail any journalist or person who published anything the Government deemed to be “misreporting”.

O’Neill described the Government’s proposal as “deeply concerning and need to be vehemently opposed every way possible”.

He said: “Today, we learn Government is preparing to crack down on journalists with new media laws being urgently prepared and to be presented to Parliament very soon.

They plan to curb free speech and freedom of the press to report by being able to jail any journalist or person who publishes anything they deem is misreporting.”

Information and Communication Technology Minister (ICT) Timothy Masiu said Tuesday that the Department of Information and Communication Technology (Dict) was currently working on the media policy to include holding persons accountable for misreporting.

Masiu said the policy to be presented to Cabinet would still hold its original content but would emphasise that media quality, accessibility and responsibility in information dissemination are based on facts.

“We don’t want to tighten up on media so much but we want to make sure that reporters are responsible for what they report and it’s about time this should be implemented,” Masiu said.

Prime Minister James Marape said he was supportive of the move.

“This is our country where you all have the power in your pen but take some responsibility and write correctly and based on facts,” he said.

“You have a responsibility to our county.

“Do not write your own opinion, or if you have an opinion, then find facts to support that opinion.

“Those who are not writing based on fact, I will be holding you accountable,” he said.

O’Neill questioned whether journalists and their editors will be subject to arrest and punishment.

“I am both saddened and alarmed at the proposed way the Marape Government is dismantling democracy.

“I am utterly convinced that if we uphold all the principles of a healthy democracy, we, as a people will overcome any challenge whether it be economic, social or environmental,” he said. “We are a strong people with the courage of our convictions and centuries old traditions and customs,” he said.

Former PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill
Peter O’Neill