PACIFIC FREEDOM FORUM | Rarotonga
AS THE ELECTION RESULTS from Papua New Guinea continue to flow in, the country's national media workers association has joined the Pacific Freedom Forum in its concern over returning officers interfering with media work at two provincial centres.
The PNG Media Workers association and regional media monitoring network say the public right to know polling results came under threat last week. In two separate incidents, journalists at polling centres in the Western Highlands and Morobe provinces were banned from doing their jobs.
Journalists at the centres reported last Monday that the returning officer for the Huon/Gulf electorate in Morobe demanded payments for release of information from Lae-based journalists, and verbally abused an NBC reporter.
Two days later, another returning officer overseeing the counting for the Hagen Open polls in the Western Highlands banned media from reporting the results.
"We are concerned over the incidents affecting the ability of media to get on with the work of reporting the polling results. Keeping journalists away from reporting the results of the counting shuts the door on the people relying on news for updates, and robs the public of their right to know," says PFF chair Titi Gabi, from PNG.
Gabi is also a founding member of the PNG Media Workers Association and is currently leading a media support group at the Elections Media Centre.
The reporting of the incidents to Ms Gabi led to a speedy resolution of the issues. Journalists -- some of whom had wanted to boycott the elections after their harassment, resumed their usual observation and reporting of the results where the incidents took place.