WRITER and commentator Martyn Namorong says he fears the Papua New Guinea government is moving to exert control over the social media and crack down on critics like himself.
Mr Namorong told his Twitter followers early yesterday morning that “due to defamation cases being taken against several online I have officially shut down my blog as of 12 am tonight”.
It was the blog, Namorong Report, that first projected Namorong as one of PNG’s most popular and respected political and social commentators.
“I just saw activist Noel Anjo asking for K100,000 in contributions for legal fees and almost fainted,” he said. “Imma [sic] shut up now. Content on my blog will no longer be publicly available.”
Namorong said that, while he supports the introduction of measures to control cybercrime like spam, hacking, and fraud, the government’s reach into social media is concerning.
The anxiety expressed by Namorong and other social media activists in PNG followed a statement by Charles Punaha, CEO of PNG’s Information and Communication Technology Authority (ICTA).
Mr Punaha said a cybercrime policy will be tabled in Parliament and passed into law as soon as it is endorsed by the National Executive Council [Cabinet].
He said the ICTA will closely monitor the use of social media once the legislation becomes law and people who misuse and abuse social media will be subject to penalties.
“It is not our intent to control the media but there must be some proper mechanisms in place that people have to be responsible when they are using the social media to attack others,” he said.
Mr Namorong told Radio New Zealand International that there is no mention of what kind of activity is unacceptable and he suspects there is a more sinister motive behind the policy.
"The state have absolute control over mainstream media, both broadcast and print,” he said.
“Social media is essentially Papua New Guineans telling each other what's really, really happening in this country so they want to have some control over that."
Among the new offences will be the use of pen-names or false names, attacking other individuals and making defamatory statements.
“We are going to make it an offence for people - you have to be answerable for it,” Mr Punaha said.
Meanwhile, the PNG National Court had ordered two individuals to cease making defamatory statements against prime minister Peter O’Neill.
Justice Ambeng Kandakasi also ordered that Noel Anjo and Sonja Barry Ramoi appear before the court on 24 April to assist in the conduct of proceedings.
The National reports that Peter O’Neill’s lawyer, Tiffany Twivey, filed court proceedings last week against Anjo and Ramoi alleging both had made defamatory comments against the prime minister.
Ms Twivey said the defamatory statements against Mr O’Neill were getting worse. She said Mr Anjo made defamatory statements against Mr O’Neill on Facebook.
Sources: Radio New Zealand International, The National, Twitter