Stuff you need to know about PNG Attitude
PNG Attitude was established to address a major issue: the silence that, for too long after PNG Independence in 1975, existed between Papua New Guineans and Australians.
The politicians still talked, the business people still traded, the missionaries still preached, but ordinary people - people like us - mostly stopped communicating.
And this was after we’d spent 40 or 50 years thrown together by the winds of colonialism – a period in which many of us got to know each other very well indeed.
That post-Independence silence denied a great friendship and a close relationship.
The purpose of PNG Attitude is to play a small part in ensuring that the silence is replaced by a mutual conversation between the people of our two countries.
PNG Attitude is committed to strengthening the people-to-people relationship between Papua New Guineans and Australians.
It does not seek to impose a world view or ideology on its readers. Its simple aim is to provide a forum in which people interested in the PNG – Australia relationship can exchange opinions, stories, ideas, methods, hopes, recipes, whatever.
We want Papua New Guineans to know that Australians are not unmindful or insensitive of their concerns and issues. We want Australians to get to know Papua New Guineans better.
PNG Attitude provides a link, however flimsy, between two close neighbours.
PNG Attitude is motivated by your support and the thought that we may be able to do some good.
Our bias is towards Papua New Guinea and especially towards its people. We believe the PNG government should be doing better for its people. We believe the Australian government should be doing better for PNG.
PNG Attitude is not a material entity. It is information. If you gave PNG Attitude a shovel, it could not dig a hole. If you gave it an SP beer, it could not drink it. (But if you gave it a million kina, it would make The Crocodile Prize as big as The Pulitzer Prize.)
Activities like The Crocodile Prize literary contest, charitable support, bringing long-separated people together and events promotion lend a practical aspect to our role, but our main function is words and ideas - the provision and exchange of information and opinion.
Do not expect PNG Attitude to solve many problems. But it will raise them, debate them and it will espouse answers (the vast majority of which it cannot effect, even if they are half sensible).
Amongst our readers are many people in positions where they can achieve things. But most of us are on the sidelines. That said, each one of us is vital to the task. As John Milton put it, 'They also serve who only stand and wait'.
ASOPA is the acronym of the Australian School of Pacific Administration, which you can read more about in Attitude Extra.
The original website begun in February 2006 was called ASOPA People, a connection retained in our website address: http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people
ASOPA People was established to commemorate and keep alive the traditions and comradeship of ASOPA, an institution which trained many young Australians to pursue careers in Papua and in New Guinea when both were Australian territories.
PNG Attitude is not a formal organisation. It is one publisher, a hundred contributors and a thousand readers. PNG Attitude doesn’t do meetings. There’s no annual report. No one gets paid. No one’s ordered around. We just get on with it.
People read us voluntarily, subscribe to us for free and contribute when they feel like it. Fortunately we have many experienced and talented readers who regularly share with us the benefit of their views and insights.
PNG Attitude is published from the editor’s computers in his office and at home in Sydney, Australia.
You can contribute to any of these three sections of PNG Attitude.
Main Page. If you have a substantive article (generally 400 - 600 words) on an important or interesting subject related to the purpose of PNG Attitude you can submit it for publication. (You can email the editor by linking through the ABOUT tag under his photograph.)
Recent Comments. The best comments are short (50 – 100 words) and to the point. Insert them directly into the website by clicking on the Comments link at the end of each article. All comments are scrutinised by the editor before publication.
Attitude Extra. If you have information for inclusion in any of the categories, send it to the editor.
Spotters. If you come across information you feel would interest PNG Attitude readers and you do not want to write an article yourself, email the information to us and we’ll assess whether it merits publication.
PNG Attitude not only welcomes your contributions, it depends on them to maintain a lively, relevant and informed website.
But there are some rules. (There are always rules.)
Rule 1 is that, when it comes to publishable material, the editor’s word is final. If you do not like your words being edited, this is not the place for you.
Most contributions are edited. Why? Because it is a simple truth that people who write are not always the best judges of how their words will be understood by people who read.
Nor are most people familiar with the laws of defamation. And people sometimes mistake their strongly held beliefs for more general truths. And they do not always fully comprehend the effect of their words on others.
All that said, PNG Attitude admires its contributors. We are deeply grateful for their knowledge, commitment and passion. And we are humbled because they give a damn. They care. They have our undying gratitude.
Your contribution to PNG Attitude may be edited for any one or a combination of these reasons:
Defamation. We use the defamation laws of Australia as our guide when deciding whether or not a contributor may have gone too far with personal criticism of another person. You always need to be careful when accusing someone of a crime or of poor character. But, if you’re not careful, we’ll be careful for you.
Offence. Abusive language, racist remarks and other words designed to hurt, generate excessive conflict or cause great offence to other people are not tolerated and will always be edited. We encourage the expression of strong opinions, but we want contributors to be fair in presenting them.
Length. The average reader spends about four minutes reading PNG Attitude each visit. All our editing is done from the perspective of this typical reader. We do want people to read what you write, not give up halfway. Therefore, contributions which are so long they make an excessive demand on readers will be judged severely and probably trimmed - unless they are so important or so well written that they are a sheer delight to read.
Clarity. If you’re not thinking clearly, it’s unlikely your words will emerge clearly on the page. Big words are not necessarily good words. Long sentences do not triumph over short sentences. Five ideas in one paragraph do not get a special prize. If we do not think you are communicating clearly, we will do our best through editing to try to make sure you do.
Relevance. Some contributors, eager to grind their pet axes wherever they can, think just because they mention ‘Papua New Guinea’ somewhere in their writing that they have attained the state of grace known as ‘relevance’. They haven’t.
Truth. If we believe that a statement may be untrue or non-factual, we will attempt to establish the facts and vary your contribution accordingly.
Spelling, grammar and punctuation. If such errors detract from the content of what you have written, or inadvertently make you look foolish, we will correct them.
Repetition. Is boring. Will be eliminated. Is boring. Will be ... aaargh!
We believe, in general, that it is better to have matters out in the open where they can be addressed rather than lurking in the dark as shabby untruths that people may believe because they know no better.
By nature the publisher is not a censorial person. But PNG Attitude will protect its own position and reputation by eliminating defamatory remarks and words that provide great offence. While we do try to retain remnants of even the most defamatory and offensive articles, contributors should not test our patience too much.
If we believe a contributor is abusing the privilege of reaching an audience through this website, it is possible that this person may be electronically ‘blocked’ from accessing the site. This has happened only once in our five-year history.
We discourage the use of pseudonyms (false names), initials, first names without last names, and pen names (e.g., ‘Concerned Mother’), and may reject your contribution in such cases. Any contribution with a false email address will be deleted upon detection.
There are some cases where people are legitimately concerned that the publication of their name may endanger or in some other way be a threat to them. In such cases, you should let the editor know the circumstances and your case will be treated with great tolerance.
Sometimes false names are used to cover up disinformation campaigns (which by their nature are unethical) or to avoid disclosing the true motives of people or organisations which may have a vested interest or a conflict of interest.
False names may also be used as a shield behind which people who do not want to be associated with their own views for whatever reason feel able to launch cowardly attacks on others without detection. In all such cases, we are highly likely to delete your contribution.
PNG Attitude treats each case on its merits. But a credibly, believable and persuasive contribution will almost invariably appear under the real name of its author.
Readers do not generally object to conflict (after all, the mass media thrive on it), but in PNG Attitude we draw a line at that point where conflict becomes personal and turns readers off instead of switching them on.
Sometimes a public forum represents a tempting way to lash out at someone you dislike or whose opinions you despise. On these occasions we carefully scrutinise how views are expressed and, if legitimate criticism turns to abuse, the offensive words will be removed.
PNG Attitude adopts a general view that comment is free but facts are sacred. So we do not necessarily edit misconceived comment, unless it is likely to mislead to the extent that harm may ensue. Let’s face it, eccentric views do exist and they do have a right to be expressed.
It is always the case in public discourse that wrong and unfair things are said and that sometimes villains are elevated and good people traduced. This is not something of which we approve and will always use our judgement to determine whether a particular view offers fair comment or is unfair and needs to be moderated.
Given the professed intention of PNG Attitude to build stronger links between our two countries, it is proper for readers to ask why it often takes a critical view of PNG governance and of Australian policy towards Papua New Guinea.
We have no particular axe to grind with individual politicians. But we are deeply concerned with how ordinary people are affected by the decisions and actions of politicians and bureaucrats.
We support entrepreneurship, but we have no truck with business people who exploit or harm ordinary people in the name of free enterprise.
What PNG Attitude can do, and will increasingly do as its readership grows, is to influence people to do the right thing. This necessarily means that, from time to time, we will be critical.
SAFEGUARDS TO FREE SPEECH ON PNG ATTITUDE
BY ROSS WILKINSON
Readers will know that PNG Attitude has evolved over a number of years to its present focus and format, and that it has been the vehicle for the development and continuing promotion of several worthwhile initiatives such as The Crocodile Prize and the Montevideo Maru recognition project.
It has emerged as a forum for worthwhile debate on a variety of important PNG issues. Readers will also know that PNG Attitude has previously been recognised for its excellence and that it has a worldwide audience. Therefore, it is important to us all that this be protected.
Readers would no doubt now be aware of recent actions taken by the editor to protect readers from unreasonable and offensive comments by a small number of contributors and to protect the PNG Attitude site, its editor and its contributors from legal action arising from the inadvertent publication of defamatory or subversive contributor comments.
A critical goal is to ensure the continuation of PNG Attitude as an avenue for reasoned discussion of PNG-related matters.
The editor has previously stated and explained in these site rules that, while some contributors may have a need to hide behind anonymity, they must still be mindful of the impact of their words.
The editor recognises and accepts this need in certain circumstances but he must have confidence in the bona fides of anonymous contributors, who must seek his prior approval of this arrangement.
Readers may ask “why?” and “what is the harm?” This section has been prepared to ensure all readers and contributors understand why these steps are necessary. So what are the issues that you should know and understand?
Civil liability arises from publications that are judged to be likely to harm a person's reputation and cause financial loss or damage. Monetary penalties are usually applied where such cases are proven.
Criminal liability arises from publications that affect the community, such as those that have a tendency to endanger public peace. In most jurisdictions penalties include fines or even imprisonment. There may also be issues surrounding contempt of court if current legal proceedings are involved or suppression orders exist.
Also, given the nature of subjects canvassed in PNG Attitude, there may arise discussions that touch upon potentially subversive or treasonable topics and the editor must have regard for the individual laws of the various nations and governments under discussion.
Contributors should also be wary of the concept of a breach by implication.
The Gutnik case sets the precedent where a US newspaper published a defamatory statement about a prominent Australian public figure, Mr Joseph Gutnik, also publishing the same article in its online edition.
Mr Gutnik sued the US publisher in Australia and the Australian courts upheld that publication occurs in the country where the article is intended to be read. As it was published online and was capable of being read in Australia, it was deemed to have been published in Australia.
In a recent West Australian case, a defamatory statement was made on a blog site by an anonymous contributor. The blog site publisher did not release the identity of the anonymous contributor but a further forensic examination of the electronic trail led to the contributor being identified and successfully sued. Computer buffs who know far more than me, will confirm that all internet traffic leaves “footprints” that are able to identify particular computers.
So, what is the upshot of all this? There is sufficient concern from readers of PNG Attitude that supports stronger editorial control (not censorship) along the lines already implemented and editorialised.
I urge all readers to read and heed the contents of these 'rules'. Readers need to understand more fully why this is necessary, not only for their continuing access to PNG Attitude, but so – in their other role as contributors – they have legal protection from possible court action.
The information provided here should not be taken as legal advice as it is provided from a purely lay perspective, presents a broad view of the issues and in language that all readers should understand.
It is the hope of the PNG Attitude community that this will encourage an ongoing and vital exchange of ideas, experiences and the wonderful stories for which this site is renowned.
.... AND FINALLY
This document will be added to from time to time as it develops into a detailed guide for contributors.
Please feel free to comment on it or suggest ideas that may improve or augment it in an email to the publisher.