PAPUA New Guinea’s Communication Minister, Jimmy Miringtoro, has said that legal action must be taken against online news sources that the government considers have published false and misleading information.
Miringtoro targeted online news sites Loop PNG, EMTV and the ABC for mention, and told PNG Today that this reporting “costs millions of kina in lost national investment, income and employment.”
He said recent reports by the news organisations "were completely inaccurate but went viral through global news sources and social media.
"As our country prepares to host the most significant trade and investment forum in our history, we have these online news reporters sending information around the world that is false," he said.
"We have a situation where a single online reporter, usually foreign with little knowledge of our country, can press a button and wipe out tens of millions of kina in foreign investment and income.
"This is particularly concerning in the current global economic environment, foreign investment and trade markets are fragile and sensitive to sensational reporting."
Miringtoro said that “even worse than any monetary cost, the image of our people is further tarnished by the inaccuracy and incompetence of some online reporters.
In an extraordinary statement that tests the credulity of anyone taking a close interest in PNG affairs, Miringtoro said, "We have been changing the perception of our nation particularly over the past five years of our government.
“Positive interest in our country has been growing and people from Australia to Europe are seeing a different PNG,” he claimed.
"They are seeing a Papua New Guinea that is changing and developing and they are seeing a country that is open for business and investment.
"We will not tolerate the damage caused by reporters who report rumours without bothering to check the facts," Miringtoro warned.
Miringtoro is the latest in a succession of PNG government ministers who have been attempting to put a gloss on national affairs since the no confidence vote in prime minister Peter O’Neill two weeks ago.
While the vote did not succeed, it further undermined the credibility of a government that is becoming notorious for its corruption, incompetence and poor judgement.
Footnote: The "rumours" referred to by Mr Miringtoro concerned an incident at Alotau that was reported by news organisations, then officially claimed to be a hoax and turned out, in fact, to be an armed hold-up at the PNG Air offices in the Milne Bay capital. The journalists did check their facts; Miringtoro did not. Here's a link to the story of what actually happened - KJ