The Kramer censoring: Another attack on freedom of speech
Any Facebook shutdown would be dangerous on many levels

Did dumb just get dumber & Sam Basil just dig himself a hole?

Sam Basil & Peter O'Neill
Sam Basil with Peter O'Neill - worried about the well- being of PNG or just politicians feelings being hurt?

KEITH JACKSON

NOOSA – Samuel H Basil, the man who might ban Papua New Guineans from Facebook, was not always such a stern opponent of the social media platform he now despises - a platform used by nearly a million of  his fellow citizens.

Indeed it was only 18 months ago that Basil – who is now communications minister - posted on his own Facebook page: “FB users in PNG have used the medium to their advantage exposing corruption in government.... Everything is changing; people are taking their bloggers seriously and their politicians as comedians.”

Yes, bloggers serious; politicians comic.

Then last week, having defected not only from his political base but seemingly from his former progressive and liberal ideas, Basil felt able to announce that Facebook could be banned for a month for some mysterious “research” – and maybe disposed of permanently, perhaps to be replaced by Basbook.

An immediate worldwide flambé of curiosity then thrust the story into the news stratosphere, some journalists linking it with PNG’s APEC forum later this year. Basil seemed to back away, then push the idea forward again so by week’s end what the government intends to do was very much up in the air.

But one thing did remain constant (see our stories below) – the desire of most national politicians to get rid of the dreadful FB thing that is causing them so much grief with increasingly savvy and critical voters.

Among the small group of politicians fighting to keep Facebook alive is Madang MP Bryan Kramer who was cheeky enough (in a Facebook post of course) to allude to Basil in a headline which asked, “Did dumb just get dumber?”.

Parliamentary Opposition
Opposition holds a press conference after walking out of the chamber to protest referral of MP Bryan Kramer to the parliamentary privileges committee

Affecting to have been taken aback, in parliament the majority of members voted to refer Kramer to the privileges committee whereupon opposition leader Patrick Pruaitch and 23 other members walked out of the chamber in protest.

The committee will decide if Kramer’s post brought parliament into disrepute. However there is something of a problem– the committee is meant to investigate breaches of parliamentary privilege and Mr Kramer's statement was not made in parliament.

"I think what is frightening and what is alarming for the people of PNG is a deliberate move towards shutting down their opportunities to have access to information and to also speak freely," Pruaitch said.

"They (politicians) are complaining about their feelings being hurt."

Meanwhile in far away Uganda, parliament has just passed a new social media tax which will charge a daily fee of 200 Ugandan shillings (about K1.75) to anyone using apps Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter. That's a hefty sum in a country where the average person earns K6 a day.

But, as with Sam Basil’s ill thought through proposition for PNG, it is unclear in Uganda how social media use will be monitored and how the money will be collected.

Digging themselves deeper holes in their desire to rein in social media seems to be a developing trait amongst politicians.

Comments

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Max Phin

To Mr Basil and co. It's a really simple formula.

Do good and word will spread.

Do bad and word will spread.

What's so hard about understanding that?

Jimmy Awagl

Most politicians are puppets without wisdom, in their job just for personal gain. PNG is running into the grip of greedy wolves.

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