Who was culprit behind the govt's revenge on Waide?
Waide reinstated! People power gives PNG govt a wake-up call

Our media freedom is under threat; but we have a voice

Awagl_Jimmy
Jimmy Awagl - "Scott Waide, the people are with you. You can’t lose your voice because we are your voice"

JIMMY AWAGL

KUNDIAWA - Papua New Guinea is a democratic society bound by its constitution which includes freedom of expression.

Neither leaders nor lawmakers are meant to suppress the voices of liberation or deprive citizens themselves of having a voice.

Yet the suppression of public voices is obviously being practiced in PNG - with further restrictions being considered.

The recent suspension of courageous EMTV journalist Scott Waide is a mockery of media freedom in a democratically constituted country.

The political leaders, cronies and managers implicated have been high-handed in dictating their own wishes and imposing them on media and journalism - and on the people - of this country.

These would-be autocrats seem to believe that reporting on what they see as sensitive issues (to them) is morally unjustifiable or unethical and does not warrant reporting for public consumption by anyone, especially an eminent journalist.

This attitude, they seem to think, elevates them above the constitution and people of this country - and they seem to believe this elevated role is available to them but not to any of the rest of us.

That is rubbish. The media must be given the freedom to investigate and report on malice, corruption, scandals and illegal practices in PNG. On behalf of the people.

At present, political leaders and bureaucrats feel they can oppress media employees who might look into their corrupt practices.

Even media owners and senior executives, especially where they have conflicts of interest, take the side of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats and become part of the oppression and suppression.

The life of a whistle-blower in this environment can be short and unhappy.

It subverts the PNG constitution to harbour or hide corruption and scandals but it has become a practice that is widely accepted amongst the elites.

There are only a few people of patriotic heart who have the morality, strength and commitment to report fearlessly on issues which the people of our nation deserve to be told about.

One of them is Scott Waide, who has been suspended for a trivial matter. One outcome of this may be a warning to the others: ‘If we can take out Waide; what chance have you got?’ A warning and a threat.

There are many political leaders and senior bureaucrats who accept bribes or other corrupt benefits and who try to cage the truth and prevent it from escaping to where the people might see it.

Journalists themselves may also be intimidated (and bribed) to report or not to report. They too have their cronies.

And they also have jobs and families and obligations. So where do they turn if their owners and managers are not on their side when they want to report the truth?

What do they do when to report the truth will see their story not used and their privileges or even their employment disappear?

I am reminded that, during last year’s general election, one of PNG’s leading independent voices Martyn Namorong was brought before the court by electoral commissioner Gamato who alleged he had been defamed.

Gamato took exception that Namorong had written that Gamato rhymed with ‘tomato’. Which it does. I believe this matter was quietly resolved.

Defamation, or the threat of it, is a common means of suppressing media freedom. In PNG it is a weapon used by those who have money to spare against those who have little.

There are, or there should be, two reliable avenues to uphold the integrity of a sovereign state: the justice system through the courts; and freedom of speech through the media and effective journalism.

If the courts or media are compromised and dictated to by political leaders, then PNG will be in a terrible state: taken over by dictators and crooks to the ruin of our freedoms.

The corrupt minority of the egocentric and greedy-hearted are sucking out the fibre of PNG as a democratic country.

It is an important responsibility of patriotic Papua New Guineans to sound the alarm on corruption and its impact on our country.

We need our journalists, writers and poets to expose what is good for the country and what is not good for the country. And if the big media let us down, we must use social media to carry the message.

And, if the politicians try to stifle social media, and this has been proposed, we should defend the people vigorously against such suppression. We must understand that voicing the truth is not a personal assault on the guilty, it is a moral duty.

The voice of truth, along with concrete facts and evidence, must be heard.

EMTV management let down the people of PNG when Scott Waide was suspended.

EMTV acted as the immoral hand of implicated leaders who desired to suppress a journalist who has contributed esteem and integrity to the PNG media.

We want the media in PNG to be seen around the world as truthful, ethical and professional – like it once was. We do not want it to be run by autocrats.

The Media Council and Transparency International have condemned Waide’s suspension but they need to do more. They need to develop strategies to protect and advance freedom of the media and freedom of speech in this country.

Our media must be free to report on any issues of concern and in the best interests of the people of Papua New Guinea.

Our journalists must have the freedom to write and speak with authenticity and morality as the voices of the people.

Our people need to be informed and educated to give them a chance to rid the shame of us being one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Our constitution must be respected, not regarded as an inconvenient collection of papers.

Voicing the truth is a healthy antidote in a nation that needs to drive out the poisonous plants of fraud and corruption that currently bloom in every walk of life.

And a note to our brave friend, the journalist Scott Waide. The people of Papua New Guinea are with you. You can’t lose your voice because we are your voice. Be bold and continue being an extraordinary reporter.

Papua New Guineans - throw yourselves behind your media to help liberate our country from corruption and dictatorship.

Comments

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Jimmy Awagl

Thanks, Phil and Barbara

Barbara Short

Excellent essay. Thanks.

Philip Fitzpatrick

That's a very fine essay Jimmy.

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