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PNG’s attacks on media freedom lead to global downgrade

Atrocities like the shooting of university students protesting against corruption have led to PNG's reputation on basic freedoms being downgraded globally

JOSEF BENEDICT | Civicus Monitor | Edited

JOHANNESBURG – ‘People Power Under Attack’, a report released today by Civicus Monitor and which tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, depicts the dismal state of civic freedoms in the Asia-Pacific region.

The report categorises civic space as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open depending on a country’s approach to freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

In the Pacific, Papua New Guinea and Nauru have been downgraded to join Fiji in the ‘obstructed’ category.

A staggering 94% percent of people in the Asia Pacific region live in countries with closed, repressed or obstructed civic space.

Activists are facing increasing levels of persecution and the media is under assault.

As governments seek ways to remain in power, citizens who take to the streets to seek changes are frequently met with violence and many are prosecuted.

Nauru is being downgraded due the increasing restrictions on press freedom in the country. This is hampering independent scrutiny of Nauru’s policies and practices, especially of the Australian-run refugee detention centres on the island, where there have been widespread reports of abuse.

As for PNG, media freedom continues to deteriorate with journalists subject to harassment and attacks because of their reporting. Land rights, environmental and anti-corruption activists have also faced threats and arrests.

Our research reveals that censorship is the most common civic space violation in the Asia Pacific region, occurring in at least 20 countries. Censorship in China has increased under Xi Jinping with the government selectively blocking critical outlets and social media sites.

The Chinese leadership has devoted more and more resources to controlling content online to silence important voices advocating reform. Other tactics being used by governments to control the public narrative include taking news channels off the air, intercepting the circulation of newspapers, blocking websites or intimidating and prosecuting journalists.

Despite the bleak picture, some positive civic space developments have also been documented in the region. In July a new Whistleblowers' Protection Act was passed in Solomon Islands. It is designed to protect activists who expose corruption from reprisals.

Over twenty organisations collaborate to compile the Civicus Monitor which provides an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents.

The Monitor has published more than 1,400 civic space updates in the last two years, data which is analysed in ‘People Power Under Attack’,

Download People Power Under Attack 2018


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Lindsay F Bond

At first glance, the idea of tracking respect for fundamental freedoms in countries has appeal, especially where considering civic space as "closed, repressed" and so on. For citizens who take to the streets to seek change, the prospect is daunting, even damaging by inhibition of self.

As logic holds for researchers (trackers) to present findings for wider credence, categorising nations (countries) such that Papua New Guinea might be listed as among the 'obstructed' maybe but hues fluorescently glossed.

More complex than tongue may speak or taste, are retardants within societies, and restraints not so obvious by measure at market places and civic convocation spaces.

By the very news media of the profession spoken of and celebrated today in PNG Attitude, but as viewed of news in Australia, it is seen: "Lawyers appealing former [senior religious cleric's] conviction for covering up child abuse have argued that convincing a child to perform a sex act did not constitute indecent assault in the 1970s."

Though not from the cleric but from 'lawyers', oddity of purpose in appeal crosses advocacy of children being such of the aspired Kingdom. In the space provided at public expense, among professional actors publicly endowed, as gazed upon by public and persons pressed to report, is oddity too complex to court with question?

Both in the writing of this question and in the publishing in this webpage, question implies no more than surprise and is not to inhibit opportunity for use of surprising contention. Civility at court is to be cherished.

If suffering surprise is an expectation at court, safeguarded by principle and constraints, it offers aspect of modelling process for 'out of doors' locations, where society at large is on trust to itself, and governance ought well to be respective.

Journalists and media principals are to be encouraged, so to be accurate, interpretive, distinguish-ably ethical and empathetic, and enabled with trust at serving the societal and national wellbeing.

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