NOOSA – Readers of PNG Attitude have joined thousands of Papua New Guineans and people internationally in voicing strong support for journalist and blogger Scott Waide.
Waide has been suspended from his senior job with EMTV after the television station management received instructions from the Papua New Guinea government to do so.
The prominent journalist was linked to a story broadcast on Saturday 17 November which originated in New Zealand and mentioned that prime minister Jacinta Ardern would not be travelling one of the 40 Maseratis imported by the PNG government for use at APEC.
The purchase had generated great controversy and much criticism in PNG and in the overseas media.
It is unclear what role Waide played in relation to the broadcast of this story, which went to air during the APEC leaders’ summit in Port Moresby.
In a message to staff, the state-owned broadcaster EMTV said it had been forced to suspend Waide and told staff not to discuss the matter or make “any comments or speculation to anyone outside EMTV, or on social media”.
It emphasised that Waide was suspended and not dismissed and said it is addressing the matter as being one of “the utmost importance and priority".
But EMTV managers and their political masters should understand - but obviously don't - that to punish a journalist for honest, straightforward and ethical investigative reporting is unacceptable whatever form it takes and that their decision will have serious repercussions.
In the days before APEC, Waide, with the help of his audience, had investigated drug and medical equipment shortages in PNG hospitals. During the summit he had reported on Chinese restrictions on the media.
Radio New Zealand reports that in recent days Waide also wrote about the police minister assuring disciplinary forces that no action would be taken against personnel who stormed parliament over APEC related payments, although it has been reported that this decisions has since been overturned.
There was a stunning reaction to Waide's suspension from PNG and around the world on social media.
On Twitter PNG Attitude reader @Oldman__Emu said: “EMTV leadership team have not balls to support their staff member in this case. Scott has ruffled the feathers of PO, JT, Hawkins, Temu and their government. Boycott EMTV. Where is the Media Council of PNG. Is that the organisation Neville Choi heads?” The Media Council later issued a public statement supporting Waide.
Transparency International PNG (@TI_PNG) tweeted: “Democratic freedoms that allow journalists and citizens to question those in power must not be curtailed. We are seeking clarification on allegations that @EMTVOnline journalist @Scott_Waide was silenced by political interests.”
“Worrying news that one of PNG’s finest journalists has been suspended for critical reporting. Sad fact is you can’t seriously investigate wide scale elite criminality in-country without facing huge personal and professional risks,” wrote criminologist and researcher Prof Kristian Lasslett (@KLasslett).
“The truth hurts!” tweeted @mangga_buang. “It takes a true investigative and neutral journalist to report the news as it is. @Scott_Waide is unique and the best reporter by far compared to the other PNG reporters. Something good will come out of this for this brilliant reporter. Pen is mightier.”
Dan McGarry (@dailypostdan), editor of the Vanuatu Daily Post wrote: “One of the most employable journos working in PNG. If I were covering the news there, I’d snap him up like that. I said: If I were covering the news there, I would give this man a job. Which is to say he’s great, and probably available.”
"Scott's reporting without fear or favour has always given pain to our leaders revealing the truth through thorough investigations & hard facts, said Gordon Wavimbi (@gordway). "They jumped at the opportunity to silence him. This is not right. If you can't handle the heat stay out of the kitchen (Cabinet)."