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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Papua New Guinea

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Papua New Guinea, February 1997, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Press freedom conditions in Papua New Guinea stood at a crossroad at year's end. The country's small but largely independent media face serious threats from two proposed media bills, introduced in parliament in December, which the government hopes to swiftly pass.

The Media Commission Bill requires all journalists and media organizations to register annually. Unregistered journalists face fines of K1,000 (US$760) for a first offense and K2,000 (US$1,520) for subsequent offenses; unregistered media organizations face fines of up to K10,000 (US$7,600) while their directors face fines of up to K5,000 (US$3,800) and four years' imprisonment. A nine-member media commission, to be appointed by the head of state, has the power to refuse or renew an application for registration. A second draft law, the National Information and Communication Authority Bill, contains libel provisions that would force journalists to reveal their sources or face punishment, with no possibility of appeal.

According to the government of Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan, these measures are meant to "make the media more accountable to the government." But local journalists suspect that the new measures are intended to muzzle the media before national elections in 1997. Tellingly, the bills' framers looked to their neighbors in East Asia for models of repressive legislation. Ben Micah, the chair of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), which drew up the draft media laws, preceded the bills' introduction with a study tour of China, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia – countries which possess particularly restrictive press laws.

Both the continued armed secessionist struggle on the island of Bougainville and serious crime problems on the mainland curtailed press freedom. Journalists were denied access to Bougainville, where a mid-year military operation by the Papua New Guinea Defense Forces failed to bring an end to the seven-year conflict on the island. And law-and-order issues so dominated the government's agenda that officials imposed a curfew in Papua New Guinea's three main cities – Port Moresby, Lae, and Mount Hagen.

June 28
Benny Malaisa, EMTV, ATTACKED

Police attacked Malaisa and Kila, camera operators for the Port Moresby station EMTV, while they were covering a student protest at the Waigani campus of the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). Six policemen kicked and punched Malaisa as he filmed police beating and arresting students. Malaisa sustained bruising, and his video camera was knocked to the ground and damaged. A police officer slapped Kila, who was acting as Malaisa's driver, in the face when he attempted to assist Malaisa. Deputy Commissioner of Police Luwick Kembu announced that an investigation would be conducted into the police actions at UPNG, in which police reportedly fired tear gas and live ammunition. No action had been taken by year's end.

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