Freedom of the Press 2015 - Papua New Guinea

2015 Scores

Press Status: Free
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst): 29
Legal Environment (0 = best, 30 = worst): 6
Political Environment (0 = best, 40 = worst): 14
Economic Environment (0 = best, 30 = worst): 9

News media in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have traditionally been among the strongest and most independent in the South Pacific, but press freedom has eroded somewhat in recent years.

Legal Environment

Freedoms of speech, the press, and information are guaranteed under Section 46 of the constitution. Journalists can be sued for defamation in civil cases, but it is not a criminal offense. In April 2014, the prime minister filed multiple defamation cases against two critical bloggers; the suits remained unresolved at year's end. PNG does not have an access to information law.

The Media Council of Papua New Guinea (MCPNG) has served as a buffer against government pressure by lobbying for media freedom, managing a complaints process, and undertaking media research. The council also has a well-developed code of ethics, which member journalists follow. However, the MCPNG's executive director, Nimo Kama, was suspended in June 2011 after an independent audit of Australian government funding to the organization found evidence of fraud. Donors subsequently withdrew support, and the future of the council remained in limbo in 2014.

Political Environment

The closure of the Australian Associated Press (AAP) bureau in late 2013, which ended the news agency's 60-year presence in PNG, has reportedly had a serious impact on the media landscape. Correspondents working for AAP often broke major stories and carried out investigations that have not been matched by local outlets. Other foreign news services have relied on stringers to cover PNG, with occasional visits by reporters.

Throughout 2014, there were concerns over secrecy and obstruction of journalists attempting to report on Manus Island, an Australian detention center for migrants and asylum seekers that is frequently condemned by human rights groups for its harsh conditions.

Threats and harassment against journalists and attempts to interfere with their work continue to occur, particularly in reprisal for investigative reporting on wrongdoing by officials. In June 2014, police assaulted EMTV reporter Quinton Alomp and cameraman Gesoko Adrian as they attempted to report on alleged police abuses in the capital. Both were temporarily detained without charge, and their video footage was destroyed. In October, media freedom groups condemned the abduction and sexual assault of three women journalists working for the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in Port Moresby. According to local media reports, a minibus delivering staff to their homes was seized by a group of armed men near a suburban settlement. Two of the women were reportedly hospitalized after their release.

Economic Environment

Both of the country's daily newspapers are foreign owned. The Post-Courier is owned by an Australian subsidiary of the U.S.-based News Corporation, while the National, which now has a larger circulation than its older rival, is owned by the Malaysian logging company Rimbunan Hijau.

Broadcast media consist of the main public broadcaster, the NBC; several major commercial radio networks, such as Nau FM and FM 100; and the main private television station, EMTV. A number of private outlets, including EMTV, are owned by Fiji-based companies. Radio is an important source of news due to the country's isolated settlements and low literacy rates.

The government does not restrict access to the internet, and usage has been growing, but lack of infrastructure limited penetration to roughly 9 percent of the population in 2014.

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