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Unionists Turn On Journalists

PORT MORESBY: Papua New Guinean trade unionists who have been gathering at the Sir John Guise stadium in recent days to protest against privatisation and the downwriting of members' contributions by the National Provident Fund (NPF) yesterday turned on media personnel covering their planned march to Parliament, the National newspaper reports.

Media representatives, including The National, were forced to flee the grounds.

In the process an EMTV cameraman suffered minor injuries when he was set upon by the angry crowd. The cameraman required four stitches to the head.

Media Council of PNG president Peter Aitsi immediately condemned the attack, saying that it was an example of the alarming increase in attacks against media workers.

"The Media Council reminds all groups and members of the public that the media is there as the eyes and ears of the community," he said.

"Our media workers are just working men and women of PNG, they are simply there to do their jobs.

"We have a difficult job ... when we do not cover a story, we are criticised as being biased, and when we do our people are intimidated and even attacked.

"The organisers of the rally must take responsibility for the actions of their supporters. If you want your side of the story to be carried in the media, the harassment must stop."

The proposed union movement march to Parliament has yet to take place because the police have not given their approval, although the union executives had resolved on Wednesday to meet the Prime Minister at Parliament House at lunch time yesterday.

The Prime Minister's Office maintained yesterday that Sir Mekere has no plans to meet with the PNG Trades Union Congress (PNGTUC) officials.

He said no arrangements have been made for such a meeting and there was never any intention to hold one.

Sir Mekere reiterated that PNGTUC general secretary John Paska should start looking after the interests of union members by engaging constructively with the Privatisation Commission.

He said the commission is developing a range of plans to protect workers interests when privatisation of Government enterprises take place.

"These include trust funds to allow workers to purchase shares in their new companies at a discount, retaining programs and redundancy packages," he added.



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