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PNG: Editorial - A Mirror Of The Times

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PORT MORESBY (The National/Pacific Media Watch): The National has been accused of favouring the incumbent PNG Government.

As far as hard news is concerned, that is a claim that we reject.

We have, as always, continued to report the facts.

We leave it to our readers to form their own opinions as to the merits of those making the news.

In our opinion and letters pages, we have sought to reflect the mood of the country over the issues of the day.

It is all too easy to state or imply that a particular arm of the PNG media is biased towards one political party or group of parties.

It is time that politicians with differing agendas acknowledged that a newspaper's opinion and letters pages, if they are to be a true reflection of public opinion, will often be slanted towards one of a number of political points of view.

For that we make no apology. That is the purpose of those pages.

In the present debate over the desirability or otherwise of extending the term of governments, there can be no denying that popular opinion as reflected by our readers has expressed a fear that a change in government at this time could lead to a repetition of interrupted progress for PNG.

Readers have pointed to abandoned projects, and the political, economic and social instability that have been the inevitable result of such votes in the past.

Under the Westminster system, votes of no confidence are intended to be used only in extreme situations, where the government of the day has demonstrated a complete inability to properly manage the affairs of the nation.

It appears that our readers do not believe the Somare Government has brought PNG to a state of terminal collapse.

Our opinion pages have reflected that point of view, and will continue to do so as long as that emphasis faithfully reflects the mood of the electorate.

It is noticeable that this sort of criticism of media coverage nearly always comes from individuals or parties in opposition to the government of the day.

That is their perfect right, and we will always reflect that right by publishing their criticisms of this newspaper and its opinions.

That is precisely what is meant by freedom of speech.

The National readily accepts the responsibility of carrying not only the majority opinion of the day, but the opinions of the minority that disagrees with that majority.

This newspaper's editorial policies are beholden to no-one.

We are not instructed by faceless figures to publish or not to publish any material whatever.

Our editorial policy is based on the tried and true framework of a free press, administered by those whose freedom of judgement is absolute, and whose editorial integrity is beyond question.

It is a remarkable fact that the critics of today are often those who have heaped praise upon us in the past, when they held the reins of power.

That is a familiar and unfortunate worldwide phenomenon.

Equally familiar is the irony of receiving simultaneous scathing accusations of bias from political figures who hold directly opposing points of view.

These criticisms often cross our desks on the very same day.

There is an old adage in the newspaper business that relates to that experience - criticisms received simultaneously from government and opposition spokesmen can only mean that journalists and editors are pursuing an unbiased course, and have every reason to be satisfied with their judgement and their writing.

The current situation, and the concerns of those who have commented both for and against the extension of the term of the government, will continue to pre-occupy us until the vote is taken in Parliament.

We have expressed the opinion that prime ministers are not to be lightly overthrown.

We have pointed out that members of Parliament are elected by the people to represent their views and to try and meet their aspirations.

It is up to the members to decide the fate of any prime minister and his government.

But to do so in contradiction of the wishes of the people cannot be tweaked to fit the framework of democracy.

It can only encourage the suspicion that it is personal power and not the interests of the people that is at stake.



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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