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PNG Post-Courier Heads Anti-Gun Campaign

PNG Post-Courier Heads Anti-Gun Campaign

By Gorethy Kenneth

PORT MORESBY (PANPA Bulletin/Pacific Media Watch): In a response to the alarming upsurge in armed robberies, car hijackings and tribal shootouts in Papua New Guinea, the PNG Post-Courier staged an anti-gun campaign, which it ran on its front pages in May and June.

Papua New Guinea's Internal Security Minister, Bire Kimisopa, said that there were 200,000 legal gun licences in the country, which may contribute to the number of armed robberies, car hijackings and tribal shootouts.

Kimisopa told the Port Moresby-based Post-Courier, which has been running an anti-guns campaign on its front page for two weeks, that he has the backing of the Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, and the National Security Council for a total ban on guns.

Security experts now believe that if there are 200,000 licensed guns in PNG, which has a population of 5.2 million, there could be double that number of unlicensed factory-made and home-made guns.

Kimisopa said the PNG government would consider mandatory jailing of gun licence abusers and review the PNG Firearms Act with the ultimate view of banning firearms completely in the country.

"Most of our problems in this country are gun-related whether its rape, there is a gun involved, robbery, there is a gun involved, murder, there are firearms involved," he said.

Kimisopa said that guns were being smuggled into PNG on logging ships through Indonesia and the Torres Strait, off Cape York, on the northern tip of Australia.

He called on the National Capital District Commission, which runs Port Moresby to increase its budget allocation to police to fight crime in the PNG capital from K100,000 a year (about A$42,000) to K1 million (about A$420,000).

Port Moresby bore the brunt of PNG's crime problems because it was the biggest city with a high concentration of business houses, ratepayers and diplomatic corps, Kimisopa added.

Meanwhile, the Post-Courier editor, Oseah Philemon, who was himself a victim for the second time of a gang of car hijackers recently, announcing his paper would step up its anti-gun campaign with a series of hard-hitting advertisements appealing to the PNG leadership to stop the nation's violent gun culture.

The first advertisement featured a photo of the marble memorial unveiled a week ago in Mt Hagen to Australian pilot Captain Alan Mourilyan, who was shot dead in the main street of Mt Hagen last March by armed robbers after withdrawing 50 kina (about A$20) from a bank at ATM.

The photo carries alongside a simple message: "How many more memorials like this must we see around Papua New Guinea before action is taken to save the lives of innocent people?"

Post-Courier publisher Bob Howarth said a survey of his staff of 200 people around PNG showed that four out of five employees had been attacked or robbed at some time by armed raskols.

"We average about three armed hold-ups of paper sellers a week, which police are not interested in," he said.

"Our editorial bus, which delivers reporters on jobs around Port Moresby, has been hijacked at gunpoint three times in the past 18 months and some of my staff have been held up more than half a dozen times.

"The ironic thing is we are regularly criticised for presenting a bad image of PNG. We're doing absolutely everything we can with the anti-gun campaign so this image can improve," he added.



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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