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PNG Government's gross violations against free speech

PNG Governments gross violations against free speech
Censorship of The Opposition film at PNG Human Rights Festival
Saturday 13 October 2018

PORT MORESBY | An internationally acclaimed investigative documentaryof Paga Hill community’s fight for justice from the illegal eviction and demolition of their homes in downtown Port Moresby has been banned from screening today at the PNG Human Rights Festival.

“The ban highlights the lingering limits on free speech in our country and the continued attempts to censor our story of resistance against gross human rights violations” 1, claimed Paga Hill leader Joe Moses, the main character in The Opposition film who had to seek exile in the United Kingdom after fighting for his community’s rights.2,3

“This censorship comes as a deep disappointment for my community who have suffered greatly over the past 6 years.”

The Opposition film tells the David-and-Goliath battles of a community evicted, displaced, abandoned – their homes completely demolished at the hands of two Australian-run companies, Curtain Brothers and Paga Hill Development Company, and the PNG state. What was once home to 3000 people of up to four generations, Paga Hill is now part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit ‘AELM Precinct’ which will take place this November.4,5

Mr. Moses continued, “We appreciate the PNG Human Rights Film Festival for choosing to screen The Opposition film at their Madang and Port Moresby screenings.”

“It is shameful that our government continues to limit free speech and put such pressure on our country’s only annual arts and human rights event. How does this make us look to the world leaders who will be coming here for the APEC meeting in November?”

Under the theme “Tokautnau long senisim tumora" (Speak up today to change tomorrow) the mission of the PNG Human Rights Film Festival includes “We are all born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that the international and local human rights films “promote increased respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights in Papua New Guinea.”

Paga Hill youth leader Allan Mogerema, who also features in the film stated, “The right to freedom of speech and freedom ofpress is provided for under Section 46 of the PNG Constitution. By banning our story, the PNG government is in breach of our Constitution and our rights as Papua New Guinean citizens.”6

As a Human Rights Defender, Mr. Mogerema has been invited to the 2018 Annual Human Rights and People’s Diplomacy Training Program for Human Rights Defenders from the Asia-Pacific Region and Indigenous Australia organised by The Diplomacy Training Program (DTP) and The Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP) to share his story of the illegal land grab, eviction and demolition of his community.

“The film has already been screened in settlements across PNG and at the Human Rights Film Festival’s Madang screenings. No matter how hard they try to censor us, our story continues to live, and our fight for justice continues to thrive", continued Mr. Mogerema.

"No matter how long it takes our community will get justice!”

1. Dame Carol Kidu is also featured in The Opposition film. Initially an advocate for the Paga Hill community, Dame Carol turns her back on them by setting up a consultancy to be hired by the Paga Hill Development Corporation, on a contract of $178,000 for three months' work. In 2017 she launched a legal action in the Supreme Court of NSW to censor the film. In June 2017, the court ruled against Dame Carol's application.

2. "I was scared for my life": Paga Hill activist seeks asylum in the UK, ABC Pacific Beat, 11 August 2017,

3. Papua New Guinea land activist vows to battle for his people from Britain, 8 August 2017,

4. Aid to PNG without justice is no help at all, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 2017,

5. Port Moresby settlers evicted to make way for Australian-backed development 'abandoned', Sydney Morning Herald, 10 June 2017,

6. Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea,

© Scoop Media

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