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PNG: Madang Police Beat Up Journalism Educator

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PORT MORESBY (The National/Pacific Media Watch): Police have assaulted and verbally abused a prominent Papua New Guinean newspaper columnist and journalism educator for reporting on their role in evicting settlers from Madang town, The National reports.

Kevin Pamba, The National's columnist and a Divine Word University lecturer who covered the eviction exercise carried out last week, said he feared for his life.

He was picked up by heavily armed policemen and taken to the back of a police station for questioning over the reporting of the eviction exercise.

The Highlands-based policemen, who were brought to Madang for the exercise, claimed Pamba's report was biased and painted a bad picture of them in the eyes of their superiors at the police headquarters in Konedobu, a Port Moresby suburb.

On Wednesday morning, when the story on the eviction was published in The National, the policemen - in full battle gear and fully armed - went in truck loads to the DWU campus several times in search of Pamba.

They spotted him in town, picked him up, and took him to Jomba police station for questioning.

Pamba gave an account to The National of what happened when they arrived at the police station.

"They threatened to beat me up while one of the policemen tried twice to slash my face with a pocket-knife but I avoided it," The National quoted Pamba as saying.

"In fact, in the first attempt, he tried to chop my left ear off, but I instinctively moved my head away from the direction of the knife.

"This happened at the back car park of Jomba police station at about 11am in front of the passing public, a fellow journalist and some other police personnel from Madang."

Pamba said about 20 policemen, all dressed in riot uniform and armed, wanted to know who gave him permission to go in to get pictures of the properties destroyed during the Finch Road evictions exercise, and who his source of information was.

"During this interrogation, one policeman punched me at the back of my head. Minutes later, another punched me across the left side of my ear and face from the back," he said.

"I sustained a swollen and painful ear from this afterwards.

"I could not see these assailants as they were at my back. My attention was concentrated on the barrage of opinions and threats discharged by the policemen in front of me.

"Some screamed: 'Detainim em pastaim' (detain him first). Others said I can be charged for defaming the police."

The policemen then demanded a "front page apology" for Pamba's "misreporting", and they wanted it done within 24 hours.

Pamba said he was released upon intervention by the police mobile squad¹s commander, Inspector Anthony Wagambie.

"If Inspector Wagambie had not arrived and had this incident happened at a hidden location or at night, the story would perhaps be different," Pamba said.

"Inspector Wagambie, maintained a cool composure and his men seemed to cool down after noticing his mood."

Pamba, who suffered bruises and cuts to his face and head, did not lay a formal complaint of assault against the police.



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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