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PNG State Broadcaster Suspends Senior Editor

December 15, 2010

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned that Papua New Guinea’s public broadcaster is bowing to political pressures, after it suspended a senior news editor this week.

Amid deepening political controversy in the Pacific Island nation, Dora Masseung, executive news director of the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), was suspended on full pay on December 14. Government officials had reportedly alleged the broadcaster was biased in its reporting on current political activities.

The suspension came one day after Michael Somare stepped aside as Prime Minister while a tribunal assesses allegations that he failed to lodge several annual financial statements in the 1990s. Somare has regularly accused the media and public officials of bias and lying about him.

NBC managing director Memafu Kapera told local journalists that new editorial rules to check political news reports before going to air were being instituted to ensure balance in reporting, according to the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF). Kapera denied NBC, the largest broadcasting organisation in PNG, is being gagged.

PFF said in a statement it had no doubt that Masseung’s suspension was connected to recent political turmoil. The organisation is worried that the suspension of Masseung, linked to the new edicts on scrutiny of political reporting, result from political pressures rather than independent efforts to improve reporting quality.

The IFJ supports PFF’s call for PNG’s Government to allow the national media to do its work without fear or political pressure.

“The IFJ calls on NBC to reinstate Dora Masseung to her position immediately, and urges the PNG Government to recognise the role of the PNG Media Council in handling media complaints,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“Public broadcasters must be independent of political influence and pressure from the Government in order to fulfill their essential role in upholding robust and accountable democratic practice.”

The IFJ supported PFF’s position that allegations of imbalance and biased reporting are often an excuse for public officials to seek to control media organisations and journalists.

ENDS

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