Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) are gravely concerned by the
Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG)’s announcement of a new 'monitoring' committee, tasked with identifying those expressing views
it considers 'subversive’.
On Wednesday February 22, the O’Neill/Namah
government's Chief of Staff, Ben Micah, emailed a press release announcing
details of the new committee to local journalists, as well as posting the
release on a PNG media page on social networking website Facebook.
The release states that any person found using
their mobile phone, email or Facebook to spread information considered 'malicious
and misleading' will be considered to have committed a serious crime and will
be 'dealt with'.
The statement raises strong concerns for free
speech and individual privacy rights, as it appears to criminalise the personal
use of phones, email and social networking websites without a clear legal
mandate. The statement also threatens unspecified punishment for those found to
be using personal communications technology in a manner deemed “illegal
“Freedom of speech is a key requirement of good
governance”, IFJ Asia-Pacific Office
“Policies and laws which attempt to censor or
punish those expressing themselves online, or via other communications
technologies, violate this core principle of democracy.
The IFJ believes that PNG’s existing laws are
sufficient to allow authorities to investigate legitimate acts of subversion,
and urges the Government of PNG to reconsider any plans it may have for the
monitoring and criminalisation of personal communications.
The press and public should be able to express
themselves freely without fear of intimidation or criminal prosecution”
has seen a recent rise in threats of violence against journalists, including a recent
incident where soldiers at the Murray Barracks in the country’s capital of Port Moresby threatened to
shoot PNGFM reporter Tauna George.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0950
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