The village of Baliau on Papua New Guinea’s Manam island has publicly apologised to an assaulted journalist and praised media coverage in the wake of the eruption of Manam island. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomed the prompt detainment of the perpetrators with the village leaders cooperation less than 24 hours after the incident.
National Daily journalist Dorothy Mark was punched in the face in the attack on August 25 after she entered Baliau village with four other journalists to report on the unfolding disaster. It is alleged that local villager Peter Sukua confronted Mark who was taking pictures at the time, hit her in the face and threatened to throw her camera into the sea.
“While I sat face down and spitting blood, they kicked me until some people intervened and stopped them,” Dorothy Mark said.
The attackers demanded that local governor and MPs should have been there instead of the media. The group of journalists were rescued by ward councillor for Dugulava village Paul Maburau and walked for one hour through a bush track.
Henry Konaka, on behalf of the Baliau villagers and the village kukurai (leader), Casper Kauke, said in a statement it was an “unfortunate and deplorable act of physical violence” as he extended an apology from the people of Baliau village to Mark and the media team.
The statement said: “With the gravest heart I had extended our profound sorrow and apology with shame and regret to Ms Mark . . .It is regrettable that our people have venged their frustrations and anger on an innocent party, least of which, the media fraternity.”
Last week the IFJ joined the Pacific Island New Association (PINA), PNG’s National Broadcasting Corporation, the Pacific Freedom Forum and the Pacific Media in condemning the assault and demanding swift action against the perpetrators.
Konaka said a small number of villagers had regrettably resorted to violence in taking out their anger and frustration. In issuing the apology, he also condemned the ongoing neglect of the Manam islanders, many who have been forced to live in refugee camps on the mainland since an evacuation after an earlier eruption in 2004. Baliau’s chief said he would host a reconciliation “as soon as possible and customarily apologise to Ms Mark”.
The IFJ said: “The IFJ is deeply concerned at this attack and its impact on Dorothy Mark, but welcomes the positive steps being made to secure justice and her swift recovery from this shameful incident at a time when media are most needed.”
* Updated on September 3, 2018.
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