PNG journalist Scott Waide reinstated

12:30 pm on 27 November 2018

The Papua New Guinea journalist Scott Waide has been reinstated after being suspended last week by his employer EMTV.

Scott Waide speaks at a Transparency International PNG youth programme.

Scott Waide speaks at a Transparency International PNG youth programme. Photo: Transparency International PNG

The state owned company's board cited Mr Waide's use of a New Zealand news story reporting that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would not travel in the Maserati fleet controversially bought for the leaders summit in the capital, Port Moresby.

It is thought the story had embarrassed the government which put pressure on the board to stand Mr Waide down.

EMTV released a statement last night saying Mr Waide had returned to active duty on Monday.

It said Mr Waide's suspension was only related to concerns of quality balanced reporting and it should not be a reflection of the EMTV management or board's stance on media freedom.

"The way this matter has escalated, without validation, has been unfortunate, and EMTV wants to make it very clear that hey respect the freedom of media... and it is something that should not be threatened in any way," EMTV's acting chief executive Sheena Hughes said.

Papua New Guinea's media council had condemned Mr Waide's suspension and politicians it said was behind it.

It said the media "must not bend to the whims of insecure politicians and spineless 'yes-men' who flaunt their authority with impunity, and against all moral and ethical judgement".

Governor Garry Juffa, centre, with a local Sing Sing group.

Governor Garry Juffa, centre, with a local Sing Sing group. Photo: Supplied

The MP and Oro provincial governor, Gary Juffa, said the suspension showed the PNG government was increasingly veering away from the democratic principles of media freedom.

"This is not democracy. There are these red-flags. There are alarm bells ringing loud and clear that we are moving towards a dictatorship," Mr Juffa said.

Mr Waide released a statement of his own saying he had been reinstated as EMTV's Deputy Regional Head of News.

He said he had been suspended on 18 November, the last day of the APEC Leaders Summit, and that while he did not wish to "dwell" on the reasons for his suspension he made the following points about media freedom.

1. Papua New Guinea is a democracy and the media is free to hold those in authority to account. This means highlighting flaws in policy and making sure mistakes are pointed out and corrected. It is an essential part of our democracy.

2. There should NEVER be any interference at the operational level by board members. The media is an institution of democracy and must remain free and independent. It is our constitutional right to report AND be critical.

3. Journalists of "state owned" media are NOT government public relations officers nor are media organizations PR machines.

4. EMTV is "state owned" which means the PEOPLE own this company through their elected government.

5. Journalism is an art… and art and creativity cannot operate in an environment of suppression and fear.

"Papua New Guinea is a critical moment of its history with the growth and influence of China, US-China trade tensions and challenges within our own country," Mr Waide said.

"We will continue to promote critical, proactive and transparent journalism. The people's voice has to be heard and the media must remain as the conduit and platform for opinions and debate and those who cannot accept it MUST step aside and let progress happen."

The journalist said he said he had been humbled by support he and his family had received "from people both here and abroad".

"Support also came from friends in the media, academia, law enforcement, the military and many other circles, too many to name," he said.

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