PNG dailies eroding public trust, says NGO

1:01 pm on 4 May 2020

A report has found that Papua New Guinea's daily newspapers often displayed a "deference" to the office of prime minister in their stories.

To mark World Press Freedom Day, Transparency International PNG has released a preliminary statement from its forthcoming report on media trends in the country.

The Post Courier office in Konedobu, Port Moresby.

The Post Courier, along with The National, is one of the two daily newspapers in PNG. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Transparency has zeroed in on PNG's newspapers, saying "most people rely more on print media than social media for their daily dose of current affairs and information".

Analysing a period from June 2017 to August 2018, the report looks at the balance of coverage on governance issues in particular.

The two dailies, which dominate the market, were found to have demonstrated overwhelming deference to the Prime Minister at the time, Peter O'Neill.

In general, PNG enjoyed a relatively free media, but civil society noted this had been under threat in recent years.

The NGO said the threats to PNG's media freedom were most obvious when it came to major national events that required objective reporting in the public interest.

It said recent instances where the ability of media to report had been hampered by other interests, often political, included the 2017 national Election, the 2018 APEC Leaders Summit.

The 2019 political transition, which resulted in James Marape becoming prime minister, and public spending on the national response to Covid-19 were also major events requiring independent journalistic coverage.

File photo: Middle of a PNG daily newspaper.

File photo: Middle of a PNG daily newspaper. Photo: RNZ Pacific

"Journalists in PNG are further disadvantaged by the lack of Right to Information legislation to enable them to obtain public documents from the State," Transparency said.

In the absence of a law regarding the right to information in PNG media outlets were further beholden to political interests as sources of information.

This relationship eroded public trust in news outlets, the NGO explained.