While Papua New Guineans witnessed the tenth parliament unfolded on the 2nd of August 2017, it signifies a new era for democracy in this nation. Newly-elected members of parliament were sworn in and the hope of every citizen was for their elected MP to vote a credible and visionary Prime Minister.
The ruling Peoples National Congress (PNC) party was heavily challenged in the 2017 National General Elections. Almost two-third of its 65 members lost their seats and surprisingly MPs who have unseated PNC candidates decided to join PNC camp in Alotau.
The PNC government has enjoyed positive coverage from the mainstream media in the last five years.
Many people criticised the media and its reporters saying we were paid and bribed to be the government’s propagandists. There was lack of investigative reporting into several sagas involving government ministers and even the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. While journalists and mainstream media outlets stood firm to our journalism ethics, we were not able to foresee the dark hole that this government was leading our country into.
A senior journalist and President of the Media Council of Papua New Guinea Alexander Rheeney posted on his Facebook wall the following sentiments of how he sees the media was controlled over the last 5years by the PNC-led government.
“I have always been a strong believer in Public Interest Journalism – putting citizens’ welfare first and creating content that empowered rather than disempowered. But working in a PNG newsroom during the term of the O’Neill-Dion Government has been one if not the biggest challenge of my career as a journalist and editor.
Phone calls to urge or instruct journalists and editors to turn a blind eye to failures in government policy became commonplace, and the complicity by colleagues to put a good gloss on issues affecting the lives of ordinary Papua New Guineans tragically became the norm. The formation of a new government today for this nation of 8million people provides an opportunity for us in the media industry to assess our own performances as the 4th Estate and to acknowledge our failures in the last 5years to be the watchdog of government performance. From today onwards – regardless of whether PNG gets a National Alliance or PNC-led government –we should and must make a vow that we will ask the questions that matter, keep the government accountable, and create content that will empower rather than disempower Papua New Guineans.” – Alexander Rheeney.
On this day in 2011, Sir Michael Somare was illegally removed from parliament by Peter O’Neill and coalition partners including Belden Namah and Sam Basil. On this same date in 1934 Adolf Hitler become the fuhrer(dictator) of Germany. These are significant events that reminds us to always respect and uphold the constitution and democracy of this sovereign state of Papua New Guinea.
The media owes it to the 8million people of PNG to report with facts and figures and to report without fear or favour. To always keep the government in check and balance for the next five years. A free press will help our people to make better and informed choices about their future.