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Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

A former editor of the PNG Post-Courier has condemned is old newspaper for a front page article “insulting the intelligence” of Papua New Guineans as tension builds over the looming vote of no confidence in the government.

Parliament resumes today and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill faces the biggest challenge to his leadership since 2011.

Writing on social media, Alexander Rheeney distributed yesterday’s Post-Courier front page lead story favouring O’Neill drawn from a government press release and said the country deserved “independent” coverage.

READ MORE: PNG vote of no confidence too close to call

Former Post-Courier editor Alexander Rheeney’s criticism. Image: PMC screenshot

“Woke up to more trash published by Papua New Guinea’s oldest daily newspaper and my former employer,” said Rheeney, who is also a former chair of the PNG Media Council and currently an editor of the Samoa Observer.

“This is not a story — it quoted a PNG Government press release verbatim — without incorporating critical background on Peter O’Neill’s role in 2011 in usurping the [Sir Michael] Somare government from office, an action which the PNG Supreme Court later declared to be illegal and ordered the Somare government’s reinstatement.


“Please stop insulting the intelligence of Papua New Guineans with your content and start practising real journalism, which will empower rather than disempower citizens.

“If anyone knows who the editor of the Post-Courier is these days, get a screenshot of my post and send it to him or her.

‘Critical juncture’
“PNG has come to a critical juncture in its history, and we in the media have a responsibility to give readers, listeners and viewers independent coverage of the political developments in Port Moresby and the looming vote of no confidence.”

As editor of the Post-Courier, Rheeney was renowned for his ethical and independent brand of journalism.

Under a “staff reporters” byline, the entire 14 paragraph story in the Post-Courier yesterday was a directly quoted press release.

The story claimed the O’Neill government was “firm and ready” with its coalition partners to govern for the rest of the parliamentary term, “as they were mandated by the people of Papua New Guinea at the 2017 elections”.

O’Neill was quoted as saying his government still had the support of 60 MPs in the 111-seat Parliament.

The Prime Minister praised his government’s policies and accused the National Alliance Party of “vigorously encouraging the behind the scenes activities to destabilise political parties” in the country.

‘Too close to call’
Meanwhile, a seasoned analyst and commentator on PNG politics and affairs, Keith Jackson, described the looming no-confidence vote as “too close to call”.

Jackson, who publishes the PNG Attitude blog, said that the “disparate alliance of opposition forces had achieved a narrow lead” in the race to gain support to oust O’Neill.

He said that as more politicians had joined the self-declared “alternative government”, they had brought with them a litany of complaints about the capability of the O’Neill administration

Jackson quoted former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta as saying: “We have a government that is government by one man for one man, for his benefit and the benefit of his friends.”

“The PNG that Michael Somare, Julius Chan, Paias Wingti, Rabbie Namaliu and others shaped has been changed profoundly and for worse in the last seven years by just one man.

“Papua New Guinea is sick and we get sicker if we don’t change this man. We can fix it. We have the medicine.”

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