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COMMENT: By Scott Waide in Lae

Papua New Guinea’s Communications Minister, Timothy Masiu, recently told a news conference to mark World Press Freedom Day that the state of journalism and broadcasting in the country has seen a general decline.

He was critical of the quality and the content of the media in general.  The former NBC journalist and broadcaster had reported on Bougainville during the decade-long crisis. He had served with former NBC head and senior journalist Joseph Ealedona.

I agreed with him. But I couldn’t let the statement go without challenge.  While many have been critical of the state of “investigative” journalism in the country and the apparent lack of impact the media has had on the corruption and abuse, there has been very little investment in Papua New Guinea’s journalism schools over 25 years.

The University of Papua New Guinea’s journalism programme is a shadow of its former self. The once vibrant newsroom centered department of the 1980s and 1990s no longer functions as it did.

Back then, the university produced journalists who were a force to be reckoned with. They shaped the politics, rubbed shoulders with the political and business heavies and were were unafraid to be openly critical of the government abuses.

At Divine Word University, the people focused approach to journalism and development shaped how rural communities were given a voice.

Their former students  provided a vital link between the people and their government.

Quality training
That generation reported on the various constitutional impasses, Bougainville, the Sandline crisis and the inquiries that followed all of the above.  The quality of training prepared them to be active participants in a growing country.

Both schools are now struggling. The lack of investment from government is evident.  Both universities have tried their best,  with the little resources they have,  to produce the best they can.

So I issued a challenge to the Communications Minister: If you are going to be critical of the training, I want you, through the Communications Ministry, to invest in training in our universities.

He was kind enough to listen. We began a discussion immediately after the conference which I sincerely hope will lead to some progress.

The same challenge goes to every other politician who is critical of the quality of journalism training. Students have to be taught well. Schools have to be given the ability to improve, build, innovate and grow.  That means spending money to help achieve this.

The same challenge goes to the government for investment in our teachers’ colleges and our biggest engineering university, UNITECH.  If our foundations are flawed, the outcome will be disastrous.

Asia Pacific Report republishes articles from Lae-based Papua New Guinean television journalist Scott Waide’s blog, My Land, My Country, with permission.

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