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By Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby

Communication Minister Timothy Masiu has hit back at recent reports termed as “inaccurate” over the control of media in Papua New Guinea from his ministerial statement in Parliament.

He said it was not true that the government was trying to control the media by setting up a Media Council.

He refuted the report, saying that the government would not control the media.

In his responce to questions raised, Masiu clarified the intent and purpose of the Media Development Policy which was basically to establish an enabling framework to recognise and develop the media in PNG to “support our development agenda”.

“Current research and recent consultations have led us to the consolidation of four main issues within the media sector,” he said.

“First is the concerns on [the] quality of journalism. By concerns we observe the decline of quality investigative journalism, the impact of substandard reporting on the development agenda, and the concerns on conduct, ethics, and accountability of journalists.

“My ministry, through the Department of ICT [Information Communications Technology], is currently collating both quantitative and qualitative data to verify the concerns on safety of journalists. We recognise that, at the moment, there is a lack of protection mechanisms for journalists.

‘Reorganising’ state-owned media
“My ministry has for the last three years looked at options on how to reorganise state-owned media outlets so that we coordinate dissemination of government information better.

“We recognise that us as government are lacking coordination in government information.

“The ministry has identified that SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises], particularly in the modern media space, are not recognised as professionals and not given appropriate support.

“By promoting access to information, media diversity, and responsible journalism, the policy aims to support the development of a more informed, engaged, and empowered citizenry in Papua New Guinea.

“On the question of how this policy will promote media freedom, early this year we released draft version 1, followed by a version 2 of the National Media Development Policy.

“In both versions of the draft policy, we proposed for the re-establishment of the PNG Media Council as an independent arm to represent and maintain standards within the media professions.

“The ministry maintains the view that the PNG Media Council, through its self-governing model, is not doing enough to grow the profession and hold journalists accountable.

Media Council ’empowered’
“Through the ministry’s proposal, the PNG Media Council would be empowered and hold mainstream media outlets accountable and establish [a] protection mechanism for journalists.

“I want to inform Members of Parliament that we have had a consultation workshop and as a result, my department is working on identifying a model where we can find common ground with all stakeholders.

“I want to remind all that this policy is not about regulating but more on building capacity and recognition within the media profession.

“The department is reviewing whether to include provisions for oversight on social media platforms and we will inform in version 3 of the draft policy.

“As a matter of update, my department will be publishing a consultation report this week.

“Following this, the consultation itself is leading us to undertake a series of nationwide surveys to better define our media landscape and ascertain data necessary to consolidate issues highlighted in the recent consultation workshop.

“My department is expected to be releasing a version 4 of the draft policy towards the end of April.

“This version 4 will be subject to further feedback. I expect to take to cabinet as early as May and should legislation be proposed, we would also start the drafting process in May.”

Gorethy Kenneth is a senior PNG Post-Courier journalist. Republished with permission.

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