Clampdown on public health info slammed

National

By OGIA MIAMEL
THE churches have waded into the debate over Health Minister Sir Puka Temu’s statement stopping health workers from speaking to the media, saying it is unjust.
PNG Council of Churches secretary-general Rev Roger Joseph said the ban deprived health workers of their freedom of expression.
“There are issues for public awareness that do not require the minister’s consent,” Joseph said.
“There are, however, sensitive and controversial issues that require the minister’s consent.
“Putting a total stop to any kind of media response from workers is depriving them their right of expression.”
He said the media provided “checks and balances” for public service.
“The media is an avenue that sometimes points out hidden truths and faults and thus plays the role of checks and balances.
“In this way, leaders are guided in the paths of honesty and fairness,” he said.
But Sir Puka clarified that his instruction to stop senior health officials from speaking publicly about health matters was not intended to stop them from holding a view on issues they felt strongly about.
Sir Puka said the purpose of the circular was for the department to be consistent with its messages to avoid creating fear and confusion in the community, especially on sensitive issues such as the shortage of medical supplies.
Sir Puka said the circular had nothing to do with trying to avoid public scrutiny or suppressing people’s rights to freedom of speech.
“In every organisation, public or private, the head of the organisation is normally the official spokesperson,” Sir Puka said.
“In the case of the health ministry and the Department of Health, I will handle policy issues while the secretary will deal with the administrative matters in terms of public comment.”

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