Agency closes office

National, Normal

The National, Friday November 1st, 2013

 THE Australian Associated Press has closed its office in Papua New Guinea, ending a near 60-year permanent presence. 

In announcing the closure yesterday, AAP editor in chief Tony Gillies said coverage of Australia’s northern neighbour would continue through a network of freelance reporters and photographers, while AAP staff would be on standby to enter PNG as news developments warrant.

“Our decision to close our Port Moresby office was not taken lightly, particularly as it has been a part of AAP’s news operation since the Fifties,” Gillies said.

“But these are fast-changing times and we had to consider the best use of available resources to ensure we could continue to provide cost-effective news services to subscribers.

“PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was informed by letter before the decision was made known to AAP staff and subscribers.

“This is a significant development given the important role we’ve played in covering PNG for Australian audiences,” Gillies said.

The newswire’s national desk will now instead monitor the news out of the region daily, and has scheduled regular trips to the country for news and features that are not time-critical.

The bureau, in Port Moresby, was set up as part of a network of Pacific correspondents in the mid-1950s.

The news agency’s board minutes referencing AAP’s US, London and Pacific Bureaux in 1956 noted the offices were created to “ensure readers were thoroughly informed on events which could mean for them war or peace, prosperity or want”.

Former editor in chief, Peter Brown, said witnessing first-hand the Pacific nation’s transition from Australian colony to independent democracy was a privilege.

“It was a very exciting and rewarding time to have travelled to every district with the new prime minister (Sir Michael Somare) while he explained how the new system worked,” he said. – AAP