PAPUA New Guinea’s mainstream media has today taken on an undeclared competitor.
The media’s job in maintaining balance between truth and public perception and in ensuring always to remain just and objective is now being challenged with the introduction of social media.
In an ideal scenario, the social media, via internet applications and the multitude of local blogs, should necessarily complement the traditional media.
Where mainstream newspapers, radio and television are inhibited by situations such as geographical location or censorship and commercial considerations, the social media could and should be the available option.
However, recent developments have given rise to criticisms against the abuse of social media in spreading defamatory information, lies and half-truths.
In the absence of any legal control or monitoring of the use of social media, it is open to widespread abuse where such abuse results in defaming other individuals and public office holders it should be of concern.
What’s worse, the perpetrators of such abuse sometimes remain anonymous or hide behind pen names of pseudonyms.
We agree that every Papua New Guinean has the qualified right to broadcast or publish and to partake in a public assembly.
However, that comes with responsibility as well, which is what lacks in the social media at the moment.
Keeping tabs on social media is necessary yet at the same time, we in the mainstream media might want to do some soul-searching as well.
Some common questions being asked about the roles of these two strands of media include:
- IS social media venturing into a grey area where the mainstream media is expected to but is either failing or being restricted by the laws on libel and defamation?
- ARE the country’s newspapers, television and radio stations not doing enough for some of their readers who would rather educate themselves by using the freedom provided by the social media?
Someone has to take on the responsibility of telling the truth about public issues and controversies and that is the mainstream media’s role to extract truth from public officials or is it incumbent upon them to provide it.
Some users of social media have obviously descended below levels of common decency and respect for their fellow citizens and others.
Social media is vital source of information and education.
Used correctly and with proper control mechanisms, it can result in positive development for the individual as well as the community at large.
The public might want to ask whether to take social media seriously as a source of information and education.
Some say readers don’t seem to really care about what organisation they’re getting their news from or what device format they’re reading on; what matters, really, is the news itself. Elsewhere in the world, governments and non-government organisations have successfully used social media to transmit vital knowledge for social and economic development.
Unfortunately, the social media in PNG has been thriving on conspiracy theories and is being used by people to vent their hatred and malice towards others.
This has resulted in calls by responsible citizens for social media to be regulated.
It is a positive development that the public has come to use of the social media, which demonstrates that they are knowledgeable about issues of national importance and are technologically savvy.
There is, however, reason to believe that we need some monitoring mechanism now to avoid serious issues later.