THE Pacific Freedom Forum has urged the Post-Courier newspaper to seek an independent review into a story which turned out to be a journalistic nightmare.
The Post-Courier’s Nov 10 front page “16,000 Aliens” headline and news story has caused a lot of controversy.
The report placed the Philippine Ambassador Shirley Ho-Vicario before the committee on Nov 6, claiming she said out of 19,000 Filipinos in PNG, 16,000 are illegal immigrants. Another paragraph said inquiry member MP Phillip Kikala had “confirmed” the situation.
Both the ambassador and the chair of the inquiry have since confirmed that she has never appeared before the inquiry.
The actual figure of Filipinos in PNG is 10,120 in total with about 2,850 “illegals”.
PFF chair Susuve Laumaea of PNG said an independent review would help “address questions about how the media does its work and reassure the public that when journalists get it wrong, we have a process in place for getting a story back on track”.
“Blame for the misreporting is being shifted to the MP mentioned in the initial report. But coverage of a parliamentary inquiry into anti-Asian riots has to focus on nailing the basics of journalism: getting the facts right.
“This is especially critical when reporting such an issue to a community already dealing with unemployment, violence and law enforcement problems,” he said in a statement issued by PFF.
“In calling on the Post-Courier to embrace media accountability, PFF strongly suggests the paper show information leadership by seeking declaratory judgement on the report and its handling of it, from the Independent Media Standards Committee.”
The question also arises whether Mr Kikala gave misleading or false information.
PFF co-chair Monica Miller of American Samoa says misleading parliament was a serious offence under Westminster tradition.
“While the responsibility for fact checking and corrections rests with the Post-Courier, especially given the potential impacts on the safety of communities, Mr Kikala must be accountable for the source of his statistics through the House Privileges Committee,” Ms Miller said.