MANY mouth the words “freedom of the media” in the same as they mumble “law and order’ or “full force of the law”.
These phrases, by now, are worn to the bone of being overused.
What is the much hyped ‘freedom of the media’?
It is not freedom to distort, to smear reputations, to perpetuate idle gossip or to write inaccurately.
It has nothing to do with bias or the buying of media support through favours.
The power that comes with freedom gives no rights to destroy leaders without justification, nor to create false and glowing reputations for those who deserve none.
There is nothing simple to being a member of the PNG media.
Papua New Guinea’s mainstream media has taken on an undeclared competitor. In an ideal scenario, the social media, via internet applications and the multitude of local blogs, should necessarily complement the traditional media.
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 a responsibility as well, which is what is lacking in social media at the moment.
Unfortunately, social media in PNG has been thriving on conspiracy theories and is used by people to vent their hatred and malice towards others.
It places those who seek to practice the word game with honour in constant doubt.
Journalists with a love for their country and their people question their own writing, day in and day out.
Is it objective and accurate?
How can they manufacture a few more precious minutes to double check their facts before the deadline is upon them?
Are they losing their investigative edge and become just another envelope by the self-censorship?
Where does loyalty to one’s nation begin and end?
Should it override the responsibility to seek and broadcast or publish or televise the truth?
PNG governments have pursued an often rocky relationship with the media.
Our leaders are notorious for worshipping the media when it speaks well for them – but doing their level best to remove media freedoms when it criticises their actions.
Our newspaper almost never venture into the private lives of our leaders.
The time may be near when this hidden behaviour should no longer remain untouchable, for if private life begins to negatively affect the performance of public duty, then that is a matter for the public.
As long as PNG remains a democracy, our leaders exist to serve us, the people – and the media exists to keep the public accurately and responsibly informed.
We urge the public to recognise the benefits of living in a nation blessed with freedom of the media, of speech and broadcast and association.
These are the foundations of our constitution.
Yesterday was World Press Freedom Day.
The day was proclaimed by the United Nation’s General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of Unesco’s general conference.
Since then, May 3, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.
It is an opportunity to:
- CELEBRATE the fundamental principles of press freedom;
- ASSESS the state of press freedom throughout the world;
- DEFEND the media from attacks on their independence; and,
- PAY tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The media’s job in maintaining equilibrium between truth and public perception and in ensuring always to remain just and objective cannot be overstated.