PFF Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS -- PNG Police force officers and soldiers who ordered local journalists out of the Papua New Guinea Supreme court yesterday afternoon and forced others to delete images and recordings must face police investigation themselves, says regional media watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum, PFF.Just hours after PFF released a statement urging political leaders to allow media to do their work, deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah led a police squad at 2pm into the Supreme Court house where Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia was presiding. A PNG FM court reporter was amongst those ordered out of the court house and at least one photographer says he was forced to delete images he was taking.
"Journalists in PNG are already reporting threats and harassment from law enforcers as they try to keep the country informed of the current political and constitutional crisis on top of the elections. We condemn this despicable attack on the watchdog role of the media and the right of the people of PNG to know what is happening" says PFF chair Titi Gabi.
"We urge the law enforcers and soldiers to uphold the rule of law, and ask their leaders to act quickly to ensure safety of PNG civilians and media personnel going about their work. We also urge media colleagues ordered to delete material to make statutory declarations to NCD Police so that investigations can begin."
The attempt by Namah to have Injia arrested and comes after the PNG Supreme court delivered a ruling on Monday 21 May declaring ousted Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare the legitimate leader of the country. With Parliament dissolved and the country heading to the polls next month, the timing of the Supreme court ruling and sedition charges against Injia has implications for an already troubled law and order situation.
"There are tremendous pressures on PNG media right now to avoid election corruption and lead investigative coverage and balanced commentary to help voters make sense of it all," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller.
"PFF and the global media community will continue in solidarity with media colleagues in PNG to record and condemn the illegal use of force and threats against journalists there."