THE Media Council of Papua New Guinea has expressed grave concerns at plans by the Government to set up a Media Appeals Tribunal.
Communications Minister Jimmy Miringtoro announced plans by the Government to establish the tribunal to address what he described as "deliberate misinformation, spreading of falsities and malice" on social and mainstream media.
He said the proposed tribunal will be run by "professional and neutral" people and will report to the National Parliament. But the Council, in a statement issued today, said the Government was setting a dangerous precedent which could see politicians - through the National Parliament - determine and influence news content in PNG.
The Council said the actions of the proposed tribunal could ultimately lead to state censorship and the loss of press freedom and freedom of expression in Papua New Guinea.
"Section 46 of the Papua New Guinea Constitution guarantees freedom of the press and the freedom of expression and information. These pillars of the constitution ensure Papua New Guinea is a thriving democracy, free from State-sponsored censorship of any form and kind and thus giving it life as a participatory democracy," said the Council.
"Governments for the people and by the people would welcome criticism by its citizens or civil society, discard whatever that is considered irrelevant and embrace propositions that would ultimately lead to a better life for ordinary Papua New Guineans. All nations and its people strive for justice, peace and prosperity and a vibrant mainstream and social media play a critical role in reaching that destination."
Acknowledging the need for aggrieved consumers of the various media platforms to seek recourse, the Council said there are options that the Government could consider under the auspices of the Council's structure.
"A press complaints committee, set up under the Council's structure, is one option for the Minister's consideration. The proposed committee has been on the agenda for discussions with the Minister but the Minister is yet to make time available to meet with the Council to discuss issues of common interest."
The Council warned that the establishment of the proposed tribunal would have an
immediate effect on and erode press freedom in PNG and expressed the need for more
dialogue towards ensuring the media in the country played its role responsibly and
transparently rather than resorting to draconian laws such as the proposed tribunal.