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The role of a free media in Papua New Guinea is vital and appreciated, said prime minister James Marape. In the same breath he issued a warning to the media.

He has made the statement despite a recent report revealing PNG as one of the worst places in the world for journalists.

In a government statement, Mr Marape also warned the media to be neutral when covering issues such as politics.

“My Government and Pangu Pati appreciates the role of a free media. Pangu gave that in 1975 to the country, and we will protect that freedom of media and speech,” Mr Marape said.

The role of a free media in Papua New Guinea is vital and appreciated, said prime minister James Marape (R). In the same breath he issued a warning to the media. Picture: PIFS

“However, I caution the media to stay away from political and personal preferences.”

“It was very obvious during the election that one particular media house was taking sides with one particular politician and political party.”

Mr Marape claimed that unlike his predecessor, he was not one to control media. Former prime minister Peter O’Neill was allegedly known for sending government officials to newsrooms and checking on stories he suspected were anti-government.

“Never once, during my first three years from 2019 to 2022, did I send my staff to the newsroom to pull out stories as Peter O’Neill was known for doing,” Mr Marape said.

PNG prime minister James Marape at a press conference in Port Moresby. Picture: Royal PNG Constabulary

“I will continue to do that; however, I ask media to be fair in your reporting.

“I did not deport journalists as O’Neill deported Sir Mekere Morauta’s media advisor Mark Davis in 2013.”

Mr Marape said media in Papua New Guinea had traditionally been among the strongest and most independent in the South Pacific, but press freedom had eroded somewhat in recent years.

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He said the PNG constitution allowed the media to operate in a free and fair manner because the nation respected freedom of speech.

He said unlike some countries in the Pacific, being a journalist or a publisher in PNG did not mean a legal noose was constantly hung around their necks by ways of legal means.

“This is something that I am very proud of. Journalists can be sued for defamation in civil cases, but it is not a criminal offence,” he said.

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