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Papua New Guinea

Stop calling me, demands PM

Journalists have been asked by the Office of the Prime Minister in Papua New Guinea to stop calling him directly for comments and instead send all queries to his press office.

The situation has gone to the extent of the department taking out paid advertisements in the nation’s two daily newspapers, The Post Courier and The National.

“This circular is to advise all members of the media fraternity, both national and international, that the Prime Minister James Marape MP will no longer accept direct press enquiries from the date of this correspondence onwards,” said the public notice.

“The prime minister has been accommodating and has responded openly to our media ever since he took office in 2019.

“We would like to continue this partnership by streamlining your queries to our relevant ministries.”

James Marape at a press conference in Port Moresby. Journalists have been asked by the Office of the Prime Minister in Papua New Guinea to stop calling him directly for comments and instead send all queries to his press office. Picture Royal PNG Constabulary

Last week, The Pacific Advocate tried calling Mr Marape directly for comments but was told to submit questions to his secretary. Questions sent last week remain unanswered.

Such a procedure is not new and many politicians prefer questions sent to their designated press officials. Tuvalu has a similar procedure but the tiny island nation has a great turn around time when responding to questions.

Similarly in Fiji, all ministers have designated press staff who deal with media queries and respond at different levels of efficiency.

Australian PM Anthony Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong talking with media at the Forum leaders meeting. Australian and New Zealand leaders have been open to the media as much as possible to show transparency and accountability. Picture: Anthony Albanese Twitter

The Solomon Islands prime minister has also created a special role in his office for this but the response is not always forthcoming.

Meanwhile journalists in PNG are in disagreement over what the public notice has asked them to do. Some believe that as journalists, this due process must be followed while some say this was just a step to stifle the media.

It is believed that the Office of the Prime Minister is attempting to control the interaction with the media to paint a positive image of Mr Marape.

When the PNG journalists complained, they were told that this could result in some people losing their spots at press conferences.

During the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Suva, Mr Marape made no attempts to talk to the media and evaded all questions as violence in PNG soared during the elections.

There are also concerns that this a trend that could spread across the Pacific and limit interactions between Pacific leaders and the media.

In contrast, Australian and New Zealand leaders have been open to the media as much as possible to show transparency and accountability.

They even have allocated time during official visits to speak to the media and respond in a timely fashion to queries.

1 Comment
  1. John 4 weeks ago
    Reply

    Where is the press freedom.

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