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Government bans newspaper from reporting on 2009 budget

(PINA/IFEX) - President of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Media Council Joe R. Kanekane has called for increased dialogue between the government, newsmakers and the media.

Mr Kanekane said access to information has been and continues to be the biggest impediment to development of the country.

"One of the key recommendations to the government and newsmakers following the recent successful media conference was the need to make information available in a timely, and unsanctioned way," said Mr Kanekane.

Mr Kanekane made his remarks in light of the ban on "Post Courier" newspaper to cover the 2009 budget the week of 20 November. He said the action by the government pushes further initiatives to make the media more accountable for its quality of reporting.

Mr Kanekane said, "'Post Courier' is a leading media establishment and the absence of its budget coverage this year is sad indeed. The 'Post Courier' has faithfully covered budgets since its inception, and today's event marks a dark chapter in disseminating pivotal information - the 2009 budget.

"The six million people deserve to be informed on a significant issue like the national budget, especially how it relates to them. They also have a choice of medium, be it the 'Post Courier' or any other form of media.

"The recent global financial events have prompted our people to pay close attention to news and developments. And the budget is one such event that they all look forward to especially being covered by a leading daily newspaper," said Mr Kanekane.

He said he hoped the budget lock-out incident would not spill over to other developments being pursued by the government, and the "Post Courier" is allowed to report freely and share other privilege enjoyed by its counterparts.

"Ultimately, the people suffer as a result of this kind of action. I hope the protests by the government do not prevent the 'Post Courier' from reacting negatively in its pursuit of stories that will boost the development of this country," said Mr Kanekane.

He also added that there was room to seek redress, especially through the "Melanesian Way". And this, he hopes, can be resolved through a roundtable process.

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