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National broadcaster's news director suspended

(PINA/IFEX) - On 29 August 2001, the Pacific news agency PINA Nius Online reported that Papua New Guinea's National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) news director Joe Ealadona had been suspended. This was done because of allegedly anti-government programmes broadcast on the state-owned radio network.

PINA Nius Online quoted Ealadona as saying the suspension was "political" and had nothing to do with his professional career as a journalist. "I am treating this as political and have advised my staff to continue working without fear or favor," he said.

In his suspension notice to Ealadona, NBC managing director Kristoffa Ninkama alleged the news director threatened national security by allowing to air reports on a protest by armed soldiers against plans to cut back the size of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. Ealadona was also alleged to have allowed to air a public affairs programme on protests by University of the Papua New Guinea students and to have aired a live broadcast on the launching of a new Labour Party.

Ealadona was quoted by PINA Nius Online as saying: "As far as I am concerned, we have done our job as the national broadcaster."

In response to the suspension, former newspaper editor - now West Papuan independence movement spokesperson - Franzalbert Joku urged the Papua New Guinea media industry to be vigilant against what he called recent moves to erode media freedom. He said in a statement issued in the Papua New Guinea capital Port Moresby that the Media Council of Papua New Guinea should investigate such incidents as:

* Attempts by senior political aides to have the Catholic Bishops Conference sack Word Publishing publisher and editor-in-chief Anna Solomon. Her newspapers have been highlighting the Papua New Guinea government's allegedly poor treatment of refugees from neighboring Indonesian-ruled West Papua.

* Now the suspension of Ealadona for allegedly allowing the broadcast of stories displeasing to those in authority.

Joku urged the Media Council to have these and other pressures referred to the PINA convention in Madang, Papua New Guinea, in October so there could be a strong regional stand.

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