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Investigative reporter threatened and assaulted by soldier

(PINA/IFEX) - On 7 October 2002, the Pacific Islands news agency PINA Nius Online reported that military police in Papua New Guinea were hunting for a soldier who attacked and threatened an investigative reporter at Papua New Guinea's main military barracks. Defence Chief of Staff Tom Ur said the man would be dealt with "in the military way."

"Papua New Guinea Post-Courier" managing director Bob Howarth said the newspaper had placed reporter Robyn Sela and her family in a "safe house" until the fugitive soldier is arrested. Sela covers military and police affairs for the "Post-Courier". The 4 October attack and threats against the journalist appear to have resulted from her recent investigations into the activities of Department of Defence Secretary Fred Punangi, PINA Nius Online said.

Papua New Guinea's cabinet, the National Executive Council, has suspended the defence secretary and set up an investigation into allegations about his conduct. Sela's recent reports revealed that the defence secretary had bought a new luxury four-wheel drive vehicle when the military lacked funds to buy basics like toilet paper.

Sela was at Murray Barracks in Port Moresby, a suburb of the capital, working on a report when she was attacked. "I could see something was about to happen when [the soldier] came near me, from the look on his face," she said of the assault. "He grabbed me by the forearm and shook me a few times, and then he said, 'You had better stop writing stories about Mr Punangi'." The journalist added that the soldier then bunched his hand into a fist and held it against her temple, pointed two fingers at her head and said, "If you continue, if we find you somewhere we will shoot you dead."

As other soldiers saw what was happening and rushed to help Sela, the man quickly got into a waiting vehicle. Sela said he called out, "Robyn Sela, we will get you." The vehicle, with tinted glass windows, sped away.

Papua New Guinea's news media have been working together in a joint campaign to expose corruption, which has become a major issue in the country, PINA Nius Online reported.

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