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PFF calls on government officials to reinstate senior news editor, let media do its work

(PFF/IFEX) - Government officials responsible for the sudden suspension of senior news editor Dorah Masseung from her management position at the Papua New Guinea National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) must let the national media do its work without fear or political pressure.

Masseung, the executive news director for NBC, was "relieved" of her duties on 14 December 2010 after officials alleged NBC had been "biased in its reporting on current political activities." She was sent home on full pay. All political stories will now be "checked" before going to air. NBC managing director Memafu Kapera told local journalists this is to ensure balance in reporting. He has also denied that a gag is in place for NBC, the largest broadcast organisation broadcasting to Papua New Guinea's six million-plus population.

"There is little doubt that the media attention to the leadership issues facing Prime Minister Somare, and his recent commentary against the media, have led to the current backlash against the state broadcaster. As a journalist in management, Masseung is merely a scapegoat for this misdirected anger," says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea, of Papua New Guinea.

PFF calls on the incoming prime minister to treat political interference in the public right to know as an urgent constitutional matter and to make sure that the editor is reinstated.

Masseung is a longtime journalist with NBC. She was with the organisation in the days before independence, when the former NBC was little more than an information arm supported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"We also strongly urge media and officials to step up public awareness of the role of the PNG Media Council as a key point of contact on media complaints," says Laumaea.

According to PFF co-chair Monica Miller, without a clear and open complaints process, allegations of imbalance and biased reporting are often just an excuse for officials to bully and control the media, especially government-owned media.

"To go straight from complaints being received to sending key people home and controlling editorial news values is clearly robbing the people of Papua New Guinea of their right to be fully and accurately informed on the issues of the day."

"We stand in support of the commitment to professional standards of media reportage by our PNG media colleagues, and condemn this breach of human rights for Ms. Masseung, her news colleagues, and NBC's audience."
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