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Papua New Guinea journalists urged to keep to ethics, avoid spin following colleague's dismissal

(PFF/IFEX) - The lack of factual information surrounding the recent sacking of a Papua New Guinea journalist poses another warning to newsrooms there on the need to steer clear of political spin, says regional media monitoring group the Pacific Freedom Forum.

PFF co-chair Titi Gabi says it's important that journalists remain vigilant and independent of political bias, and ensure they have all the facts at hand when going public via media platforms with a political agenda. She made the call after video footage of former Sunday Chronicle journalist Peter Kasia has been uploaded to the Internet in the last week. In the video published to a pro-Opposition blog, Kasia states he was sacked on the written orders of the PNG Prime Minister, whose office says this is untrue.

Kasia's sacking in late 2012 had been attributed by PNG media colleagues to a series of retractions and apologies from his Sunday Chronicle employers over his work. But his name resurfaced on February 21 when Opposition leader Belden Namah accused PNG media watchdogs and 'others' of remaining silent on the sacking. Namah claimed Prime Minister Peter O'Neill was behind the decision to let Kasia go after he did an investigative piece into the government's plans to renovate the condemned 'Pineapple' haus building in Port Moresby.

In the week following Namah's accusations, a blog managed by his PR manager Graham Robinson uploaded a short interview with Peter Kasia who says he was called into a meeting with the Sunday Chronicle's Managing Editor Sam Vulum the day after his front page piece ran. He says Vulum told him he was being terminated on instructions from the Chronicle's owner Wesley Raminai, who had received a letter from the Prime Minister of PNG ordering he be sacked. There is no confirmation of a date of the sacking nor any sighting of the alleged letter in the short piece to camera.

Responding to PFF queries, the Prime Minister's speechwriter and Public Affairs adviser Susuve Laumaea says that no letter to Sunday Chronicle was signed by the Prime Minister, who is a supporter of the PNG Media Workers Association.

"The PNG media workers association is open to assisting any grievance from journalists who believe they have been unfairly dismissed by their employers, and we have not received any contact from Peter Kasia. There is also room for any member of the public who believes the media have been in breach of ethics to contact the association and seek advice" says Gabi.

"It's important that bona fide newsroom journalists not allow their grievances to be politicised, especially if they are referring to documents received by third or fourth parties," she says.

"As media workers, we are committed to separating facts from fiction in our work, and this is especially crucial for newsrooms at a time when their audiences are also being informed via social networking and blogging."

PFF calls on the Sunday Chronicle to clear the confusion on the matter of Kasia's sacking.

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