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PNG court silences political blogger's comments, blogger posts gag image

In this 21 June 2017 photo, a car is decorated with voting posters at an election rally in the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby
In this 21 June 2017 photo, a car is decorated with voting posters at an election rally in the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby

Eric Tlozek/ABC via AP

This statement, produced by Pacific Media Centre/Pacific Media Watch in New Zealand, was originally published on on 12 July 2017. Content on Asia Pacific Report by Pacific Media Centre is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Click here for the PMC's terms of use and disclaimer.

A Papua New Guinean court has banned political blogger Martyn Namorong from publishing "defamatory remarks" about Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato and the writer has responded by publishing a "gagged" silhouette image of himself on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Loop PNG reported last night that the Waigani National Court granted the orders sought by Commissioner Gamato in response to an urgent application by his lawyer before Justice Collin Mikail.

Namarong was not present in court because court officials "could not locate him to serve the documents", Loop PNG reported.

On his Twitter feed, Namorong said: "Just heard I am being taken to court. I need a pro bono lawyer."

The application was heard ex-parte.

"The case arises from alleged defamatory remarks the blogger made on social media, associating Commissioner Gamato to a fruit," Loop PNG reported.

Justice Makail granted the application and ruled that the orders could be published by both daily newspapers, the Post-Courier and The National.

He also ruled that the case must come before the court again on July 25, 2017 which is after the counting period in PNG's just completed general election.

Martyn Namorong describes himself on his Twitter feed as a "Papua New Guinean atheist, activist, antagonist".

In his latest Facebook posting, he published a statement from former Prime Minister Sir Mereke Morauta condemning PNG's election as having been "hijacked" and "failed".

Sir Mekere claimed the resignation of the Election Advisory Committee had sent a "loud and clear signal" that the conduct of the election had been "hijacked" by current Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari and the Electoral Commissioner, "ably assisted by the Police Commissioner, the Defence Force Commander and the Secretary for Finance".

Sir Mekere said the resignation of the EAC was a clear statement to the nation about the failure of the 2017 election.

"The members of the EAC, Ombudsman Richard Pagen, Richard Kassman and Professor John Luluaki, are all extremely capable men of high integrity," he said.

"They will not have taken the decision to resign lightly. They have resigned because they have been ignored by the Electoral Commissioner and prevented from fulfilling their obligations and their role, which they take seriously."

Commissioner Gamato has defended the conduct of the elections.

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