Nov 16, 2009: Papua New Guinea’s Post Courier daily newspaper is being urged by the Pacific freedom Forum to seek an independent review into a story which turned out to be a journalistic nightmare.
The Post Courier's November 10 front page '16,000 Aliens' headline and news story has caused controversy in Papua New Guinea, where a Parliamentary inquiry is being held into widespread anti-Asian race riots in May. The report placed the Philippines ambassador to Port Moresby Shirley Ho-Vicario before the committee on Friday 6 November, claiming she said out of 19,000 Filipinos in Papua New Guinea, 16,000
are illegal immigrants. Another paragraph said inquiry member MP Phillip Kikila had ‘confirmed’ the situation. Both the ambassador and the chair of the inquiry have since verified that she has never appeared before the inquiry. A follow up story printed by rival newspaper The National says the actual figures of
Filipinos in PNG is 10,120 in total with about 2,850 ‘illegals’. PFF Chair Susuve Laumaea of PNG says an independent review would help "address questions about how the media does its work and reassure the
public that when journalists get it wrong, we have a process in placefor getting a story back on track."
“Blame for the misreporting is being shifted to the MP mentioned in the initial report. But coverage of a parliamentary inquiry into anti-Asian riots has to focus on nailing the basics of journalism: getting the facts right. This is especially critical when reporting such an issue to a community already dealing with unemployment, violence and law enforcement problems,” he says.
"In calling on the Post Courier to embrace media accountability, PFF strongly suggests the paper show information leadership by seeking declaratory judgement on the report and its handling of it, from the
Independent Media Standards Committee." Co-Chair Monica Miller of American Samoa says it appears Ambassador Ho-Vicario doesn’t wish to take up her right to lodge a complaint to the PNG Media Council or the standards committee. "Therefore, responsibility for accountability must rest with the industry itself.
The buck stops with the Post Courier.” She says the media should not be the only institution facing serious
questions about their handling of the illegal immigration issue. "Misleading parliament is a serious offence under Westminster tradition, in which Papua New Guinea plays a historic part. That seriousness is underlined when it involves fabricating evidence implicating a diplomatic representative of an accredited and sovereign nation, like the Philippines." “While the responsibility for fact checking and corrections rests with
the Post Courier, especially given the potential impacts on the safety of communities, MP Philip Kikila must be accountable for the source of his statistics through the house Privileges Committee,” says Miller.
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