There are more than a quarter of a million active social media users in Papua New Guinea. Graphic / We Are Social
Saturday 11th April 2015
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
– for immediate release :
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Don't censor the (social) media.
Punishing social media use could remove an essential check and balance on abuse of power in Papua New Guinea, warns the Pacific Freedom Forum.
"Long talked about plans for a new social media law could have a chilling effect on freedoms of speech," says PFF Chair Titi Gabi.
"Social media are an effective control on political systems including corruption."
Facebook and Twitter are hugely popular in Papua New Guinea, with hundreds of thousands using pages, groups and profiles.
That popularity has alarmed government and others concerned at free-flowing and often very critical debate.
One proposal talked about since 2012 is to introduce new laws forcing social media users to use only their real names.
PFF co-Chair Monica Miller says this would be a mistake for Papua New Guinea and other Pacific countries to consider.
"In our small to tiny communities, the risks of speaking out are high."
"Assumed names allow citizens to comment freely on the issues of the day when they are concerned about losing job, business, scholarship or other opportunities."
"Yes, there are some users who go too far, but their impact is nothing compared to governments who do not listen to their own citizens," says Miller.
"Governments should be focused on the far greater problem of reducing corruption, not reducing what citizens say about corruption."
Concerns about plans for the new law were again raised after one of two daily newspapers, The National, wrote an editorial this month claiming such a law was "necessary."
Miller says that news media need to be careful any other interests of their owners do not conflict with their responsibility as a public watchdog.
The National was established by Malaysian logging interests in 1993.
There has been widespread criticism of environmental damage by foreign and local companies in Papua New Guinea.
Jan 2015: PNG web, social and mobile user
Apr 2015: Control of social media ‘necessary’, says The National
2014: New 'cyber crime' policy will stifle social media, says Namah
2013: PNG MPs want new laws to control media industry
2012: Can social media transform Papua New Guinea? Reflections and questions
PFF Chair Titi Gabi | GM PNG Loop | Papua New Guinea Mail: PO Box 7776, Boroko, NCD, Papua New Guinea | Mob: (675) 7314 3929 | Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
PFF co-Chair Monica Miller | KHJ Radio | American Samoa Mob (684) 258-4197 | Office (684) 633-7793 | Email: email@example.com
PFF Editor Jason Brown | Aotearoa New Zealand | Mob: +(64) 224340831 | Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pacific Freedom Forum are a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media. We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance. In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.
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