Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: Papua New Guinea
As of December 31, 1998

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The worst drought in 50 years and a debilitating economic crisis combined to keep the pressure on Prime Minister Bill Skate's government. But he did not respond with the kind of punitive moves against the press used by some of his predecessors. Despite his general support for press freedom, Skate returned from visits to Malaysia and China impressed by the favorable treatment their governments receive from a censored press. He suggested establishing a journalists exchange program between China and Papua New Guinea so that local journalists could learn from their Chinese colleagues to be supportive of the government. Local journalists openly ridiculed the idea.

Reporters reacted angrily in August when a local police commander deployed armed police units around a courthouse to bar reporters from attending the trial of a woman accused of videotaping her sexual encounter with a government minister. After vigorous protests from several news organizations, the trial was opened to the press and police authorities apologized for their action.

The country's two outspoken daily newspapers --  the National, which is owned by a Malaysian company; and the Post-Courier, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation -- were the targets of anti-foreign comments from conservative politicians, one of whom, Deputy Prime Minister Michael Nali, threatened to investigate the ownership status of the papers. Since there are no restrictions on foreign ownership of the media, Nali's threats amounted to nothing more than jingoistic bluster.

| Attacks on the Press in 1998 |