“What are the rights of a journalist”?
That was a question posed to me and 8 of my colleagues who attended a workshop recently in Port Moresby, based on the International Federation of Journalists Media Rights Monitoring and Reporting.
Rights? Most of us in the room never really thought we had any rights as practicing journalists in the mainstream media.
Maybe rights as a citizen and a human being, but as a journalist?
Our facilitator Ms. Titi Gabi a veteran journalist in PNG took us through the workshop, explaining the rights we have as per the Constitution on the Freedom to Information and the Freedom of Expression.
Now the right to having access to information, especially from the Government, jumped out at us.
Many of us were always given the run around by government departments on what they termed classified information; however, most of that information were not the case at call. If it fell into the category of National Security, than it would be understandable, but most were not the case.
In PNG, it seems getting information on what the government is funding where money is coming from how its being used, all seem to fall into the category of “National Security” for one reason or another, which is unexplainable.
Than came the violation of our rights, and that is when the list just grew.
From death threats to people taking journalists to court or turning up at odd hours of the night at our homes to intimidate us, was an eye opener.
Some stories we heard of, but how to go about addressing it was another thing in itself.
What to do next? A media monitoring group was set up, made up of the 9 participants and another 9 who will graduate this week.
From here our job is to monitor whether the rights of a journalist in the main stream has been violated, where measures have been put in place on how to assist our colleagues.
Most times we are there telling other people’s stories, yet we don’t get to tell our own.
The media monitoring group is now two weeks old, and so far we have done well in exposing administrative issues in the PNG Media Council, plus other agendas on our list include helping our colleagues at the National Broadcasting Corporation be free from pressures and influence from the Government on their reporting.
Find out why the National Newspaper has pulled out from being an affiliate member to MCPNG, which we somehow assume is to do with the management of the council in the first place, and more importantly form an association, which we plan to meet with reporters next Saturday to deal with that.
All in all, there’s a steep road ahead for journalists in PNG, and this is just a small step we’re taking to achieving and boosting our roles as informers, educators and change makers in PNG.