The article below, by Kenn Mondiai, Chair of the PNG Eco-Forestry Forum, is about the dangers of suppressing freedom of speech and the need to protect whistleblowers. It is a response to the news the Board of NASFUND has offered a K50,000 reward for information 'leading to the identification, arrest and prosecution' of the authors and publishers of 'factually incorrect, malicious and defamatory' statements on PNG Blogs.
In Papua New Guinea we are fortunate to have freedom of speech and the media is free to write and the commentaries also have that great flexibility to say what they think is not right and offer options and alternatives.
We at PNG Eco-forestry Forum have our own website (www.ecoforestry.org.pg) and we have been speaking out about illegal logging, unsustainable forest management, poor governance, abuse of human rights and other issues.
No-one including the government tried to stop us or suppress us directly, although we have recently heard about government plans to regulate NGO work in PNG; since we are genuine in what we do and say it's unlikely an action will occur now, but in the future maybe if NGOs become unreasonable and driven by people with ulterior motives.
So far we have fully used the media well to do our work for the common good of our nation, our people and our natural resources and PNGEFF as a Papua New Guinean national umbrella NGO are proud of this media freedom.
We were challenged once in the Courts along with the Post Courier by logging interests, that is Rimbunan Hijau, but the TRUTH remained and we still stand today doing our job to educate the people of PNG about what is RIGHT and what is WRONG by exposing WRONGS in an HONEST and TRUTHFULL way and then also providing alternatives as possible solutions.
So, whoever that brought out the message on NASFUND's decision in whichever media that gave the message out is only trying to educate the public about what is NOT RIGHT and why it is WRONG, (I have not seen that messages), but is also true that no false information should be added and it should not in anyway be defamatory on persons related to that decision.
So don't panic, just see how best your organisation (NASFUND in this case) can improve on it's failures and address the concerns raised.
NASFUND recently, according to the newspapers, made some bad decisions about members money, we thought these issues were sorted out when the Govt ammended the Super Funds Acts, but it seems NOT, so they must fix it. I am not a member of NASFUND, but if I was, I will not hide my name under a Blog but will honestly speak my mind in the media or I can talk directly to Ian Tarutia and Rod Mitchell directly as I know both very well.
With this reward of K50,000 put up by NASFUND I think it is in a way or rather a step closer to Suppressing the Freedom of Speech, not by government but by the private sector, by the imposition of a monetary reward on peolple trying to express their rights on issues.
For the public and NGOs, whilst we have that freedom of speech, again we must take caution in what one says in the media, say the truth and provide options for a good outcome and don't add salt or sugar to your stories.
Don't be like the politicians trying to suppress media and freedom of speech in this country when their bad decisions and weaknesses are exposed and in reaction for their guilt they go to the media issuing all kinds of threats about controlling and regulating NGOs and the media.
Yupela yet skelim na tingim em tru o giaman !!!