ACT NOW!, a Papua New Guinea advocacy group that actively campaigns using the internet says an attempt by the government to clamp down on social media is a threat to freedom of expression and a hindrance to a vibrant democracy.
Last week the prime minister’s chief of staff, Ben Micah, put out a press release condemning what he called the spread of malicious and misleading information and promising that offenders would be dealt with.
He said this misinformation is detrimental to the peace and good order of the community and subversive to country’s security.
The spokesperson ACT NOW!, Effrey Dademo, says her organisation is encouraging people to speak up about their concerns and she says it is really upset by Mr Micah’s move.
“Because that’s not really healthy for the country at the moment in terms of having people speak up. And that’s one of the concerns ACT NOW! has. Our main aim is to get the mass population of PNG to speak up about what they see is not right.”
A blogger in Papua New Guinea says a new government declaration aimed at reining in social media is scary, but people are waiting to see how it will be applied.
Last week, the chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s office, Ben Micah, announced a government crackdown on subversive activity on the internet.
He says government agencies are monitoring the internet and he urges people to inform on those spreading what he calls malicious and misleading anti-state information online and through text messages.
Blogger Emmanuel Narakobi says it reminds him of witchhunts like the attempts in the United States to ferret out communists.
“If you have got a clear definition of what is wrong with what people are saying then it is easier for you to understand that is right or wrong but when you just say generally anti government or that sort of language, which is their own interpretation, and also on the other side of it, not tying it down to any sort of law – clearly stating what sort of law you would be breaking, it can appear to be a scary place to go.”
APP via ACT NOW!
The Papua New Guinea government has launched a crackdown on “subversive” activity on the internet.
It has begun monitoring the internet and is urging citizens to dob in anyone spreading “malicious and misleading” anti-state information online and via text messages.
Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Ben Micah, announced the initiative in the Port Moresby-based The National Newspaper on Monday.
“The military, police and the National intelligence Organisation and other pro-government civilian networks are monitoring all attempts to destabilise the government’s firm control of the country,” Mr Micah said.
“All patriots and law-abiding citizens are required to be vigilant.
“Such misinformation includes any information which you consider to be illegal and detrimental to the peace and good order of your community and subversive to the overall security of the nation.”
Mr Micah also referred to anti-government information sent via text message and email, and comments posted on Facebook.
Mr Micah has yet to respond to queries from AAP.
Six telephone numbers have been listed for citizens to call and report so-called suspicious activity.
AAP tried to call all six, but they were either disconnected or rang out.
A police spokesman, who declined to be named, told AAP that no orders had been issued by the government for the monitoring of social networking sites.
“No orders have trickled down at this time and so far the police have no involvement,” he said.
Both the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Pacific Media Centre (PMC) say the announcement raises deep concerns over free speech and the rights of individual privacy.
“The statement threatens unspecified punishment for those found to be using personal communications technology in a manner deemed illegal and detrimental,” the groups said in a joint statement.
“It appears to criminalise the personal use of phones, email and social networking websites without a clear legal mandate.
“Policies and laws which attempt to censor or punish those expressing themselves online, or via other communications technologies, violate this core principle of democracy.”
On the popular PNG Facebook group, Sharp Talk, reactions were similar to those of the IFJ and the PMC.
“Is Ben Micah forgetting that freedom of speech is one of the fundamental pillars of democracy,” wrote Samson Metofa.
The outlook of another site visitor, Johnny Mortel, was more grim.
“I won’t be surprised of this site is deleted from Facebook,” he wrote. “If that’s the case … talkers here will be sniped down.”
PNG has just emerged from a period of intense political turmoil after the Supreme Court ordered the return to power of ousted prime minister Sir Michael Somare without the backing of the majority of parliament.
Mr O’Neill and his supporters have been running the country since August last year, and maintained control of the nation during a failed bloodless mutiny attempt at the behest of Sir Michael’s ousted cabinet in January.
Police Station Commander Charles Parinjo has reportedly been murdered at Kaindi in Wewak, East Sepik Province.
Scores of heavily armed Police are in the area and houses have been burnt. The police vehicle PSC Parinjo was driving in, its windows were stoned and the vehicle badly damaged from stones and other objects thrown at it.
It is believed it was Parinjo who stood between Somare Jnr and Wararu when Somare wanted to shoot Wararu a couple of years ago. That incident related to the storm water drainage project investigation into the Somare family owned company that was supposed to do the works. Parinjo later fled Wewak after trying to arrest Somare.
It is believed Parinjo knew far too much and was moving dangerously close to the inner circle of power.
Parinjo’s death comes just a week after Task Force Sweep was sent into East Sepik.
First reports suggested Parinjo was driving on his way and saw few drunks on the road and stopped his vehicle and came down and tried to remove them from the road. While there a PMV drove by and hit him. From there the drunkeds and everybody rushed to him, and the story was that they have hit him with the bar, sticks and other materials and also dragged him on the tar.
But later stories suggest he was stabbed to death and those who are being suspected of the incident are now in hiding.
Parinjo was one of the faithful hard working Police Officers that we only have few of in our communities… All the good citizens of Wewak will definitely miss his service to the communities.
But questions remain unanswered such as why was the crowd there? There must have been a reason? Is this election related or a Task Sweep related death? His death was or may have been politically motivated?
What about the alleged Police personnel who were reported to have entered through foot patrol to attack him, because he had issued orders to his police officers to support the residents who had provided resistance to the Sweep team ???? Is this just speculation?
This post is dedicated to Ben Micah… Chief of staff of the Prime Minister’s Department. Ben, mate, you’re in dream world. How can you stop what’s happening around you? If you really want the support of Papua New Guineans, don’t mess with our constitutional freedoms. Just take it on the chin and work it out. This is the critic’s message to you. You’re dealing with a whole new generation. It’s a whole new ball game.
By the way, what happened to the radical Ben Micah from the University days? What happened to him?
The O’Neill government’s “monitoring” of emails, mobile phones and social media to identify sources of anti-government information in Papua New Guinea has come under fire.
Ben Micah, a controversial former MP who now works as chief of staff to parliament-elected Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, released a statement last Wednesday warning the PNG army, police and spy agency National Intelligence Organisation (NIO) were monitoring attempts to destabilise the government using emails, phones and social media.
However, the regime’s Big Brother-like scrutiny has attracted the attention of global free press watchdog International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and media commentators, and triggered the ire of ordinary Papua New Guineans.
Media commentators have described the O’Neill government’s crackdown as having “Gestapo-like” features, in reference to the German secret police which operated under Hitler’s Nazi regime, and asked whether the state apparatus will also be monitoring the plethora of PNG social media discussion forums.
The IFJ said it was concerned that the O’Neill government planned to track down people at the center of anti-government information.
“The release states that any person found using their mobile phone, email or Facebook to spread information considered ‘malicious and misleading’ will be considered to have committed a serious crime and will be ‘dealt with’. The statement raises strong concerns for free speech and individual privacy rights, as it appears to criminalise the personal use of phones, email and social networking websites without a clear legal mandate. The statement also threatens unspecified punishment for those found to be using personal communications technology in a manner deemed “illegal and detrimental”,” the IFJ said in a statement.
The organisation added that freedom of speech was “a key requirement of good governance” and attempts to censor or punish Papua New Guineans for making anti-government comments violated that principle.
“Freedom of speech is a key requirement of good governance. Policies and laws which attempt to censor or punish those expressing themselves online, or via other communications technologies, violate this core principle of democracy. The IFJ believes that PNG’s existing laws are sufficient to allow authorities to investigate legitimate acts of subversion, and urges the government of PNG to reconsider any plans it may have for the monitoring and criminalisation of personal communications. The press and public should be able to express themselves freely without fear of intimidation or criminal prosecution.”
Papua New Guineans also took to Facebook, the social media platform which Mr Micah claims they are monitoring, to condemn his statement and denounce the establishment of a government committee that would “monitor and track down people”.
“Ulterior motives to destabilize the government? What about accountability to the people that elected them in or listening to people’s concerns and coming up with solutions to improve? Lots of opportunity for the PM media unit to go onto Facebook and write a statement in defense or clarify any misleading information,” said a member of Sharp Talk, an eminent PNG Facebook discussion group that has a membership of over 4000 people.
Another Sharp Talk member added: “We are not in China or a communist state. We have the democratic right to say want we want against our government or opposition for that matter. Government is for the people and elected by the people.”
PNG was ranked 35th in the 2011/12 Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, scoring the highest of all Pacific Island countries excluding Australia and New Zealand. However last December’s constitutional crisis and the chain of events that followed saw journalists threatened by soldiers and barred from news conferences, developments which are likely to impact negatively on PNG’s ranking in the 2012/13 index.
Reports are emerging from Buka that gunshots have been fired between two factions, one from mailand Bougainville and the other from small Buka.
The commotion is taking place on Buka wharf where the faction from the mainland are still holding on 2 or 3 Peter Sharp’s vessels. There is disagreement from the faction from small Buka about the demands being made of Peter Sharp by the other faction.
One small group want Peter Sharp’s ships in Buka to be released while the majority want the ships to remain in Buka until those that lost their lives in the recent tragedy are compensated and the results of the official investigations are made known to the public.