PNG Communication Minister Basil denies setting date for facebook ban in PNG

Picture: Facebook

PORT MORESBY, 31 MAY 2018 (POST COURIER) — Papua New Guinea Minister for Communications and Information Technology Sam Basil denied setting a one-month shutdown of Facebook (FB) during APEC but is not afraid in going down that path to put an indefinite ban.

Basil made the clarification when responding to questions by East Sepik Governor Allan Bird during Question Time in Parliament Wednesday.

Bird said he noted with concern recent media reports on the shutdown of FB.

“There was a time when the good minister was well loved by FB. Things have changed since then.

‘‘I am also concerned by the involvement of NRI. NRI is a highly reputable research institution,” Bird said.

“How can an organisation like NRI agree to something that is a curb on freedom of speech?

“Does NRI have the technological capacity and expertise to carry out such a complex task?

“Why do you have to shut down the platform that is still fully operational?

“PNG is one of the most corrupt countries on this planet – corruption is carried out so blatantly yet there are no attempts to deal with it. Why is Facebook a much higher priority of government then corruption?

“Finally, with APEC the top priority of this Government, has there been any consideration of the views of APEC members since the majorities of those countries are democratic and support the right of free speech?” Bird said in his series of question.

Basil in response said the report that was made by the Post-Courier did not come from his press release of Tuesday 17 of April 2017 and that statement still stands.

“I stated clearly that NICTA and my department have tasked several agencies and they have approached not only NRI but Censorship Board including NICTA itself will come up with some findings that they will bring back to my office and my department and that we will elaborate and I will take a collective government decision.

“But I am not sure about the date that has been pinpointed by the Post-Courier to shut the Facebook down during APEC for one month.

“I have said and indicated on April 17 if we go down that path I am not afraid to put an indefinite ban. We do understand that the FB medium is very good that the Papua New Guineans are using it even some small business.

“There are some Cybercrimes Act that people have breached and there are many of them and I will give one example, couple of weeks ago a staff employed and still employed by Bryan Kramer by the name of Vincent Moses posted something about a cabinet scuffle between the Prime Minister and the Education Minister and that was wrong. I was in that cabinet they did not fight, that’s fake news and false information so not only that but others stating that the Governor for Milne Bay that he was cripple and he could not be available that he is not fit and proper person to continue as Governor and there were rumors around Milne Bay that there will be a by election.

“There are issues about pornography in social media and there are issues about fake accounts, people using fake accounts defaming other people, we are not saying that we do not want people to use Facebook, everybody is a genuine user, just that very few handful of people who are pushing pornography and putting false and fake statements on social media,” Basil said.

“If I get the advise that is right, I will not be ashamed to shutdown Facebook for an indefinite period so that we put those things in order,” he said.

The Post-Courier stands by its report published on Tuesday and it also maintains that it has been Papua New Guinea’s most trusted newspaper since 1969 and it will unashamedly support the constitutional rights of Papua New Guineans and will fight to the last drop of ink to protect them.

Editor of the paper Todagia Kelola made this statement following accusations in Parliament by Minister Basil, that the paper and one of its senior reporters had deliberately distorted a statement he released in April and made up the one month shutdown of Facebook.

“The Minister’s denial using Parliamentary privilege to try to exonerate himself by saying that he did not communicate nor release any information to the Post- Courier is a blatant lie on his part.

“The report was sent in from Lae written by our Lae based reporter Benny Geteng who accompanied the Minister to his electorate for the launch of an NID programme over the weekend.

“After the launch the reporter asked the Minister to give an update on the proposed Facebook regulation and that’s when the Minister stated that ‘it will take one month or so for a shutdown of facebook’ while he attempts to work out the pros and cons of Facebook, and its effects on PNG,” Kelola said.

“The Minister cannot blame the paper or the reporter, he as a very senior Minister of State, should know that such a major policy announcement cannot be discussed openly. He should have told the reporter that its all off-the-record, instead he discussed the issue with the reporter knowing very well that it will be published.”

Basil says an official position of the government will be made known after studies are done into the advantages and disadvantages of FaceBook.

Basil in his personal explanation to Parliament clarifying media reports over the issue saying any releases of information on Facebook is premature.

“My directives to the line agencies is to provide me with a brief covering both the advantage and the disadvantages on the use of FB. The purpose is not just the protection of personal data and wider security issues like security and safety of users, the time consumption and the productivity of users especially school aged children, the employees and of course the wider issue of cyber security and cyber crime.”

“I also want to know what other countries have done in relation to FB and other social media networks and the consequence, impacts or effects.

“The brief I require will also include the issue of unidentified FB users using false ID to commit cyber crimes including defamation, fake news, pornographic and other illicit activities.”

This Speaker is behind SIM registration based on this brief from line agencies and the regulatory powers on the relevant laws of ICT I will consider relevant and responsible government action.

“This information will form the basis of a NEC submission which will be tabled for Cabinet to consider and we will make a decision, only then there will be an official position of the government through me as the minister responsible on FB and other social networks,” Basil said.

He said he had ICT line agencies to research and advise him on an appropriate course of action to protect the privacy of many Facebook and other social network users in PNG.

“I gave that directive to the Department of Information and Communication and the National Information Communication Technology Authority (NICTA) in mid April 2018.”

He said this was in the wake of United States and class action to ascertain whether Facebook failed to protect the privacy of FB users in United States and also United Kingdom.

“As many of you are aware Papua New Guinea FB users have their personal data, chat pictures and contact details on the same FB Incorporation database.”

“As a responsible government, the O’Neill-Abel government and I as minister must consider carefully the exposure of this PNG FB users as well as the benefits of FB as a social platform for communication,’’ he said.

“FB as a social media network came into PNG riding on the infrastructure of telecommunications and ICT service providers. Successive national governments swept along by IT globalisaton never really had the chance to ascertain the advantage or disadvantage or even educate and provide guidance to the use of social networks like FB of PNG users.

“As a Minister responsible I need to take informed and appropriate action on behalf of PNG citizens and residents using FB and other IT social networks and the decision must be collectively supported by Cabinet.

“I am aware that FB use in PNG is not limited to personal chats and blogs it is also used as a forum for advertising by individuals organisations both public and private sectors to post and download public notices, positions vacancies, job searches, real estates and other commercial activities as well,” he said