PNG reporter reinstated after suspension over APEC Maseratis story

Scott Waide holds a camera on a roof in Papua New Guinea. Picture: ABC

PORT MORESBY, 27 NOVEMBER 2018 (THE GUARDIAN) – A senior Papua New Guinean journalist has been reinstated following widespread protests against his suspension for the airing of a critical news report about the country’s government during the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) conference.

EMTV announced the reinstatement of its Lae bureau chief, Scott Waide, who was in charge of EMTV’s APEC coverage, on Monday afternoon. It said his suspension did not reflect EMTV’s views on press freedom, but was about “concerns about balanced reporting”.

Waide’s suspension came amid mounting hostility towards the government over its spending on APEC while much of the country suffered.

It prompted widespread criticism from Pacific media groups, journalists, and press organisations which accused EMTV of acquiescing to the government.

Waide, who has been a journalist for 20 years, described the whole incident as “unsettling”.

“I guess there are people who need to be educated about the role of the media in Papua New Guinea,” he said.

EMTV is the country’s largest media organisation and is owned by state-owned Telikom PNG. In an earlier statement it had confirmed Waide had been suspended on government orders.

It said the decision was “not favourable to EMTV” and went against its responsibilities to free and fair coverage.

“However, we must remember that we are state-owned and that some sensitive reporting will be questioned, queried and even actioned upon.”

Waide had produced a Saturday news bulletin that included a New Zealand 1News report about the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, saying she would not ride in one of the controversially purchased Maseratis.

The report detailed the financial contributions of other countries – including New Zealand and Australia – to assist with the running of the summit only for the government to buy 40 Maseratis and three Bentleys.

“The content of the story was already public knowledge but we wanted to present a perspective of how the overseas media was seeing APEC in Papua New Guinea,” Waide said.

Waide had previously reported on the current health crisis and nationwide medication shortage, and restrictions on media attending APEC by Chinese delegates.

“It’s a critical time for Papua New Guinea with trade wars between China and the US and all the geopolitics happening in the Pacific, and PNG being the focus of a lot of that attention,” Waide said.

“It’s a critical time and also an exciting time to be a journalist in Papua New Guinea,” he said.

“I wish to thank our media friends here and overseas, especially. Thank you for your support and your words of encouragement. Thank you to my immediate and extended family and to the strangers who offered support and words of encouragement in Port Moresby, Lae and remote parts of PNG,” said Wade in his Facebook posting after his suspension was lifted.

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