H. E. Sir Julius Chan
Prime Minister’s Office
Papua New Guinea
Vienna, 17 December 1996
The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors and media executives from newspapers, magazines, broadcasting organisations and news agencies in 90 countries, is most concerned about the threat to press freedom in Papua New Guinea posed by two draft bills which, we understand, Your Excellency’s Government hopes to pass in the near future.
We believe that the proposed Media Commission Bill 1996 and the proposed National Information and Communications Bill 1996, which talk of registering journalists and radio/television presenters and licensing publishers and broadcasters, respectively are both open to abuse by Government authorities.
The draft Media Commission Bill gives power to refuse or renew an application for a certificate of registration to a nine-member Media Commission, to be appointed by the Head of State. It states that before one can be registered, one as to have qualifications satisfactory to the Commission and be “a fit and proper person.”
The draft National Information and Communication Bill provides for the establishment of a National Information and Communication Authority, also to be appointed by the Head of State, and determines the functions of the Authority. These functions would included, amongst other things, “the provision, regulation, control and authorisation” of radio and television services, as well as monitoring “the conduct of the information and communication industry.” The Bill gives power to the Authority to grant or refuse “in the interest of the public,” broadcasting licenses and applications for the registration of printers and newspaper publishers.
IPI is of the opinion that the proposed legislation is not in accord with Section 46 of the Constitution of Papua New Guinea, which provides that every person has the right to freedom of expression and publication, or with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states the everyone has the right to “seek, receive and impart information through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
We believe that there should be no restrictions on the free entry to the field of journalism or over its practice, through licensing or other certification procedures, and that the proposed media bills, if passed, will have serious effects on the media in Papua New Guinea. We therefore urge Your Excellency to do everything in your power to ensure that the draft bills are not passed in their present form.
We thank you for your attention.
Johann P. Fritz