Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea releases ad urging journalists to stop calling him live | Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister’s office ran a full-page ad in the country’s two major newspapers urging journalists to stop calling and texting him directly.

“This circular is to inform all members of the media fraternity, both domestic and international, that Prime Minister Hon. MP James Marape will no longer accept direct inquiries from the press from the date of this correspondence,” reads the public notice published Friday in the Post Courier and the National.

The notice went on to say that all questions, inquiries and requests for interviews should be submitted in writing to the Prime Minister’s Media Office, with the email addresses and telephone numbers given in the announcement.

“The Prime Minister has been accommodating and openly responded to our media since taking office in 2019,” the notice continued. “We want to continue this partnership by streamlining your requests to our relevant ministries.”

It is common in many countries for journalists to submit questions to politicians’ offices to receive comment on stories, although journalists often contact politicians privately for off-the-record comments.

The notice from the Prime Minister’s Office was also sent to political journalists around the country in a WhatsApp group they have with the Prime Minister’s media team, along with instructions for journalists to “work for the good of our country” and to “support the Prime Minister”. .

The announcement divided the group, with some saying it was an attack on press freedom, while others said it was common practice under other leaders and that “be a [journalist] does not give you the right to go directly to the PM and text him as a friend.

In response to questions from reporters, the prime minister’s media officer said the advice had come “at the direction of the prime minister. Please respect his calling.

One of the prime minister’s media officers warned the group that if the advice was not respected, the government would react by limiting access to the prime minister’s press conferences to only one political journalist from each outlet.

“We are all in this game. This is our country and we need you,” the officer wrote. “Media, you make or break leaders and paint a good or bad picture of your nation and that of our children. We all work for the good of our country. Make no mistake…support the Prime Minister. Resume PNG for all of us.

“There are absolutely concerns about what this means for freedom of the press,” said Kate Scheutze, Pacific researcher for Amnesty International, who said the comments from the Prime Minister’s press secretary raised “ concerns about what this means for freedom of the press”.

“It’s worrying for them to say ‘you should support our vision for the country’ because that’s not what media freedom is.”

“It’s part of a larger pattern of trends across the Pacific, where governments are turning to extremely restrictive responses to criticism,” she said.

The advice comes as concerns have been raised over restrictions on press freedom in the Pacific.

In May, journalists covering the Chinese foreign minister’s visit to the region said they were stranded by events. Pacific journalists were not allowed to ask questions of China’s foreign minister, although he has visited eight countries.

In August, the Solomon Islands government announced that the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC), a public service broadcaster, would be placed under government control, with a government official verifying information before it was broadcast and suggesting that the media foreigners could be banned from the country. .

Marape’s office has been contacted for comment via email.

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