Wednesday, March 07, 2012

PNG Prime Minister says internet threat idle


Papua New Guinea's prime minister Peter O'Neill says his government has no intention of setting up investigations into what's said in the press or online about his administration.
The prime minister's comments come a week after his chief of staff Ben Micah printed a public notice in the daily newspapers vowing those who spread "malicious and misleading" information would be "dealt with."
When asked at a press conference in Port Moresby to clarify the statement, Mr O'Neill said his government had no intention of quashing debate in PNG's media and blogosphere.
"There is no intention on the part of government to do that," he said on Tuesday.
"But we just want to urge all those who participate in these sites to be a bit more responsible, to be a bit more careful, when you have malicious lies about persons, not policies."
"You are not arguing policies of what government is doing."
In his newspaper statement, Mr Micah called on "patriots" to turn into the authorities those who were publishing material online and via text message information "subversive to the overall security of the nation."
"All patriots and law-abiding citizens are required to be vigilant," the statement said.
"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."
In a rare interjection during Mr O'Neill's usually tightly run press conferences, Mr Micah said the statement was aimed at people spreading rumours of military coups.
"This is not a Stalinist regime," Mr Micah said.
"We will be using normal government apparatus to monitor policy information."
Approximately 1.5 per cent of Papua New Guinea's seven million people use the internet, according to the World Bank.
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.
 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.

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