Monday, November 17, 2008

PNG media awards night ends in drunken brawl

THE Papua New Guinea Media Council Awards presentation turned into an all-in brawl between staff from two leading media organisations at the Hideaway Hotel Port Moresby last Saturday evening.

The fight between drunken staff of the Post-Courier newspaper and the National Broadcasting Corporation required hotel security to step in before things got out of hand.

It was reported by Australian Associated Press today and appeared on the online pages of leading newspapers such as The Australian, Brisbane Times, New Zealand Herald and Herald Sun.

It was also widely condemned by members of the PNG media fraternity today.

"It is embarrassing," one attendee told AAP.

"This stuff always happens at this end of year.

“Everything starts fine, but it all comes out with too much drink.

"It really is the silly season.

“Staff get drunk and then there will be a fight at the office Christmas party.

“All the simmering tensions erupt."

The evening, culminating what was an exciting week of presentations from notable speakers during the 2008 PNG media conference, started off with a sincere and insightful keynote address by US Ambassador to PNG Leslie Rowe.

Ambassador Rowe left two challenges with the media in PNG: to work together in greater partnership to extend coverage nationwide, which would set the foundation for the second challenge of doing more to get the message of HIV and AIDS to the rural majority, 50% of whom still lack access to media and information.

The fight came in the late proceedings after speeches on the importance of media freedom, responsibility and accuracy.

Ambassador Rowe and some other diplomats had already left before the incident occurred.

Remaining guests from the private sector, some diplomats and civil society had to leave in fear of being hurt.

A security guard said what was considered a successful night was dimmed by disrespectful conduct and the fight.

Respected PNG journalist Susuve Laumaea said: “This is an absolutely thankless, brainless, night of shame for those who got involved.

“I hope Madam Rowe, the US envoy and other VIPs did not get hurt.

“Sack the instigators and brawlers.”

President of the PNG Media Council Joe Kanekane has described the incident as “regrettable”.

“This isolated incident followed the successful media conference that culminated in the 2008 awards night,” he said yesterday.

“This particular episode has not in any way belittled the significance and the achievements of that particular week.

“I think those who were involved got a little too excited and it went a little too far.

“I’m aware that the individuals concerned and the organisations they work for are addressing this.”

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