Minister for Communications, Information Technology and Energy Hon Samuel Basil MP has come out in defense of journalists – and news media organizations - who often have a thankless task with limited financial recompense to bring news to the public.
“No one should criticize journalists and their news media organizations for use of taxpayers’ money to bring out news on events and the plights of Papua New Guineans in remote, rural areas of our country,” Minister Basil said.
“We can’t be everywhere at once. Any and every bit of information coming from the four corners of our geographically diverse country where our people live, help us to represent their interests aright while we attempt to address their plights and living conditions.”
Mr Basil, who is Bulolo MP and Pangu Parliamentary Leader, said that critiques of journalists funded supposedly by politicians to cover district and provincial events need to ask themselves: how else can news reports of events in districts and plights of people in those remote parts of provinces reach the mainstream news media – and decision-makers?
“We all also need to understand that journalists are themselves taxpayers and so are their employers – the news media organizations. They are also reporting on and for PNG citizens and constituents for the public and leaders to be aware,” he said.
It is an insult to journalists’ intelligence, according to Minister Basil, to suggest that they are biased in their reporting when they are very aware that Government or Politicians’ funded trips are done with money from taxpayers’ pockets – their own as journalists, their media employers and other contributors of the public who have a right to be informed.
“Journalists and news media organizations know the source of those funds so they are intelligent enough to make up their own minds in writing their stories. They are professionals who appreciate this and they have their own checks and balances in news coverage, selection and allocation of news stories, by a broader senior editorial team independent of the journalists who write the stories,” he added.
“It is also hypocritical to tarnish and accuse journalists of bias for reporting on events and plights of often forgotten rural, remote people aided by tax money, when we, as leaders know, such information is pertinent to represent our peoples’ interests and mobilize resources and assistance for them.
“We also need to appreciate the challenges that the media industry faces in Papua New Guinea – especially in terms of competiting for the limited funds for advertising,” Mr Basil said.
“With this intense competition for limited funds – and high overhead costs, the practice of journalism, especially in costs of travel including accommodation and per diems of journalists is an expensive exercise for many - if not - most newsrooms and journalists.”
“The entry of online media and social network platforms adds to this drop in advertising revenue for journalists with this access to alternative, cheaper avenues of advertising and information access adding to drops in circulation and ratings on television and radio,” he added.
Media organizations’ advertising sales teams sell newspaper circulations/readership, and television and radio ratings which is their main revenue source.