Papua New Guinea TV news chief suspended for “insubordination”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the unacceptable political meddling behind Sincha Dimara’s suspension as head of news and current affairs at EMTV News, Papua New Guinea’s main television news channel, after three news stories annoyed a government minister. She must be reinstated at once, RSF says.
After 33 years at EMTV News, Sincha Dimara was suspended for at least three weeks without pay on 7 February. From a leaked memo from Lesieli Vete, the CEO of Media Niugini Limited (MNL), EMTV’s owner – which was finally published on 9 February – her staff learned that she was accused of “insubordination” and “damaging the reputation of the company.”
The “insubordination” consisted of three stories by Dimara’s news team about Australian hotel magnate Jamie Pang’s legal problems in PNG and suspicions that the police had violated criminal procedure in the case,
Their reporting seems to have displeased public enterprises minister William Duma, who – according to several accounts – was behind the decision to suspend Dimara. Duma is also in charge of Telikom, the state-owned telecommunications company that owns MNL, and therefore, by extension, EMTV News.
Two days after Dimara’s suspension, PNG’s Media Council issued a statement defending her decision to broadcast the three stories. Dimara told RSF that she was very concerned that the suspension was “affecting the performance of my staff.”
“As Sincha Dimara’s suspension is clearly a ploy to intimidate the entire editorial staff at EMTV News, we demand her immediate reinstatement as head of news and current affairs,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “This political interference weakening diversity in news and information is all the more unacceptable for having disturbing precedents and coming just four months ahead of next June’s general elections.”
Political and commercial pressure aimed at limiting editorial freedom at EMTV News is not new. Scott Waide, an EMTV News senior journalist of long standing, was suspended in November 2018 over a story suggesting that the government had misused public funds by purchasing luxury cars.
The political pressure on EMTV News is such that Neville Choi was fired as head of news in 2019 on the same grounds as his successor now – for “insubordination.” He was eventually reinstated.
Papua New Guinea is ranked 47th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.