ARROGANT AUSSIE MEDIA SKEWS PNG PICTURE

Editorial

The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Oct. 20) –The Papua New Guinea Prime Minister's address to the Australian media this week is a reminder, if one were needed, of Sir Michael Somare’s determination to change Australian views of PNG.

Many in the Australian government have pondered long and hard over the underlying reasons that have skewed the relationship between our two nations in the past decade. There are a variety of reasons for that distancing, but not the least of those is the sheer arrogance, ignorance and apathy of the Australian media.

It was not always so.

In the years leading up to independence, and for some 12 or more years thereafter, the Australian media reflected events in PNG with some accuracy and sensitivity.

It is curious that the same media today insists that it continues to do so.

The truth today is that Papua New Guineans see less and less that is familiar in the articles, commentaries and features that appear about their country in the Australian media.

It is as if they were reading about some unknown state, one riddled with crime and peppered with corruption, a state without leadership, a nation whose parameters are determined by greed and a total disregard for civilised behaviour.

That, and worse, is the typical coverage of this nation in the Australian press.

Yes, there are exceptions.

There are journalists who take the trouble to research their material, who do not approach PNG with negative pre-conceptions, and who are prepared to report what they discover without prejudice, without subtle racism, and above all without the patronising big brother attitudes that justifiably anger PNG readers.

Australia may well be a nation that has, through good fortune and pragmatic government, maintained an enviable economic stability during the past 15 years or so.

But we deny that country and its journalists the right to judge PNG by the same standards.

We are not a developed nation.

Sixty five years ago - that is within the current lifetime of an increasing number of Australians - the majority of our people had not experienced any contact with foreigners.

Indeed, most had little knowledge of the people who lived over the mountains on the horizon, or on the islands beyond vision in our great oceans.

PNG was not even the shadow of a nation.

It was an astonishing collection of individual tribal groups, many with little in common, and most with their own distinctive languages.

From that beginning, interrupted by a war that was not of our making, today's PNG stands proudly independent.

That is not empty rhetoric, much as many southern writers would care to believe that it is.

At independence, the outlines of a possible united PNG were as ephemeral as the morning mist.

It is very much to the credit of a handful of far-sighted men and women that today's PNG exists at all.

Chief Somare was one of them.

In an unusual twist of history, the man most associated with the independence of this country once again leads it today.

He is older.

He is battle-scarred, and his ceaseless inter-action with the leaders and peoples of the world has given his youthful idealism a harder and more pragmatic edge.

But we believe that he heads a Government that is slowly but surely dragging PNG back into the global policitical, economic and social mainstream.

We have read very little from Australian journalists about the dismal prospects the incoming Somare Government faced half a parliamentary term ago.

Those negatives had long since been factored into the mind-set of the majority of Australian scribes.

PNG had already been written off, a hopeless failure, a blot on the pages of the developing world, a basket case, a failed state.

Even the most superficial research would have shown them just how false an image that was - but the glory days of investigative Australian journalism faded long ago.

The National expresses pride at the no-nonsense address given by our Prime Minister to the Australian press in Canberra this week.

Sir Michael has again demonstrated the dedication of a lifetime - to his people and to his country.

Perhaps the Australian media will shed their cynicism long enough to acknowledge that fact, and to begin reporting events in this country without bias.

Perhaps.

October 21, 2005

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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