By Kevin Pamba

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 1) – Some of Papua New Guinea’s media personnel attending the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) convention in Honiara, Solomon Islands, raised a concern relating to the media coverage of the 2007 election.

The media personnel discussed during casual conversations that certain high profile and well-resourced candidates were getting more media coverage than the rest of the 2,000 plus hopefuls.

They pointed out that in almost all the cases, it was the same reporters doing the stories for the same politicians.

It was claimed that if the situation is not a coincidence, then it is a cause for concern.

What is at stake is the reporters’ impartiality, hence professional integrity.

I understand that the Media Council of PNG may release an advice to its members that their reporters are scrupulous about impartiality and fair reporting.

The Media Council can only advice and does not have the powers to give directions to media organisations or journalists.

What the media personnel talked about touched on a pertinent issue that can be considered from several perspectives.

Firstly, there are over 2,000 candidates contesting the elections and only 12 main media organisations and 19 provincial radio stations of the National Broadcasting Corporation to report on election issues and events.

It is a mammoth task for the media to report on the policies, speeches and campaign activities of the huge number of candidates.

Secondly, the media is concentrated in few main centres, mostly Port Moresby and Lae, and access is difficult for the majority of the people and candidates in outlying districts.

Thirdly, the media cannot afford to finance trips for journalists to every election rally, speech day or media conference for each of the 2,000 plus candidates in all the electorate.

The media can cover election events that journalists can reach. Some candidates are sending statements, pictures or film footage for the media to use.

Still some well-off candidates are financing trips for journalists to various locations to report their activities.

What concerned the media personnel in Honiara were the cases where certain candidates are bringing in to the newsrooms material for use or financing trips

for journalists.

And according to them, these candidates seem to be getting unfair media mileage over

others who cannot afford to do so.

It may be argued that if they can afford to do these when the media can’t afford to send out reporters, what is the problem with it.

That may be so, but when sources provide materials to the media, it is public relations and not journalism.

The high number of candidates and the tight budgets media organisations operate under do not help the situation either.

But that is no excuse to allow a handful of resource-rich candidates to use few journalists and dominate media news.

It is unfair in the democratic process as some candidates cannot afford to contact the media because of lack of resources or distance.

There may be better candidates out there who cannot attract media attention but could make good leaders if voted into Parliament.

Those repeatedly making news may not necessarily be the good leaders everyone is hoping this election will bring to Parliament.

Keven Pamba, a former reporter at The National, is a journalism instructor at Divine Word University in Madang, Papua New Guinea.

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