The Media and Papua New Guinea

I read an article today from former AAP PNG correspondent Eoin Blackwell comparing Sydney’s road rage issues to be less stressful that “carjacking and murders in Papua New Guinea”.

PNG is a stressful place, not just for expats but locals as well. They don’t like being carjacked or murdered as much as anyone else… But it seems to be the typical media beat up of PNG, the “fear”, the sensationalism.

Here’s the link to the article:

At the end of the article, Eoin does point out that carjackings etc in PNG is borne out of poverty, that’s the “balance” so that he can write whatever he likes in the rest of the article.

And yes, I don’t disagree that being a victim of road rage is very stressful, and living in Port Moresby is also very stressful. But why the comparison? They have absolutely nothing in common. Why not have a title of “I felt safer in Port Moresby than Sydney”….? Why does every article about Port Moresby have to focus on Carjackings and Murders?

PNG has 1/3 of the population of Australia and 50% more population than New Zealand, but with substantially less resourcing in law and order, and yet the crime statistic’s for Australia and New Zealand are pretty damning. So lets not focus on Australia’s issues, but turn it into a PNG thing…

The other point I find I struggle with in Eoin’s article, is the Eoin was in PNG in 2011/2012/2013, and his road rage incident happened in Sydney when he still had a year of his 2 year stint to go. So that placed it 5 or 6 years ago – but the article with it’s “I asked my wife this morning” makes it sound like it all happened yesterday. It also flies in the face of the terrific parting article when Eoin was leaving PNG.

Look I don’t want to trivialise what could happen to you in PNG. I’ve got plenty of friends and framily (that’s friends that are family apparently) and friends of friends that have suffered greatly at the opportunistic crime that happens in Port Moresby (Myself included). But this constant bias of Australian media reporting crime in Moresby is pretty suffocating, and especially in the lead up to APEC 2018 and the opportunities that this will present to showcase PNG to the world. PNG doesn’t need all of Australia thinking it’s closest neighbour is a cesspool of rampant murders and carjackings – it needs to show how much PNG has progressed, especially in the past 5 years in economic development, investment opportunities, event management (the Pacific Games and FIFA Under 20 Women’s World Cup – and soon to be Rugby League World Cup), and economic growth. Other “tourist” hotspots around the pacific don’t seem to attract the same level of crime reporting – don’t want to scare the tourists now do we?

If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d say that the Aussie Military presence both in PNG and Darwin, the level of funds in the guise of Australian Aid and the deals around Manus Island, isn’t so much for PNG’s benefit, but more to ensure that uncontrolled border between PNG and Indonesia has an Australian eye across it. Getting the Australian media to focus on crime and/or political instability in PNG gives the Australian Government a reason for funding “Aid Monies” into PNG and in return concessions on ensuring the safety of Australian mainland. PNG could be the new gateway to Asia, and it was no surprise to me when South Korean warships were in Port Moresby at a similar time as the FIFA U20 Womens WC was being held, featuring the eventual winners, North Korea. Just like WW2 featuring the Japanese offensive, PNG is in a significantly strategic position for Australia. Hmm – maybe I have just trivialised the Australian Aid program, and that’s quite unfair, I know a lot of people in DFAT and the ADF and other agencies who are doing a bloody sterling job and putting 100% into their time in PNG – PNG needs them, they make a hellova lot of difference.

OK – I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and maybe there is a bit of over-analysing there 😉

The other sensationalism in Eoin’s article is referring to the “mutiny” that occurred whilst he was in PNG. Mutiny? Really Eoin? Since 2011 how many Prime Ministers has Australia had? What happened in PNG was pure politics, a calculated bid for the top job that worked, and although I have no opinion to what happened to Sir Michael Somare, it was very evident that Peter O’Neill used political manoeuvring to gain power, and subsequently win the next 2 elections. I’d say that’s a lot more political stability than in many places around the world, but to call it mutiny is stretching it.

Can I also just say; that in fact, I felt at times safer in Port Moresby than many places I have travelled around the world. Not the least, safer than parts of Auckland. Auckland has a reputation for home invasion’s and burglaries, and some of the astronomical violence that we are experiencing in NZ with attacks on corner shops (dairies) beggars belief. Australia too, with unprovoked attacks on innocent people – I shake my head.

I always set out the intent of this blog to be as balanced a viewpoint as I possibly can on life in Port Moresby. I’ve never shied away from telling it as it is, but at least if you read my blog you will always see the good and the bad – I just wish the mainstream media could put a bit “more” balance in their articles as well…

3 thoughts on “The Media and Papua New Guinea

  1. When you are enjoying living in a place, you cannot worry about the crime rates etc. it can happen anywhere. Look at the terrorist activity in Europe. We enjoyed our seven years in PNG despite one armed hold up.

  2. Hi Aaron, shame I missed you before you left, as to your articles I remember speaking to the ABC correspondent a few years ago over a beer at the Aviat and I asked him why is every article out of PNG is doom and gloom.
    His reply was every article he has written that was a piece that could be construed as an inspiring or uplifting piece of news was trashed by the bosses in Australia as useless as no one in Australia is interested in anything but murder and mayhem.
    That is why he stopped sending them.

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