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Pacific media rights watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum, is concerned over what it described as heavy-handed sacking of senior EMTV journalist Neville Choi on Monday.
“We stand in solidarity with Neville, who is a well respected and leading Pacific journalist who has mentored and trained journalists across his nation. We also call on PNG Communications Minister Renbo Paita –given his powers over board appointments for EMTV’s parent company– to support a swift and independent mediation between all parties to resolve an escalating issue,” says PFF Chair Bernadette Carreon of Palau.
Senior staff members including Acting news manager Meriba Tulo, long time News Editor Sincha Dimara and Lae Bureau Chief Scott Waide had condemned the reasons for Choi’s sacking in their public joint statement relayed via Facebook late yesterday.
Last night there was no news bulletin for the first time in more than 30 years from EMTV, as newsroom staff had stopped work in protest over the termination.
Scott Waide had himself been reinstated after being stood down over his strong reporting on APEC last year, and a public outcry helped bring him back.
But for today, all three have reported they may face a similar fate for their show of solidarity when they report to work today.
Either way they have voiced no confidence in the acting CEO Sheena Hughes, and expect to continue the ‘stop work’ protest until their requests including reinstatement for Choi are met.
“Our concern at this time is that a quality news service cannot be suspended because news workers feel intimidated, unheard and unable to report without fear or favour, in the current environment,” says Melanesia co-chair Ofani Eremae of the Solomon Islands.
“The news team must be allowed to do their jobs, and the only way to do that is to work without fear of being shown the door, even for disputes which many employers would apply a warning or suspension for. There are some definite workplace standards which are of bigger concern in the long term.”
Polynesia co Chair Monica Miller from American Samoa says it’s important the government bring in a neutral mediation role keeping the public interest in mind.
“At the end of the day, ministers, board members and CEOs have to have a clear separation and understanding of their duties and powers, and neither should overstep– but the reasons for termination of a senior journalist raise questions which clearly point to those powers being blurred, and the onus is on those at the top of the chain to do the right thing.”
-Press Release PFF