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Papua New Guinea bans film highlighting human rights abuses

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This article was originally published on on 16 October 2018. 

Papua New Guinea government censors must withdraw their ban order on a film highlighting human rights abuses, says PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum.

“That ban now makes the film more important than ever”, says Monica Miller, chair of the regional media rights monitoring network.

“Thanks to the government spotlighting the film through this archaic ban, this work will now become the highlight of the entire festival.”

The award winning documentary, 'The Opposition' follows Joe Moses, leader of the Paga Hill settlement, working to save his 3,000 people from eviction.

Controversy over the film came when Dame Carol Kidu, former Opposition leader, demanded footage featuring her be taken out of the film, claiming her inclusion in the story came without her permission.

The 2016 film went through a re-edit because of her case, and went on to win many awards.

Government in PNG issued the ban notice last week, stopping the weekend screening of The Opposition at the 9th PNG Human Rights Film Festival.

Produced in 2016, the film had reportedly been already screened in the country and widely reported.

Speaking from American Samoa, Miller warns the decision to ban the film from a national Human Rights film festival “is ironic evidence of government clamping down on free speech and creative expression.

“This latest move will only fuel more criticism of human rights concerns in Papua New Guinea.”

PFF co-Chair Bernadette Carreon says the ban also highlighted concerns about a lack of strength within PNG civil society.

“There are claims from PNG that the ban order was not based in law and could easily have been challenged,” says Carreon.

“However despite having the backing of big names such as Transparency International, festival organisers apparently accepted the order with little question.”

“This calls into question commitment to their own festival slogan - stand up today to change tomorrow.”

PFF is calling on civil society organisations to review the ban order and learn lessons on how to act against future attempts to breach human rights.

PFF co-Chair for Melanesia, Robert Iroga of the Solomon Islands, says people have the right to know reasons behind the case for banning any film or media.

He encourages PNG to lift the ban as it does not speak well for a mature democracy in the Pacific region.

“In the case of 'The Opposition', this film has already been widely seen and debated”, says Iroga.

“We all know about the court case, the criticism of government, the situation of the residents of Paga Hill confronted by the loss of their home to big money and development. The story will never go away, no matter how much some people may want it to. It's become an important part of Pacific history.”

“The 9th PNG Human Rights Film Festival is headed to Goroka, so the opportunity is still there for this important film to be shown and debated by its production crew and its audience - whether they are impressed or offended by it”, he says,
Iroga and other PFF members are urging those behind the ban to honour Papua New Guinea's constitutional guarantee to free speech for all.

PFF stands by ready to dialogue with our Pacific leaders on applying their commitments to United Nations treaties, including article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Government ban rocks festival
Iconic human rights film banned
Official film site
Media release from The Opposition on the ban

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