Pacific media freedom groups blast assault on reporters on volcano island

The National reporter Dorothy Mark … assaulted while reporting on the volcano eruption in a village on Papua New Guinea’s Manam island. This photograph was taken on a different occasion. Image: poboxblog

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Some villagers affected by the volcanic eruption on Manam island haven taken out their anger and frustration against four journalists covering the disaster, triggering protests by media freedom groups in the Pacific.

The reporters had entered Baliau village after visiting other affected villages and were questioned on the purpose of their visit, reports The National daily newspaper.

Villager Peter Sukua asked them why they were there and why they arrived one day after Saturday’s volcanic eruption.

He said the villagers would rather see Madang Governor Peter Yama and Bogia MP Robert Naguri.

The National reporter, Dorothy Mark, said she was stopped by Sukua taking pictures and punched in the face and threatened that her camera would be thrown into the sea.

“While I sat face down and spitting blood, they kicked me until some people intervened and stopped them,” she said.


The journalists were rescued by ward councillor for Dugulava village Paul Maburau and walked for one hour through a bush track.

They arrived at the Bieng Catholic station where they arranged for transportation to Bogia.

Sukua and others were later taken away by police.

Pacific groups condemn
The Suva-based Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) condemned the attack in a statement.

President Kora Nou, who is also the managing director of PNG’s National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), said he was “appalled and disappointed” by the attack and called for prosecution of those responsible.

The Auckland-based Pacific Media Centre called for strong action over the assault, saying the reporters were providing critical and important information in the public interest at a time of crisis.

The Rarotonga-based Pacific Freedom Forum also condemned the attack.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PNG quake-hit communities plead for relief aid to ‘bypass’ government

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: PNG quake-hit communities plead for relief aid to ‘bypass’ government

As relief supplies continue to be delivered to earthquake affected communities, there is another looming disaster over water, reports EMTV News.

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

People in earthquake-affected areas of Papua New Guinea’s Highlands have asked international agencies to bypass the national government when providing relief.

The PNG Government has admitted that its response to the earthquake has been slow, hampered by damage to roads and access to funding.

In Koroba in Hela Province, local leader Stanley Hogga Piawi told the ABC’s PNG correspondent Eric Tlozek that more than two weeks after the 7.5 magnitude quake, people were still waiting for help.

LISTEN: Angry Highlanders call on relief agencies to sidestep PNG government

Continuous rain is hampering relief efforts in the earthquake-devastated regions of the Highlands, reports the PNG Post-Courier.


The wet may continue for a few more days as helicopters, the mainstay of the relief efforts, are now limited in the operation.

The National Weather Service (NWS) office has warned of a “high risk” of landslides, flooding and a slight chance of a tropical cyclone. The wet season has finally extended into the Southern and Highlands regions, the NWS said yesterday.

As Papua New Guinea experiences the wet season and unusual natural disasters, the NWS forecasting and warning centre assistant director Jimmy Gomoga is now urging people to listen to the radio stations for weather warnings updates.

Aircraft use restricted
The Australian and New Zealand defence forces said yesterday they had limited the use of their lighter aircraft due to bad weather.

The NWS said the wet season normally set in about December until late May when the dry season begins.

“According to the latest analysis from the weather office, we are in a weak La Nina phase and will mean higher rainfalls across the mainland PNG and mostly over the Southern region with high risk of flooding in the Momase, Highlands and Southern regions, high risk of landslides in the Highlands and deforested areas and 30 to 40 per cent chance of a tropical cyclone forming or passing within PNG,” Gomoga said.

He said the wet season triggered tropical cyclones so people living along coastal waters, particularly along the Solomon Sea and Coral Sea, must listen to weather warnings on the radio and take precautions.

“This weather we are experiencing will continue for the next 24 hours and may continue as the country is still in the wet season,” Gomoga said.

“The peak period has already passed and the month of April and May are the transitional periods and eventually into dry season which kicks into in the month of June.”

In the meantime, the weather office is closely monitoring the ocean currents in possibility of a tropical cyclone.

Water shortage ‘looming disaster’
While relief supplies continue to be delivered to earthquake-affected communities, a lack of water is proving to be a looming disaster, reports EMTV News.

In a briefing, Oil Search Limited managing director Peter Botten said the lack of access to clean water sources for many communities had increased the risk of sickness.

The company is now working with its partners, including state agencies, in an effort to deliver clean water to communities, to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.

Among its relief efforts, Oil Search has deployed a dedicated medical team to reach affected communities – these teams have already noted an increase in water-borne diseases, with several medical evacuations already carried out.

Australian doctors to help
Australian Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has announced Australian doctors would come to Papua New Guinea to help medical teams in earthquake-affected areas, as fear of water-borne diseases emerge, reports The National and as also reported earlier by Asia Pacific Report.

“We know that over the next few days or weeks, most of the water-borne diseases will start affecting some of the population in the area. We have to lift our presence in medical support that we will have to extend to them,” O’Neill said.

“Dr Temu [Health Minister Sir Puka] has already cleared for the Australian doctors to come and help us…They will come and help our own medical specialists which the Health Department is putting together to dispatch to the remotest communities throughout the country.”

Sir Puka said they were mobilising a team from the Port Moresby General Hospital.
“We have formally requested the Australian government [to send doctors] because Australian doctors in emergency situations are well organised,” Sir Puka said.

“So we have asked them for assistance which will complement what we have.”

O’Neill said relief efforts were ongoing, reports The National.

Remote communities
“We are starting to reach many of the remote communities, supplying medicine, food and relief supply to the provinces affected,” he said, adding that the district development authorities in areas being allocated funding were assisting the people “which we are not able to reach”.

“Most of the members of Parliament and the district chief executive officers have been trying to mobilise the supplies and in particular medicine, and getting the injured and the sick out of the areas that have been affected,” he said.

He added that commitments, towards the government’s relief efforts so far had exceeded K100 million.

It included donations from governments – “private sector donations coming through is well over K5 million.”

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The man I never knew – a tribute to a PNG crash pilot’s tragic end

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: The man I never knew – a tribute to a PNG crash pilot’s tragic end

By Malum Nalu in Port Moresby

As I look into the face in the photo
Into the eyes of the man I never knew
I see the pain
The hurt

He shows me the cloud-covered Saruwaged
The treetops
I hear the crunch
As the plane hits the branches

I see the hope in his eyes
As he makes an SOS
Hoping against hope
In the freezing cold as the pain sets in

I see the hurt
Of missing Christmas with loved ones
Help is not coming
Darkness is closing in

– To the memory of David Tong
who lost his life in the Saruwaged Range
serving the people of Kabwum, Morobe and Papua New Guinea

On the afternoon of Saturday, December 23, I received a text message from an Australian woman friend of mine asking if I was aware of a plane crash in the vicinity of Nadzab Airport in Papua New Guinea’s second city Lae.


Not being aware of anything, and thinking that this was fake news, I didn’t respond.

It was only overnight that sketchy reports started filtering in from Lae of a North Coast Aviation plane crash somewhere in Kabwum in the mountains of Morobe.

On the evening of Christmas Eve, I called up my good friend of many years in Lae, Simon Elap, who is the chief engineer of NCA.

He confirmed to me that the plane, a Britten Norman Islander owned by NCA, had crashed on the morning of the previous day in bad weather in the mountains of Kabwum when returning to Lae.

Pilot was alive
Elap told me that the pilot, an expatriate, was alive and had made contact.

However, rescue teams couldn’t make it in because of the weather.

Elap said Kabwum locals were walking in while a search and rescue team from Porgera mine would move in on the morning of Christmas Day.

I was concerned as just the previous month, on November 26, a good mate of mine, NCA chief pilot Thomas Keindip, had died in Lae after a short illness.

On Christmas Day, after a barbecue with my kids at home, I again called Elap and the news wasn’t too good: The search and rescue team from Porgera failed to make it into the crash site.

The crash site was 3000m above sea level on Mt Saruwaged in the rugged Saruwaged Range.

Rugged terrain
I have flown over the Saruwaged to Kabwum several times during my younger days as a reporter in Lae and know it as rugged terrain with thick, tropical rain forest.

On Tuesday, December 26, I called Elap in the evening and he told me the sad news: The search-and-rescue team reached the crash site 3000m above sea level on Mt Saruwaged that day but the pilot was dead.

I shed a quiet tear as I tried to imagine what the pilot had gone through.

Mt Saruwaged (Bangeta) in the Saruwaged Range of Morobe, where the fatal plane crash took place, is the fourth highest mountain in the country at 4121m.

The three taller peaks are Mt Wilhelm in Chimbu (4509m), Mt Giluwe in Southern Highlands (4367m), and Mt Boising in the neighbouring Finisterre Range of Madang (4150m).

The pilot was alive when the plane crashed on Mt Saruwaged on Saturday, December 23. However, rescuers did not get in until Tuesday, December 26, when he was already dead.

I can imagine the pain, misery, loneliness and freezing cold on the mountain.

The Saruwaged is not far from Nadzab, as the eagle flies, and I know this from travelling several times.

You fly from Nadzab, over the Erap River, into Nawaeb and across the rugged Saruwaged Range into Kabwum.

Could the pilot have been saved?
The weather had been very bad, however. Could the pilot have been saved if we had put in extra effort?

God only knows.

I then found out that pilot David Tong was not just an ordinary aviator.

He was one of the top pianists in Australia and the world.

He could have chosen to remain in the top music halls of the world but opted to fly in Papua New Guinea.

That fact about Tong’s life became known after his death.

His body, meantime, remains at the funeral home in Lae until arrangements are made this week.

His mother flew in from Australia to see the body of her son and was moved to tears after seeing the display of emotion shown by NCA staff and the people of Morobe.

Frequent guest pianist
According to the Greater Geraldton Regional Library website of Australia:

“Born in Macao in 1983, David Tong migrated to Australia in 1988 and soon began taking piano lessons.

“Following an extensive period of study, he went on to study at the prominent Juilliard School of Music in New York and was awarded the Vladimir Horowitz scholarship.

“In addition to having been a frequent guest artist with all Australian symphony orchestras, David was regularly invited to appear with many of today’s top orchestras, including the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra in Budapest, New York Philharmonic, as well as with the philharmonic orchestras of Rochester, Naples (Florida), and Hong Kong.

“Of significant importance in David’s career was a performance with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the 2002 Sydney Festival’s Gala Domain Concert, where he performed to an audience of more than 90,000 people.”

Since 2014, Tong had worked as a commercial pilot.

He was based in Geraldton and worked as a line pilot for Geraldton Air Charter before moving to PNG in 2016 to join North Coast Aviation.

Tong, 34, survived the crash and made calls on his mobile but bad weather prevented rescuers from reaching him for three days.

The pianist Zsolt Bognar writes: “It is with great sadness that I learn my old friend David Tong was found dead on Tuesday from injuries sustained in a plane crash.

“I remember first meeting him in Texas in 2001 and being struck by his sunshine-filled spirit, his strong Australian accent, and vivacious temperament.

“He was an incredible pianist with a breathtaking technique – I remember how he burst into my practice room and deployed Chopin Etudes with ease–and as a human being and friend he will be missed.

“What devastating news.”

David Tong, during the short time he spent serving the rural people of Kabwum, Morobe and Papua New Guinea, touched us all like an angel.

Thank you, David Tong, and Thomas Keindip before you, for lifting us all to greater heights.

Malum Nalu is a senior journalist with The National and a celebrated PNG blogger. His National Weekender article is republished by Asia Pacific Report with permission.

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