Laws on Cyber Crime: you asked for it!

By PNG Echo

It’s draconian

went up the plaintive cry in response to the new cyber-crime laws passed by the PNG legislature in parliament yesterday with an overwhelming vote of 73-0.

The anonymous mask favoured by many social media abusers
The anonymous mask favoured by many social media abusers

The moaners are the same people whose illegal and/or immoral activities this legislation had been enacted to curb: the people who abuse social media, Internet and the privilege of free speech in this medium.

As I’ve not yet had the opportunity to peruse the legislation, I can’t comment on whether it is excessively harsh and severe (as the use of the word ‘draconian’ implies), but what it definitely is, is a reaction to gross abuse and it’s been a long time coming.

For if the government can be at all criticised in this matter, it is that it took far too long, allowing the abusers to become comfortable in their relative impunity and leading them to believe that they have a right to the gross abuses they’ve perpetrated that they would never have got away with in any other context.

For example…

If a stranger (or any person, for that matter) came up to me in a public place and started to yell at me profanely and abusively, including issuing death threats and/or threats of sexual violence, s/he would be arrested and locked up – as s/he would if s/he’d done similarly through a letter or via a newspaper or other hard–copy publication – why then should this same person have impunity if s/he does so in cyber space? (An example taken from real life)

This sort of speech is not deemed ‘free’ anywhere else, why should it be so on the Internet?

Then there’s the pornography that daily appears, unsolicited on the computer screens – that’s bad enough, but at least it’s impersonal. When your private messages also get unsolicited and unwelcome photos of genitals, then it becomes personal (also an example taken from real life). I do hope the legislation covers this aberrant practise too. Imagine if this same person displayed his genitals (and it’s always a male) in public or made an unwelcome private display – he’d be headed for jail – but on the Internet it’s OK?

Lately, and going beyond the personal, in PNG there have been people using the social media to mischievously spread lies and rumours.  Indeed, some social media sites in Papua New Guinea brazenly espouse that they will reproduce rumour, break all laws that govern free speech and other laws, such as copyright, at will – and they taunt the authorities to do something about them – well they have.

Indeed, earlier this year when there was a skirmish between the police and protesting students, social media erroneously, mischievously and probably intentionally misreported that police had shot dead four students – they hadn’t – there were no deaths and only a few minor injuries.

ABC-logo1-1The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) through its PNG correspondence reported the supposed deaths and because the ABC is the only news service with a foreign correspondent in country, it was broadcast all over the newswires to the rest of the world.

This was in spite of receiving an accurate report from this writer – they preferred to run with their own correspondent’s incorrect report – if it was on social media and your correspondent says so, it must be true.

For the ABC’s correspondent to have believed such delinquent sources is a clear indication that he had been unduly influenced by the dominant anti-government, social media and become partisan.

For the forces bankrolling the students revolt, they had gotten exactly what they were after – minimal damage and maximum impact – even the United Nations condemned the act and students in far away countries, that probably couldn’t locate PNG on a map, demonstrated. Their cause (and it was political) had received the publicity it was after – they couldn’t have done it without the abuse of social media to spread the lies.

Unfortunately, the damage to the reputation of Papua New Guinea from this episode has, no doubt, been enormous – all thanks to an unregulated medium that has one too many wanton and profligate users.

It’s not enough to say that there were already laws that covered some of the above examples because the laws, as they stood, were difficult, or nigh on impossible to enforce – now it’ll be easier and that’s both good and bad but totally necessary.

And everyone suffers

Being a political commentator that uses the Internet extensively to publish, it is certainly not in my interests for there to be greater regulation on the medium I use.

The threat of defamation is something that writers and journalists live with: an occupational hazard, if you like – and we are only too aware that those with the money to sue, even if they have little chance of success, can be an expensive nuisance. The last thing we need are laws that assist them.

It’s why I’m angry at the abusers of the medium that make it necessary for us to all live with this new set of restrictions.  I dislike and resent enormously that they are necessary for all the reasons I’ve pointed out and some I’ve probably not even considered.

Enclosed bridge - this time to stop the jumpers.
Enclosed bridge – this time to stop the jumpers.

It’s a bit like the bridges over the freeway that have wire cages enclosing them because some idiot thought it fun to throw rocks down on the cars underneath. When these fools caused a fatal accident, something needed to be done – now we’re all caged in.

I profoundly detest living within that cage, just like I abhor living with the newly-enacted laws – yet another metaphoric cage and I blame the irresponsible, low-intellect exploiters that made it necessary – because necessary they are.

So before you violators start pointing your fingers and screaming “draconian” please take a look at your hand and notice that your remaining three fingers are indicating the culprit that made all this necessary.

Share Button

Why not Juffa?

By PNG Echo

The warlord's son - with his weapon of choice
The warlord’s son – with his weapon of choice

Don Polye, the Engan warlord, whose election result has been set aside on more than one occasion for suspected and proven tampering (including the most recent one), who is implicated in many corruption scandals including (but not only) the unresolved Paraka case, who has been rejected and sidelined by every government he’s served under, not least of all for incompetence, has been named as the alternative Prime Minister.

Is this the best the Opposition can do?

I’ve maintained (and am unlikely to resile from the position) that the Opposition is not a fit outfit to run a country.   They are a motley crew of the disaffected, disgruntled and rejected – all with knives sharpened to do each other in at the earliest opportunity.

I think they’ve already done Ben Micah in.

According to a government press release, Micah, when denied what Minister Marape has labelled “unreasonable demands” to whit: to be given the Deputy Prime Minister’s Portfolio (the good Minister considering Micah ” …does not have the stature, experience and respect required to be Deputy Prime Minister.”) he gathered up all his toys, like a spoilt child, and left – disgruntled, disaffected and rejected.

Hallo Byron. Off to Alotau? Does ben know?
Hallo Byron. Off to Alotau?

Only he left a few behind, like the Chans – the most useful toys in his stash.

How would he perform as DPM when he can’t even maintain the following of a small political party? I do, though, wonder how Micah found himself in oppositional no man’s land – no nomination as alternative Prime Minister – not even Deputy (they’ve got Basil, who’s made that role his own.)

The only reasonable explanation is that he did more than just sulked away – likely left with a whip behind him.  Ah, you never know how humble you can be – until being humble is all the choice you have.
(Apologies to the unknown sage whose words of wisdom I’ve bastardized)

Mind you, the Opposition are so few that, at this stage, promising Ministerial portfolios would not be a problem.

However, once they’re all gone – what do they have left that’s in the least attractive for the other MPs and for the country? Not a lot.

Yet we are being regaled, in the social media, with all the likely defections – to the Opposition – when in fact the faction that is the most wobbly is the Opposition.

ben-micah (1)Micah, for instance, he’s got nothing for his defection (and he’s not known for doing things out of the goodness of his heart) and what’s more they quite likely tricked him out of the leadership or deputy role and he wouldn’t be pleased about that. I’d say Micah is for sale to the highest bidder – except no one seems to be bidding.

20130910_Tue_HeadlinesAnd then, there’s Namah… who has been ‘making eyes’ at O’Neill for some time now. But the famous cuckold has been, so far, unsuccessful. However, O’Neill would only have to wink at him and he’d come running. He’s no stable member of this wraggle-taggle mob – a bit of a floozy really.

…and Kua – he’s been a bully in the past – See: http://www.pngecho.com/2016/05/05/so-you-want-kerenga-kua-as-the-next-pm-oh-please/ – and it seems he’s still at it.

5160696-3x2-940x627Wasn’t it humiliating to see Speaker, Theo Zurenuoc go to water when Kua reminded him, ominously, that he could be charged with contempt of court – a veiled threat, I thought. You could have carried the Speaker around in a bucket. I’m wondering what motivates this feisty little gnome-like creature other than enriching the Somares.

Then, lurking in the background, not really with them, not really against them, is the Governor of Oro, Gary Juffa.

Here’s your solution.

 I’m now going to suspend all disbelief in order to give you all what you say you want: that is the Opposition, the social media and the silent majority.

It is the Opposition’s position that this VONC was necessary because Peter O’Neill is ruining the country and needs to be removed to save PNG.   Their motivation is to save PNG from corruption and bad fiscal management.

Pay attention to this, because it’s vital.

How can that be the case when they’ve nominated someone like Don Polye to be alternative Prime Minister – just more of the same things they accuse O’Neill of and worse?

I have also demonstrated, here and at other times, that the main contenders for alternative Prime Minister in the Opposition are all tainted by the broad brush of corruption.

The Opposition would tell you that they were acting on behalf of the ‘silent majority’; that they’ve heard their plaintive cries (although I don’t know how when they’re silent) and are responding – a voice for the voiceless.

Equally, there is a certain demographic that uses the social media who claim to also be speaking for the ‘silent majority’. (The students’ did too – but let’s leave them out – this social grouping seems to be becoming over-represented).

We can therefore conclude that the Opposition and the social media, anti-government forces are speaking for this same voiceless demographic.

With me? Excellent.

The deputy (of most things)
The deputy (of most things)

If we scrutinize the rhetoric of this social media grouping and take heed of the many surveys they have carried out, the consensus is that this silent majority, want Gary Juffa as alternative Prime Minister. Unequivocally! (Oh and Basil as the Deputy – who else?)

Juffa, though, hasn’t got the numbers and the Governor understands this only too well – yes, but only because these supposed representatives of the ‘silent majority’ have given their vote to Polye when their supporters want Juffa.

Oh come on Don, why don’t you listen to the plaintive cries of your constituents? It’s easy stuff, step down, instruct the Opposition (which you claim to lead) to back Juffa.

This will reveal, if your aim is really as stated or whether this VONC is a cynical exercise to raid the state’s coffers. As for the social media and the anti-government forces, I’ve given you a tangible way to get what you want – go lobby – but be prepared to run when the sheepskins are shrugged off to reveal the hungry wolves.

Share Button

Student protests: the missing Ingredients

By PNG Echo.

Student protestors in PNG with their den=mands
Student protestors in PNG with their demands

They say that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Here are a few historical lessons I’ve dug up for the protesting students of PNG to keep in mind.

What’s the issue?

On initial reflection, it seemed to me that the difference between the protests of the PNG students and other past student protests elsewhere in the world is that the PNG protests have been partisan and blatantly political, right from the word go – targeting one man, not even a government or a party and that’s not usual.

Be young and shut up - the advice of the soixante-huitards (students of 1968) to President de Gaulle
Be young and shut up – the advice of the soixante-huitards (students of 1968) to President de Gaulle

For even though the most famous of student riots – Paris 1968 – eventually adopted the slogan “adieu de Gaulle” (goodbye de Gaulle – the then French President) they had begun by a revolt against what the students considered to be outmoded and repressive rules – specifically that they could not have a member of the opposite sex in their dormitories. They wanted the right to have unbridled sex with each other.

The reasons for the French protests became very diffuse and were badly articulated. They were more an attempt at cultural and social revolution against the backdrop of a conservatively repressive government. They arguably succeeded in their cultural and social goals, but politically, they failed miserably.

When De Gaulle called an election in response, far from it being ‘adieu de Gaulle’ it was ‘bienvenue’ as he was returned with an even larger majority than before.

The lesson PNG students can take from this historical episode is that however noisy and disruptive they become, they should not assume that they are speaking for the majority, nor assume that others will follow their political lead.

…but wait…there is a precedent

Although not usual, there was a situation in 1992, in Brazil, that closely resembles the causes in PNG with the Brazilian students having a similar political demand

"Fora Collor" -Out Collor. The student demand for the impeachment of Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello
“Fora Collor” -Out Collor. The student demand for the impeachment of Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello in 1992

They called for their President’s impeachment after the President’s brother revealed a corruption scam in which the president was involved.

There followed a Commission of Inquiry the results of which were accepted on the floor of the lower house, that then referred the president to the Chamber of Deputies who progressed the charges to the Senate that then proceeded to hear the charges in an impeachment trial where the President of the Supreme Court was presiding officer.

But while the underlying reasons are similar, that’s where the similarities end.

You see, the whole of Congress was against the President – as was, apparently, the media (yes, a neutral media is indeed a myth – everywhere).

On the other hand, O’Neill has unprecedented political support and although the Prime Minister has been referred to the leadership committee in a situation similar to the President’s referral to the Senate Committee, this has yet to progress.

What’s more, the mainstream media is not campaigning against O’Neill and is generally considered to be sympathetic to him– although there is a very noisy social media backlash – mainly orchestrated by impotent political opponents.

But back to the Brazilian President:

He didn’t resign until the last day of the hearing (it’s a myth that every politician willingly falls on their sword), knowing he was losing the case and hoping to avoid the eight-year suspension penalty.

He didn’t avoid the suspension penalty and was impeached. Success, I hear you say, something to buoy the PNG students. Well…it was extremely limited.

When the, by then, former Brazilian President was later charged criminally, all charges were dropped as the prosecution couldn’t make the case and by 2006, he was back in the Brazilian Senate and in 2015, he’s again facing corruption charges.

The French have a saying: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – the more things change, the more they remain the same. It’s something to think about.

The missing Ingredients

Prime Minister O'Neill - has responded more than adequately to the students' expressed issues.
Prime Minister O’Neill – has responded more than adequately to the students’ expressed issues.

The students have presented their issues to the Prime Minister and he has answered them, more than adequately. Now all they have left is a demand that he step down. Why? I may remind you that the prosecution has yet to establish that any crime has been committed – so he’s an accessory to what? The arrest warrant was always previous, cavalier and political.

Before the students continue with this campaign they’d do well to remember that the Prime Minister still retains the confidence and the backing of those with the power – including a large part of the electorate (that silent majority that the students claim to speak for).

The students no longer have any issues that are not partisan and blatantly political and, if history is any indication, to effect their political goals they are going to need more than a handful of desperate political wannabes and has-beens backing them.

It’s becoming more and more evident that the students’ latest efforts are nothing short of early election campaigning for political interests, at best, or a blatant use of their enthusiasm to effect an agenda that over ambitious vested interests have been unable to do at the polls, at worse

Plus ça change…

 

Share Button

Spotlight on social media:

By PNG Echo

This week there has been two separate innovations mooted to regulate social media by the government and its agencies.

Chief Censor Steven Mala and his deputy, Jim Aban
Chief Censor Steven Mala and his deputy, Jim Aban

Firstly, the Office of the Censorship Board is talking of introducing an ‘internet filtering system’ to control illegal use of the internet that is said to be “rampant at the moment.” (Post Courier).

Robroy Chicki who is the principal adviser on mass media with the Censorship Office has said the system is aimed at creating “… a holistic partnership approach to uphold the morale [sic] standings in the society.”

As such, the main target of the Censorship Office will primarily be blocking pornographic material in all its forms, while it is also envisaged that the system will be a deterrent to organized crime, including making it more difficult to launder corrupt monies.

Minister for Communications Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro
Minister for Communications Jimmy Miringtoro

Not to be outdone, in the office of the Minister for Communications, Jimmy Miringtoro, a Media Appeals Tribunal is being proposed.

It will target, particularly, the abuse in social media, establishing a means of redress for those “helpless victims” who have suffered defamation and damage at what is seen as a medium that has been, up until now, both uncontrollable and uncensored.

While the Censorship Board has recognized that the filtering system will have limited success in stopping all illicit material online, Minister Miringtoro has voiced his own suspicions that his proposal may be seen as government interference.  However, he says that it must be balanced against individuals’ right to privacy and human dignity that is being eroded by the “gross abuse” of social media.

The Censorship Office’s measure is a pre-emptive strike on internet abuse – in order to stop it, while the Minister is proposing a means of redress for the abused after the fact.

And while the former has caused nary a flutter, not so the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal.

The backlash

Alexander-Rheeney_Potrait_Edited
Alexander Rheeney, head of the Media Council of Papua new Guinea and Editor of the ‘Post Courier’.

One of the loudest protesters has been the Media Council of Papua New Guinea who is arguing for self-regulation overseen by them – for the aggrieved to seek recourse “…under the auspices of the council’s structure.”

They fear that the government is setting a dangerous precedent whereby politicians could determine and influence news in PNG.

But when one of their arguments is that “…Papua New Guinea is… free from State-sponsored censorship of any form and kind…” it gets hard to take them seriously.  What do they suppose the Censorship Board does and to whom do they think the Board answers?

Besides, if they feel it is their role to oversee self-regulation what’s been stopping them thus far?

Why have they maintained their silence through social media abuses that include, death threats, cyber-bullying, character assassination (using the foulest of language), mockery, ridicule and blatant defamation and distribution of lies?

Why have they not condemned this?  Do they really believe that this is what the constitution meant by freedom of expression?

Do they think that the lives and reputations that have been ruined to guarantee that some bored person behind a keyboard can vent his spleen is not worth even remarking upon?

The Media Council talks about the peoples’ right to criticize government and the good that can arise from this but what good arises from media that has, as their focus: a Minister’s missing tooth here, a political commentator’s photograph defaced there, here some subjudice contempt, there some publishing of private correspondence without the owners permission (often by people who should know better) everywhere an oink oink (and other more unpleasant four-letter words.)

The gauntlet is thrown down in the social media
The gauntlet is thrown down in the social media

In fact, had the Media Council spoken out when the Prime Minister had two supposed anti-corruption fighters charged with defamation or when Facebook sites emerged that threw down the gauntlet to the government using the mask ‘anonymous’ and blatantly avowing that they would spread any rumour, publish any half-truth and have dared the government to stop them, then the proposed regulation may not have been necessary.

What did they expect?  What did these ethically-challenged keyboard warriors expect?  Did they think that their actions should have no consequences?

That’s unrealistic.  Life’s not like that.

And while the Media Council branded the proposed move by the Minister as ‘draconian’, I suggest that PNG may be getting off lightly as the Minister said, in the press, that “…the Government was initially thinking about stopping social media…” now that would have been draconian.

Luckily it was rejected for a more moderate measure. Yet had that happened, once again, it would have been the ethically-barren spoiling it for all who use and enjoy social media sensibly and responsibly.

In the balance between freedom of speech and peoples’ right to not be defamed and bullied, the pendulum has swung too far towards the defamers – it’s too late, now only regulation and legislation will have it swinging back to a more neutral position.

To the social media opportunists who think they’ve got away with murder – it’s all your fault.

Share Button

Stopping violence against women in PNG: A moral and ethical dilemma

The rapidity of the recurrence is breathtaking – the extreme nature of the violence difficult to comprehend. Perhaps now is not the time for political correctness and western sensibilities, writes PNG Echo

A scant couple of weeks after pictures were published on social media of a woman who was disemboweled after purportedly being gang raped by males invited to do so by the victim’s husband (before he murdered her), came pictures of Julie, also chopped to death by an intimate partner. Her severed hand lay next to her half naked body; there were deep cuts on her body inflicted by a bush knife. Her head bore the scars of having the same weapon embedded into it. It has been reported that she was pregnant.

Both were young PNGean women and it was PNG men, of their intimate acquaintance, that had savagely and arbitrarily murdered both.

The legal paradigm eagerly adopted and hidden behind by the corrupt of PNG ‘innocent, until proven guilty,’ was not for these women.

The women’s ‘crimes’ (for which they’d suffered the worst of humiliations and the most frightening deaths) had been connected to unfulfilled expectations as chattels of their men.

And the cry went up

It happens everywhere, –

and it does (although the level of violence would be exceptional even in war zones.) In PNG, this level of violence against women it is not at all exceptional, nor is it rare.

Western-style law seems to be no sort of deterrent to these crimes that are often tacitly approved of – their punitive nature bringing back a semblance of control to men (often angry young men).

Angry Young Men

The national response to these atrocities amongst the better educated PNG male (with access to internet and social media) is of shock, horror and disapproval (although many also go to great lengths to see the problem from the murderers point of view – victim blaming is rife). In fact, the response of those who have self-labelled themselves “elites” (sic) is sometimes surprisingly close to the underlying attitude of the transgressors.

Just last week, for example, I had a written conversation on social media with a young, well-educated PNG male with the facebook name of David Putulan (which may or may not be his real name.) He had written a facebook post that invited the ridicule of those with vision impairment.  And there were those only too ready to accept the invitation.

At the same time, Putulan published and spoke of his horror at the pictures of the recently murdered ‘Julie’ on social media and called for them to be removed. It wasn’t so much the act that revolted him, but having to look at the pictures offended his sensibilities.

I wrote on his thread that I thought his post on vision impaired was repugnant and that, under the circumstances, I found his stance on the graphic pictures of the murdered Julie, inconsistent and hypocritical.

There was neither shame nor remorse in his response. Instead, he aggressively instructed:

Never call me an Ignorant (sic) stupid hypocritical PNGean again because I am not. If I become the PM of PNG, I will make you and your country wet your pants.

An empty threat? Sure.  But nevertheless a ham-fisted attempt at intimidation. Putulan did not have the maturity to deal with being chastised by a woman, however poorly he had behaved. And Putulan wasn’t finished: with his fragile male ego dented, it got worse.  With a full deck of cards (ie his higher education) he chose to play the ‘race’ card followed by his ‘ace’ – sexual violence.

And if I meet yu (sic) in png yu (sic) will know who I am. You better wear metal pants.

What had started out as a rebuke over insensitivity to those with a disability had ended with Putulan (having at last understood the emptiness of his threats and his impotence to carry them out) choosing to turn to ridicule involving the mooted sexual competency of the writer – a total non sequitur but an indication of the mindset.

The question is: how representative is Putulan of the rest of the ‘elites’?

If this is the response of the educated, what hope for the women of PNG against men who have not got the benefit of Putulan’s education. I am left wondering if higher education is at all useful in the fight against violence against women in PNG?

For although Putulan offered (sarcastically) to teach me statistical theory, his education had not insulated him from knee-jerk reactions embedded in his psyche by a culture that is dynamically shifting to become more and more sadistically violent towards women nor from the mores of a society whose elite stratum is as compliant and as guilty as the lower strata in their attitudes toward women.

Does the solution lie with the ‘Greatest Happiness’ principle?

Recently a PNG man was stripped naked and pushed around a little by other PNG males before he escaped and high-tailed it down the road (still naked) chased by one of his assailants to the whooping and laughter of the others.

This was filmed and published on many social media sites. It was accompanied by this explanation:

“May this serve as a warning to all the young perverts who text and call women, trying to start up conversations and enticing them to commit adultery. You must respect women. If she is married or engaged or has a boy friend, just back off. If the law doesn’t deal with you, her relatives will dish out jungle justice to you.

Soon after, I had a private inbox message from a young PNG male – his indignation was palpable. His text used the written equivalent of shouting (capitalisation) and of table thumping (over punctuation) he had this to say (reproduced as written, except for the censoring of the more obscene language):

THIS is NOT ON!!! THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO DEAL WITH A***HOLES LIKE THIS… PUTTING IT ON THE NET AND SHARING IT IS NOT MORALLY & ETHICALLY PROPER OR CORRECT. I AM A JUDGES ASSOCIATE AND I COME ACROSS THIS S**T ALL THE TIME IN THE COURT ROOM. AS MUCH AS HE COMMITTED WRONG THIS INCIDENT SHOULD NOT BE BROADCASTED LIKE THIS.

I found the outrage of the writer exaggerated.  When compared to the egregious atrocities that happen to women, the incident was trifling and relatively harmless.

It’s true that in a modern western context we have gone past using public humiliation as a redress for wrongs, but this has not always been the case. In previous times, for instance, transgressors were locked in a vice called the ‘stocks’ in the town square where people were invited to pelt them with rotten fruit and vegetables. Women transgressors had their heads shaved and were often paraded with their skirts lifted and their genitals exposed for their sins.

So, is there then a seed of an idea in this incident about what could effectively deter PNG males from committing crimes against women?

In my writings, I am often accused of being culturally unaware when it comes to PNG traditional practises and sensibilities – with this in mind, as a ‘home grown’ remedy, have I the right (and the rest of western society) to condemn this attempt to regulate aberrant male behaviour – even if the motivation is really the protection of the married man’s chattel?

In fact, does the motive really matter – is it not all about results?

Philosopher Jeremy Bentham was an advocate of the principle of ‘The Greatest Happiness,’ that states that what is morally and ethically right is that which creates the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people – if (non violent) humiliation of a few aberrant offenders would save the lives of many women, is it a remedy worth considering?

I guess the uncertainty lies with the word ‘if’. We cannot know the consequences of actions, we can only guess.

However, it is worth contemplating whether primitive behaviour will only respond to a primitive solution? I wish the answer to that was ‘no’ – but recent incidents have created doubt.

Share Button