PORT MORESBY (PNG Post-Courier/EMTV News/Pacific Media Watch): Papua New Guinea’s EMTV news and current affairs manager Neville Choi has been sacked after six years of service in this role, triggering strong protests from staff in the country’s main television news service.
EMTV staff called for the reinstatement of Choi and for the “sidelining” of acting chief executive Sheena Hughes for bringing the company into “disrepute”.
The network broadcast repeated Sunday night's news on Monday in protest and last night was the first time in three decades no news bulletin was broadcast.
Choi is the president of the PNG Media Council and an experienced head of the newsroom having previously worked for several years as editor of Wantok Niuspepa.
According to a statement released by the EMTV management this afternoon, his termination took effect yesterday morning, report the PNG Post-Courier’s Melisha Yafoi and Elias Nanau.
The company said his termination had no association with political motives, and was a “disciplinary action” taken for non compliance by Choi towards EMTV’s company human resources policies.
EMTV said his role will be looked after by Meriba Tulo who is now the acting head of news and current affairs.
ËMTV management said it was confident over Tulo’s appointment as the acting news manager and would continue to support him and the overall news department.
The company also thanked Choi for his leadership, guidance and experience in the role, but staff are deeply resentful over the termination.
A staff person who did not want to be identified said Choi had delivered a “flawless news content development and presentation” under his leadership within the news and current affairs team.
Last year Scott Waide, the bureau chief of EMTV’s Lae office, was "terminated" for reporting about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden’s refusal to use the controversial Maserati vehicles when she attended the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Port Moresby.
Waide was reinstated after widespread protests and news consumers petitioning against his termination on social media.
Staff at the television channel tonight issued their own statement, saying they were “appalled and ashamed” by the harsh treatment by EMTV’s acting chief executive, Sheena Hughes. The statement on social media said:
“TERMINATION OF EMTV HEAD OF NEWS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS
“On Monday, August 19, 2019, a decision was made to terminate EMTV’s Head of News & Current Affairs, Neville Choi.
“It was a decision based on purported ‘insubordination’ over an administrative matter that could have been handled better by the EMTV CEO with tact and a demonstration of leadership.
“As senior members of the National EMTV News Team, we are appalled at the extremely harsh treatment of our head of news, and are ashamed of the action taken by our acting CEO, Sheena Hughes who signed the termination notice.
“The reasons for termination are as follows:
- Mr Choi’s defiance of a KTH and KCHL Board Directive to terminate Deputy Head of News Scott Waide during APEC 2018.
- Mr Choi’s defiance against a directive to not air a story on the PNGDF pay strike outside the Prime Minister’s office in 2018.
- Taking unapproved leave to attend a censorship board meeting as Head of News and President of the Media Council.
- For disclosing confidential management discussions about staff.
“Much of the development and progress of the National EMTV News Team has been built upon the guidance of Mr Choi, who has provided an environment where our reporters can perform WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR!
“Under his tenure, EMTV has built up its international links with news services like Reuters, CNN, Asiavision, ABC and RNZ. More staff have received training and mentoring under his leadership through the links he helped establish.
“The action to terminate Mr Choi is one that is WRONG, and in direct challenge to the separation, and independence of the News Media Code of Ethics.
“We also condemn the manner in which junior and senior staff have been intimidated directly and indirectly after protesting against the sacking of Mr Choi. Worker intimidation is what we also report on and we will not stand by and watch younger staff members be threatened with termination.
“We, therefore, demand that Mr Choi be reinstated, and for EMTV’s Acting CEO Ms Sheena Hughes, to be sidelined, for bringing EMTV, but more so National EMTV News, into disrepute.
“We no longer have confidence in her leadership.”
From Samoa, former Post-Courier editor and ex-PNG Media Council chair Alexander Rheeney said on social media: "PNG government interference, yet again, in the EMTV Newsroom. Prime Minister James Marape your #TAKEBACKPNG slogan is meaningless when the Kumul Telikom Holdings Ltd (KTHL) board continues to interfere in the independence of EMTV, which should be a key broadcasting partner of government but also independent and able to report without fear or favour.
"Acting EMTV CEO Sheena Hughes should be immediately stood down, terminated EMTV head of news and current affairs Neville Choi reinstated, and an independent recruitment process should begin for a new chief executive."
Rheeney applauded the decision by the EMTV newsroom team led by Meriba Tulo, Scott Waide and Sincha Dimara in "standing up to the harassment and bullying tactics" by the management on behalf of the KTHL board.
Social media comments were strongly in favour of the EMTV newsroom team.
Peter Eafeare said: "After having seen such an improvement in EMTV's current affairs, we witness this neocolonial rot perpetrated by purportedly our very own PNG KTHL on our very own professional citizens. When are we going to trust our own and take back PNG!?!?"
- Papua New Guinea is 38th in the RSF World Press Freedom Index ranking 180 countries.