Impressions of a Reporter

PNG in the News reflects the on-going work of reporters on the ground. Here are one reporter’s impressions of the country and the working conditions found there.   

ABC News reporters in PNG – Liam Fox and Eric Tlozek July 2016

By Eric Tlozek

There’s CCTV security cameras at the ABC News bureau and we have guards on duty 24 hours a day, but Fooey  is the best security because she’s a pretty fearsome looking dog. She’s actually very friendly to most people, except tradesmen, but Papua New Guineans generally have a fear of big dogs.

PNG’s completely under-rated. It’s very old school journalism, very hands on. You are connected to everyone in Port Moresby. It’s a small, intense place and you get to know everyone.  You get tip offs and hear rumours from people. Despite PNG’s bad reputation, the people are by and large very welcoming, very warm and friendly and just so excited that someone is there to hear their story.

Port Moresby is still confronting. I’ve been to a lot of developing countries and you don’t see that degree of fortification and tension. Someone described it to me that it can feel like the ‘light’ version of a warzone and that was from an ex-soldier, but, like Liam, I actually discovered that it’s really a very friendly place.

In the morning I go into the office and check with the Prime Minister’s office, check if there’s anything happening in court that day. Usually, I try to talk to the police every day, but they don’t answer every day, so it’s pretty hard sometimes to find out what’s happening. You have to follow social media closely, as that is how news travels in PNG. You have to do a pretty thorough facebook check, because that’s where everyone seems to put the news, rather than the more traditional media.

The main challenge in PNG is getting hold of people, short of just rocking up and often we do just rock up.  I’ve been chasing the Governor of the National Capital District for two months and he just keeps avoiding me. I turned up at a press conference because I knew he would be there and he didn’t turn up. After an hour we left and he’d actually been waiting in a car and then walked in to the press conference as we were driving away.

I find most PNG people are actually quite honest. You don’t need to find stuff out about people the hard way, you just ask them – if you can find them of course – you just ask them and generally they will answer that question honestly. That’s the amazing thing about PNG.

Working in PNG is harder too in terms of lack of infrastructure, lack of communications infrastructure, internet speed, mobile reception, things that people in Australia take for granted.

It’s a very frustrating, intense place and as a reporter working there you need a reservoir of patience and good humour to get through things, but, for the most part, I just loved it.

It’s such a shame that PNG has this negative image when, in many cases, it’s not deserved. If it didn’t have this image maybe more Australians would go there and holiday there and realise what an amazing place it is. It should be one of the adventure tourism capitals of the world. It’s got everything, trekking, fishing, bird watching, white water rafting, sailing, beaches and mountains.

I think PNG is very important. It’s our closest neighbour, four kilometres away in the Torres Strait. You can see PNG from islands in the Torres Strait and Australia used to run the place. They listen to Australian music, you go to a pub they are playing Cold Chisel, ACDC, John Farnham is still big there, they love rugby league, they are crazy fans for rugby league, you can talk rugby league to any Papua New Guinean person you run into, and it’s all on our doorstep.

 

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