13 February 1998


Prime Minister won't speak English to foreign journalists

Incident details


(PINA/IFEX) - Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Bill Skate, says he will no
longer speak English to foreign journalists because he says he is being
treated unfairly by the Australian news media. Instead, Skate says he will
now speak in Papua New Guinea's two other main languages, Tok Pisin
(Pidgin) and Motu.

**Updates IFEX alert dated 5 January 1998**

On 12 February, the Papua New Guinea bureau chief for the Australia
Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)/Radio Australia, Sean Dorney, said that Skate
told reporters in Port Moresby, the capital: "If you don't know Motu and
Pidgin you'd better start learning."

Skate - who speaks English fluently - has been angered by the extensive and
continuing media coverage in Australia of a series of corruption
allegations. These have been made by one of Skate's former Australian
advisers and by an Australian corruption investigator Skate hired while he
was governor of Papua New Guinea's National Capital District.

Dorney, a longtime and respected reporter of Papua New Guinea affairs,
speaks local languages, but some of the other Australian journalists
covering neighbouring Papua New Guinea do not.

Background Information

Dorney earlier reported the ABC had received "verbal intimidation" from
Skate supporters. Skate also "continuously attacked" the ABC during a
Christmas tour of the civil-war-torn Papua New Guinea island of
Bougainville. Such attacks follow the ABC's airing in Australia of secretly
recorded tapes alleging Skate's involvement in corruption and violence. In
these tapes, Skate is said to have described how his supporters killed a
man who threatened him.


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