Read in "The National Online"   Thursday, June 05, 2003

Scribes lament closure of The Independent

PNG'S media executives and leading journalist have expressed sadness at the closure of The Independent, the country's church-run English language weekly.   The Editor-In-Chief of The National Yehiura Hriehwazi said: "It is indeed an extremely sad moment for the media industry in PNG to see one of active members become a victim of the tough economic times.   "Over forty trained and skilled Papua New Guineans now join the ranks of unemployed and that makes it even more heart-shattering.  When the Times of PNG (later The Independent) first rolled off the press, I was at the UPNG Journalism School and the first copy of 1980 had my byline on a picture story I had written on dreadlocks. That was my very first byline in a newspaper and that spurred me on. It really is sad to see The Independent go,"  said Mr Hriehwazi.

The Post-Courier's Oseah Philemon said: "The folding of The Independent newspaper was long coming. Its reliance on funding from overseas donors and lack of internal revenue base meant the newspaper could not sustain its operations in these harsh economic times."

PNG's renowned journalist Frank Senge Kolma said: "t is always sad to see any newspaper fold up. In PNG this is the second time it has happened since the Niugini Nius folded". Mr Kolma had worked with The Times of PNG, predecessor to The Independent.  "It means our people will miss out of variety of opinions and sources of news. It means our media workers miss out on alternative companies to seek employment from.  It means our opinion leaders miss out on different opinion sources.  Personally, I feel a part of what has contributed to me being here today is now dead. That is sad,"  he said.   He added that its downfall could be attributed to the decision to depart from a strong editorial policy of the former Times of Papua New Guinea which concentrated on in-depth reporting of national affairs as opposed to trying to compete against the daily newspapers.  "In a sense the board of directors and management should bear responsibility for the downfall of The Independent. They failed to grasp the difficult financial situation affecting the newspaper and did not take appropriate corrective measures to save it from collapse," Mr Kolma said.

Mr Philemon said that closure of The Independent would also deny the mainline Churches a voice to communicate with Christians throughout PNG.  "This is a sad day for PNG to see a member of the small media industry closed down.  Democracy and free speech can only flourish when citizens have access to a variety of media channels to voice their views and opinions on issues of national importance," Mr Philemon said.

PNG Media Council president Peter Aitsi said that it was a very sad time happening for the media, considering the place that The Independent has earned in the media industry.  "The closure of The Independent is a warning to those of us in the media. It is yet another indication of the tough economic times," he said adding, "Sadly, The Independent has become a victim."

Em TV's Titi Gabi said: "It's a sad moment not only for the news industry but for the country as a whole. The Independent catered to those who missed out on the newspapers daily because it summarised the week's news. Whatever we missed out on in the dailies, we caught up with in The Independent."

PNG's radio personality Justin Kili said: "The Independent's exit at the end of this week is a step backwards for the media industry in PNG and a reflection of the sad state of affairs in the country.  "The Independent was the only paper since the launch of its predecessor, the Times of PNG, that provided in-depth coverage of national issues having direct impact on the people and provided alternate editorial opinions on these issues.  It was the only paper that had the time, took the time and used that time to carefully but stringently investigate issues and report on them elaborately. The Independent had done well in its pursuit to be the most widely read weekly in PNG and the South Pacific and that's an achievement that can never be taken away from it," he said.  "It is also a sad that as a result of the closure, many experienced journalists will be rendered jobless," he added.

The demise of the Independent will also mean a shortage of jobs for graduating journalists from the journalism programs at DWU and UPNG.  But the owners of Word Publishing can be proud that The Independent and its predecessor The Times of PNG contributed immensely to the training of some of the professional workforce that now write for the two daily papers, The National and Post Courier.  The vacuum to be left by The Independent's exit will be hard to fill for a long time to come and its legacy will be the benchmark on which other and future publications will be judged.

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