4 Jun 2008

PNG prime minister tells journalist they are lucky he hasn't deported them

9:11 am on 4 June 2008

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, has told journalists they are lucky he hasn't followed Fiji's lead and deported them for writing "contrary" articles.

He made the comment after returning from a meeting of regional leaders in Vanuatu, where Fiji's coup leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama explained why he had deported two Australian publishers of major Fiji newspapers.

Sir Michael said he accepted Commodore Bainimarama's explanations about the expulsion last month of Evan Hannah, publisher of News Ltd's Fiji Times, and Russell Hunter, publisher of the Fiji Sun, in February.

Both newspapers had carried articles critical of the military government, installed after a 2006 coup.

Sir Michael said he understood Commodore Bainimarama was trying to protect his country's image.

He told reporters assembled in the PNG capital Port Moresby that they were lucky by comparison.

He was referring to PNG's Post-Courier newspaper and what he said was an irresponsible front page story linking PNG officials to a scandal over millions in missing aid money from Taiwan.

A Port-Courier journalist also received death threats while reporting on the scandal.