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PNG: PM demands apology from Seven Network over corruption claims

PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill says the Today Tonight programme has caused a "negative international image of PNG". Image: Seven/AFP

Friday, August 30, 2013

Item: 8393

SYDNEY (Channel 7 / Pacific Media Watch): Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has called on the Seven Network to apologise following a two-part Today Tonight report on Monday and Tuesday alleging more than $1 billion was being stolen from the budget of Papua New Guinea and hidden in Australian banks and the Queensland property market.

But the Seven Network defended its investigation.

Sam Koim, head of Papua New Guinea’s anti-corruption task force, told reporter James Thomas dirty money was leaving the country to be laundered in Australia.

“Most of Australia’s aid programme is effectively wasted,” he said.

“Almost half of the budget (is being stolen). That is how big the problem is.

“They see Australia as the Cayman Islands. They see that it is the safest place where they can bring their stolen money from PNG.”

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has denied the programme's claims.

“These are baseless allegations we can write off as the creation of an attention-seeking reporter’s wildest imaginations”, O’Neill said in a statement, according to News Corp.

‘Negative image’
O'Neill said the programme had tarnished Papua New Guinea's international image.

“Channel 7 owes PNG and its citizens a big apology and the journalist responsible for concocting such a negative international image of PNG should be dismissed from his employment.

“No one has stolen Australian taxpayers’ precious 1.7 billion because that amount of Australian money has never featured in any of our national budgets to date.

“I can say without fear or favour that the Channel 7 TV report alleging $A1.7 billion of Australian aid money being stolen from PNG’s budget annually is the Australian media’s most ill-researched, mischievous and misinformed piece of journalism coverage on PNG affairs.”

Channel 7 defended its report, saying in a statement that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had misunderstood.

“Contrary to comments reportedly made by PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, the Today Tonight investigation into corruption in PNG did not allege that $A1.7 billion of Australian aid money was stolen from PNG’s budget”, the Australian broadcaster said.

“Following the report, the Australian Attorney-General and Minister for Home Affairs issued a joint statement, appointing a senior official to meet with the head of the AFP to investigate the allegations raised in the programme.”

Read Channel 7’s full statement and other responses

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Pacific Media Watch

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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