PNG activist blogger Martyn Namorong protests online in defiance of gag order

PNG blogger Martyn Namorong ... gagged but not silenced. Image: MN Twitter
PNG blogger Martyn Namorong … gagged but not silenced. Image: MN Twitter

By Mong Palatino on David Robie’s Cafe Pacific

A Papua New Guinea court has issued a gag order against Martyn Namorong, a prominent political blogger and activist accused of defaming Patilias Gamato, the country’s Electoral Commissioner.

Gamato this week sued Namorong after Namorong compared him to a “fruit” (tomato) on social media, as reported by Pacific Media Watch. When Namorong learned about the court order, he posted this image on Twitter before adding the above blue gag selfie image:

Namorong’s original gag image posted on his Facebook and Twitter feeds. Image: Asia Pacific Report

He added that he also needed a lawyer.

Before the gag order came down, Namorong had written critically about Gamato’s role in overseeing this month’s two-week-long general election held June 24-July 8, 2017.

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But Namorong is not the only one critical of Gamato.

News reports mentioned complaints of alleged irregularities in the recent election such as discrepancies in voter rolls, inadequate support for polling staff, and inefficient counting of results.

Even members of the Papua New Guinea Election Advisory Committee tendered their resignation due to the failure of the Election Commission to adequately address the mounting discrepancies.

Former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta believes the resignation of the Election Advisory Committee has “sent a loud and clear signal that the conduct of the election had been hijacked” and called for the resignation of Gamato:

    “All honest and concerned Papua New Guineans value their decision, but lament the causes of it. It is a very sad day for Papua New Guinea, and sends shivers of fright about the future of democracy in our country. The utter chaos of this election is deliberately organised. It is rigged.”

Morauta also defended Namorong and accused Gamato of being thin-skinned. He advised the election officer to concentrate on more important issues like fixing the problems of the electoral system.

But Gamato insisted that despite “few incidents,” the election process has been “progressing well.”

    “So far the election is progressing well despite a few incidents reported in some parts of the country. I am confident to deliver this election successfully.”

PNG blogger Martyn Martyn Namorong … far from phased by the court order. He says
people should be worried about Papua New Guinea’s future,
not him. Image: MN Facebook

The counting is expected to be finalised by July 23 or 24. Namorong’s next court hearing is scheduled on July 25.

It’s not clear why Gamato chose to single out Namorong in filing the defamation case. Whatever his intentions, the case put a greater spotlight on the numerous weaknesses of the general elections system.

Namorong has vowed to continue posting a gagged image of himself on social media while the gag order remains in effect. This was his image on Day 2 of the gag – and he now has a lawyer.

Mong Palatino is the Global Voices regional editor for Southeast Asia. His comment is republished on David Robie’s Cafe Pacific blog by arrangement.

Namorong’s latest posting.