Sunday, 5 November 2017

Editor autopsy needs independent review - PFF

Fought the good fight: - next to a red anti-violence ribbon, a colour print-out memorialises Evara with a verse from the Bible: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2nd Timothy 4:7" Photo / PNG Echo


An autopsy finding no signs of trauma in the death of a Papua New Guinea editor should be independently reviewed, says PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum.

“We welcome the autopsy taking place, but challenge a preliminary finding that cause of death was undetermined”, says PFF Chair Monica Miller.

A copy of the report from Chief Pathologist Seth Fose claimed to find no trauma, injuries or other issues.
Miller says that there “are just too many witnesses to our colleague Rosalyn Albaniel Evara suffering severe domestic violence.

“Photos taken after her death, and shown at her funeral, showed extensive bruising.”

PFF joins calls from within the PNG media and wider community for an independent review of the preliminary findings.

“We are advised from PNG that the chief pathologist, another attending doctor at the autopsy, and her alleged attacker, all come from Gulf Province.

“Given how close ties of kinship are across PNG, this is a significant conflict of interest that could and should have avoided.”

Miller says PFF is speaking out against the preliminary finding because of risks that staying silent will send the wrong message.

“At PFF, we usually restrict ourselves to issues around freedom of expression, not medical controversy.

“But we must all, as colleagues, stay vigilant about anyone in circumstances surrounding the death of a working journalist.”

To be effective, an independent review should undergo mediation, with support from the family, or risk suspicion of conflicts of interest.

A death in the clan - family, friends and colleagues were at the funeral for Rosalyn Albaniel Evara. Photo / Lydia Veali via Facebook

Shut down

Miller says she is also disturbed by reports that the Post Courier has shut down the email account for Evara already.

“What is in the email account that so urgently needs deactivating?”

Again PFF joins calls from Papua New Guinea, for police to urgently seek forensic access to the account of Evara.

“For the newspaper to deactivate what may include incriminating evidence amounts to an obstruction of justice.”

“Any attempt to delete the contents of that account should be regarded with deep suspicion."

News of the “undetermined” preliminary finding broke as PFF was preparing an earlier statement in response to claims from the Post Courier.

"Stop shifting blame", says Miller.

The paper had claimed that the only evidence of domestic violence was when under former management.

Asks Miller, “How can management possibly prove when domestic violence started and stopped less than a week after the death of an employee?”

Attack: in an editorial, the Post Courier claimed the family had "high-jacked" their own funeral.
Photo / LoopPNG


The Pacific Freedom Forum also rejects a further claim, against the former editor, Alexander Rheeney, now a co-chair of PFF.

“We are satisfied at an explanation from our co-chair that the only incident of domestic violence brought to his attention during his time as editor involved another staff member, and was not fatal.”

“We note, with sadness but understanding, that the staff member chose not to pursue prosecution of her partner - further contributing to a culture of silence surrounding domestic violence.”

Worse, Miller says, is that instead of supporting the family, the Post Courier chose to attack them in an editorial for “high-jacking” the funeral ceremony.

The editorial attacked former employees for criticising an alleged lack of action against domestic violence on its own staff.

Describing the criticisms as a “tirade of accusations” the Post-Courier identified a former managing director and a reporter, who both “sarcastically berated and belittled Post-Courier as a leading advocator against GBV and allegedly doing nothing to stop the treatment of a passed colleague from being one such victim.”

GBV is an abbreviation for gender-based violence.

In what it claimed was the “proper perspective”, the Post Courier said she “was a completely private person, never one to talk about her personal experiences, life, marriage or what goes beyond the limits of the workplace.”

Responding, PFF Co-Chair Bernadette Carreon, speaking from Palau, says that respect for employee privacy should never interfere with due care for employee safety.

“We are deeply disappointed that management at the Post Courier appear to be using the same sort of tactics that News Corp outlets have long been criticised for”, says Carreon.

“All over the world when it comes to ethics - distract, deny, and delay.”

News Corp cannot be allowed to repeatedly avoid responsibility for their actions, she says.

PFF understands that the autopsy was attended by a family member, and a colleague, who photographed the proceedings.

PFF is also calling on the Post Courier to review its safety procedures for women employees, and use a two-step alert system at work and in the company compound - connected with police and colleagues.

In doing so, PFF says the Post Courier review should acknowledge factors that keep otherwise educated and empowered women in abusive relationships - cultural pressures, lack of economic support especially for parents, and stereotypes of being a single career mother.

Keeping the faith: the death of Rosalyn Albaniel Evara prompted worldwide scrutiny, including from The Guardian newspaper. Screenshot / Guardian


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Monica Miller
PFF Chair
News Director
South Seas Broadcasting
American Samoa

Alexander Rheeney
PFF Co-Chair
President Media Council PNG
Papua New Guinea

Bernadette H. Carreon
PFF Co-Chair
Pacific Island Times /Pacific Note
+ 6807794304

Netani Rika
PFF Coordinator
Communications Director
Pacific Council of Churches


The Pacific Freedom Forum is a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media. We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and other commitments to good governance. In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.

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