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  • Nigel Akuani 

Students Demand for more Freedom to Express themselves

Updated: Jun 27, 2021

Port Moresby: Four students from De La Salle Secondary School Bomana, came together in an effort to demand a wider scope for them to openly express themselves about pressing matters affecting society.

The Grade-11 male students appeared on the Chat Room program of Wednesday 23rd June 2021, to discuss the issue of ‘Young People and their Right to Freedom of Expression.’

An array of aspects surrounding the topic were highlighted that provided the rich content necessary for their discussion. Their talk dwelled on Section 46 of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Constitution ‘Freedom of Expression’, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provided for by the United Nations, current trends experienced among youths and their elders, challenges facing the exercise of Right to Expression, the need for young people to become vocal in society, factual comparison between different countries and PNG, ending off with a firm call for parents, adults, and the government to provide an opportunity necessary for young voices to be heard.

Referencing Section 46, Jeremiah Wohengu, said it was their basic right to express freely and openly without fear or favour, and encouraged youths to raise their voices to be heard. “We just need to speak up and it is very important for our voices to be heard because we will be the successors to our predecessors, we will be the ones in charge of making decisions and implementing change for the betterment of the country,” he said.

Arkland Maru, said that the mentality and attitude experienced in society had a significant influence in shaping and limiting a person’s opinion, and implored individuals to start talking more freely about how they felt. “The mindset maintained in communities is a common practice where we are constantly influenced by our peers, and this mentality prohibits us from speaking or doing what is best for ourselves. What we need to do is step out from that circle and tell our elders to stop for a moment and take a look at what young people are doing,” he stated.

Emphasizing the need for more focus on the rights of the younger generation, Dian Anthony, said sadly many times young people were overlooked and unheard as their voices fell on deaf-ears. “In reality those who are older, in power and authority, with money and influence eventually have the final say to suppress, express or control information,” he said.

“As we progress toward modernization, this existent mindset where the older generation are regarded as important will need to be changed. The moment we recognize this right, then perhaps we will see a long-term change in society paving the way for an improved dialogue that focuses on uniting and building,” he added.

Recalling the recent incident at UPNG where the media was attacked for covering a protest hosted by female students to address Gender Based Violence on campus, he said, “This issue was brought to light and had so much attention after it was published on Facebook. Thanks to social media they were able to express their right, but for the attack itself, it was a breach of a core Constitutional right.”

Issac Tiko, ended discussions with a strong piece of advice for young people, urging them to rise up and raise their voices to defend their values and views on what they held to be right and just. “If you want to say something and you know it’s right, then say it. If you know you are right, fight for it. Let your voice be heard on issues affecting our communities,” he said.

When asked if PNG’s cultures were a barrier to freedom of expression, he said it was a factor that affected everyone because it required young people to blindly obey the commands of the elderly. “Culture holds us back and there are certain practices that have to be done away with or adjusted before it can coincide with the notion of development. We now know what needs to be changed in past practices for it to blend well with today’s time,” he reassured.

The next session of Chat Room on Wednesday 30th June, will have young female Journalists take on the topic of ‘Women in Journalism’.

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