Papua New Guinea sticks the boot into Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch came under fire from one of the furthest flung corners of his empire on Tuesday, with Papua New Guinea's acting prime minister accusing one of the media baron's papers of trying to oust him.
Sam Abal said he was closely watching developments on the far side of the globe in London, where Murdoch's News Corp. is under intense scrutiny over phone voicemail hacking by the now-defunct News of the World.
The scandal forced Murdoch to close the tabloid and prompted the resignation of several close executives while two of Britain's most senior police have now quit over their handling of investigations into the matter.
Abal said the Post-Courier, which is 46 percent owned by Murdoch's Australian division News Limited, was only a tiny element in the global organisation, but accused it of pushing for regime change in Port Moresby.
He said he had observed "the appalling conduct of journalists in manufacturing stories and demonstrating clear leanings towards determining political outcomes", in comments carried by rival paper The National.
"Their reporting has been lacking objectivity, fairness, balance and responsibility to a point where the behaviour of the paper seems akin to the behaviour and editorial attitude of the overseas tabloid," Abal said.
"If the editorial behaviour and attitude of the paper is instructed out of London and the empire headquarters, then I have real reason to be wary of the way my government, its readers and shareholders of the paper stand to be treated."
The publisher of the Post-Courier, the Port Moresby-based South Pacific Post, rejected Abal's comments, saying the paper was being attacked because it dared to report without fear.
Managing director Kevin Smith dismissed suggestions that Murdoch controlled the editorial content in the oldest and largest selling national newspaper in the impoverished Pacific country.
"I, in fact as managing director, have no say in what makes the paper daily," he said in a statement.
Smith said the paper, which was founded in 1969 and has a daily circulation of some 26,262, was not involved in any illegal or questionable news gathering.
Abal has been the subject of news stories in recent weeks after his adopted son was arrested over the murder of a young woman at one of his Port Moresby residences.
He was appointed acting prime minister in April in place of Michael Somare, who underwent major heart surgery.
© 2011 AFP