Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 23:13 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 23:13 | SYDNEY

Social media to the fore in PNG crisis

14 December 2011 10:11

Danielle Romanes is an intern with the Lowy Institute's Myer Foundation Melanesia Program.

While lamentable in substance, PNG's political turmoil of the last few days has cast light on a number of factors that augur well for the state’s future. PNG's rock solid institutions remain as resilient as ever, and the strength of PNG's citizen journalism is unprecedentedly apparent.

Social media users have turned out in force in PNG to report and critique the constitutional crisis. Into the process they've supplanted the role of a poorly established traditional media, whose reputation – never stellar to begin with – has not been helped by a thoroughly lethargic response to some of the most interesting and unexpected events in the country's history.

Finding little in the national broadsheets, observers have in the last few days been obliged to turn to Twitter feeds and Facebook groups to get an up-to-the-minute handle on a tense, rapidly unfolding and befuddling political situation.

The tweets coming out of PNG vary widely but by nature they're pithy and cumulatively they're riveting. The #PNG hashtag opens up a diverse but comprehensive live account of events on the ground, while blogs feature local analysis and Facebook groups offer access to a national discussion that is equal parts vibrant, outraged, and despondent.

Inaccuracies occasionally crop up in reportage, but they’re often quickly debunked by an army of pedantic tweeters. It's messy and disorganised, but it's also incredibly direct, concise and democratic.

If recent events are anything to go by, PNG's proliferating blogosphere, its Facebook constituency and its growing number of tweeters should give pause to those who consider PNG perpetually divided and ungovernable. Social media is bringing a fragmented people together and coming to hold a political elite accountable. People are engaging in national languages, and arguing along national lines.

If the explosive growth of social media and rapid technological uptake of the last few years is anything to go by, this is only a small indication of things to come. Expect the unexpected from PNG's politicians in the coming days, but expect much more from its people in the coming years.