Court denies request to censor documentary on Papua New Guinea
On 15th July, the Supreme Court of New South Wales dismissed a claim by former Papua New Guinean politician Dame Carol Kidu for a permanent injunction preventing the screening of the documentary The Opposition. Ms. Kidu wanted to prevent her appearance in the film and alleged that she did not know that the director was shooting a documentary for public exhibition.
The documentary focuses on the day in 2012 when an Australian-linked company's bulldozers, accompanied by armed police, razed the historic shanty town on Paga Hill to make way for a five-star hotel and marina. It tells the story of a battle over land by following Joe Moses, one of the leaders of this four-generation strong settlement in Port Moresby, in his struggle to save the community before the eviction.
The Court ruling was welcomed by the film's director, Holly Fifer:
“The Paga Hill Community is filing for damages in the PNG Courts for the loss of their homes and human rights violations. The Opposition is also their evidence base because most of their documents were destroyed during numerous demolition exercises that were carried out at Paga Hill"
Additional legal threats still loom, however. As the Court had initially issued a temporary injunction of the footage featuring Carol Kidu, the filmmakers were forced to screen a redacted version at Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto in May. Just hours after the film premiered, Beacon Films and Media Stockade received further legal demands over its contents. The corporation behnd the evictions, Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC), sued for defamaiton and demanded that all further screenings cease immediately.
According to Ms. Fifer:
'It would seem that there are powerful forces who don’t want this film to be seen, but we believe that audiences should have the right to make up their own minds. This story is too important not to be told.'