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Vasinatta Yama shooting highlights dangers to young career journalists in #PNG

Yesterday, EMTV’s Mt. Hagen Correspondent, Vasinatta Yama, was shot by a stray police bullet.

Luckily, it was a small calibre weapon – a sidearm – that was used to shoot into the crowd. Vasinatta would not be alive if the bullet came from an assault rifle.

Early this morning we arrived in Mt. Hagen to check up on her status. She was in high spirits and in a better state than she was yesterday.

Again, we are thankful that while the bullet penetrated her calf, it didn’t hit her bone.

Vasinatta is one of a growing army of brave young journalists who work in difficult situations all over the country.

In the highlands, where things can get volatile, she has been able to provide the best reports as both and eyewitness and journalist.

During the elections, she was one of a handful who battled the dangers of unpredictable highlands politics to report on the events as they unfolded.

Being a local girl, it was difficult to work in close quarters with family and yet maintain credibility and balance.

Is she crazy? Yes! A good kind of crazy is good if you are to work in difficult and dangerous environments.

Her professionalism, work ethic and the respect she commands in her area of operation was evident when senior police officers went to confirm if she was indeed shot at least an hour after she had been shot.

This morning, I spoke to the Assistant Police Commissioner in Mt. Hagen, Nema Mondiai, he also confirmed that he had been informed of the incident.

As the person heading news operations outside of Port Moresby, it is always worrying when journalists find themselves in potentially violent situations. Having one of them injured is not something you look forward to. In fact, it is something you worry about every day.

Last week, EMTV’s Madang Corresspondent, Martha Louis, covered the unrest in Madang where three people where shot. By 3pm when the crowd was nearing police lines and shots were fired, I had to, very sternly, order her to get to a safe place.

Edwin Fidelis, now the Kokopo Correspondent was also caught between two warring clans in Kainantu. Separated from his cameraman and vehicle, it took some guts and diplomacy to get out of a situation that could have ended with him getting hurt or killed.

Working under stress, brings out the best in people. I see that innovation everyday in Theckla Gunga who uses every available resource and contact to get to serious (sometimes gory) crime stories. She has been threatened and intimidated and still has not backed down.

I want to also mention Adelaide Kari (#ASK) and cameraman Paul Naime who covered the UPNG unrest when students were shot. A lot of facebook commentators criticized her for “shaky pictures.” How can you keep steady when shots are being fired and people are being shot at.

A notable mention to NBC journalist, Rose Amos, who was physically assaulted by police during that same unrest. Brave…Brave woman!

There are others, Jack, Stan and the Moresby team. It is never easy.

These are young people I am very honored to lead.

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