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27 June 2013

AUDIO: Samoan MP warns journalists could be jailed for 'misreporting'

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The Speaker of Samoa's Parliament, La’auli Leuatea Polata’ivao, has accused news media of misquoting debate in the House. Image:

SYDNEY (Pacific Media Watch / ABC Radio Australia): Samoa's parliamentary Speaker has warned its media that journalists responsible for inaccurate reports could be jailed for up to six months.

Parliamentary Speaker La'auli Leuatea Polata'ivao's comments were prompted by reports surrounding an angry exchange between Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi and deputy Tautua Samoa Party leader A'eau Peniamina Leavai, Radio Australia reports. 

The editor of Samoa Observer, Mata'afa Lesa, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat he is outraged by the warning.

"Some of the words exchanged were extremely rude if you understand the Samoan language," Lesa said.

"I think the word they're really objecting to, the word used in Samoan, is faamaga.

"Faamaga is literally having someone else come and grab your mouth open."

Accurate reporting
Lesa says his newspaper's report is accurate.

"We've got the recording of it," he said.

"The words in the story were said in Parliament."

However, Polata'ivao has called on the media to only use "officially" approved transcripts from the parliamentary Hansard section.

"Inside this parliament, the Speaker gives an order and they [media] can't just come in and issue every statement that is not official transcripts of parliament or in Hansard," Polata'ivao said.

Media requests for copies of order papers, bills, or records from Hansard have previously been turned down.

Serious consequences
Polata'ivao has declared charges are possible under a 1960 law carrying a maximum sentence of six months or a $100 fine, or both.

Lesa says the law is outdated. "Here we have the Speaker of the House using a law that doesn't exist anymore and so it's a bit of a joke really," he said.

"We reported what was said and we reported the fact that they're threatening to ban journalists and jail them.

"To jail a journalist for 6 months for something like that is outrageous."

Listen to the full interview with Samoa Observer editor, Mata'afa Lesa, here.

Also, read Samoa Observer's article Speaker issues warning and Pacific Freedom Forum's commentary Speaker's view on Samoa media 'outdated'.

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Pacific Media Watch

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