Pacific Media Watch

25 February 2012

SAMOA: Editorial: The 'weak' media and Tuilaepa Almighty

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Matā’afa Keni Lesa ... "Only a big bully picks on the vulnerable and the 'weak'". Photo: PMC

Matā’afa Keni Lesa

EDITORIAL: APIA: (Samoa Observer / Pacific Media Watch): If the media in Samoa is weak as Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi says, then he is a bully. Only a big bully picks on the vulnerable and the “weak” and that’s precisely what Tuilaepa is doing through his insistence on a media regulatory body.

On the front page of your newspaper yesterday (see story titled PM explains media push), Tuilaepa took another pot shot at the local media over the controversial proposal.

Pointing out that the local media should have set up a Council long time ago, Tuilaepa said; “The media should rejoice and sing hallelujah and hosanna because the government is doing their work for them. “For the past ten years, we have been calling on the media to set up this body themselves but they could not do it, now the government is stepping in to help them.”

He added: “I have already spoken with your boss, Savea Sano Malifa, many times before about this issue.”

Asked for a comment, Savea says he cannot remember talking to the Prime Minister about the matter.

Says Savea: “Perhaps the Prime Minister Tuilaepa was thinking about somebody else when he made his comments.” He says the only person he knew who might have talked with the Prime Minister was Ian Beales, the media specialist from the Thomson Foundation in the United Kingdom who visited Samoa a few years ago.

“Beales recommended that the Criminal Libel law and the Publishers and Printers Act 1992 should be abolished since they are direct threats to investigative journalism in Samoa.”

Simple truth
In any case, we fail to see how the government is helping the local media by ramming a regulative body down its throat. The truth is simple, if the media hasn’t set up the council after many years, it obviously doesn’t want to. There are more pressing issues to deal with.

But being the bully that he is, now Prime Minister Tuilaepa is using his hefty weight to push through the council so that the “weak” local media are left with no other choice but to surrender. Tuilaepa’s media council is all about control. He wants to keep the media on a very tight leash so he can order them around like a little dog with its tail in between the legs.

That’s how bullies like it. They like to control the vulnerable and toy with their heads to the point they become a bunch of “yes men” to their master’s pathetic orders.
Isn’t that what’s happening in Fiji today? Look at how Frank Bainimarama is manipulating media rules? There is absolutely no media freedom in Fiji.

Come to think of it, how is media freedom possible under a leader who insists on censorship?

The irony of all ironies is that Prime Minister Tuilaepa has been Bainimarama’s biggest critic.

He has called him all sorts of names and some of them have been downright insulting. Yet what he’s doing in Samoa today is no different from Bainimarama. The only difference between Samoa and Fiji is that we don’t have a military. But looking at the way things are, we might as well have one.

Obey without question
Is there oppression in Samoa?

Just ask all those intelligent public servants who have to take orders from Tuilaepa’s Cabinet without question.

The way it works – according to what we’ve been told – is they are to obey without question. In other words, leave your brain out the door and just do what you’re told.
In Samoa today, the government has become so powerful nobody dares to oppose it and sitting at the helm is one Tuilaepa Almighty who is pulling all the strings.

Look at how he is also planning to regulate legal fees for lawyers?

What’s next? Doctors? Engineers? Accountants? Architects? Hairdressers?

The point is that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.  Casting the work of different professions under a bad light – especially when it comes to fees – is asking for trouble. The Prime Minister is inciting hatred among the population towards these professions.

On the other hand, the professionals, whether they’re lawyers, doctors, accountants or whatever, are paying much-needed taxes to the government, which stimulate the economy. If Tuilaepa really wants to help people, he should look at cutting “waste” and “extravagance” among public servants.

He should stop pointing the finger at everybody else but undertake a meaningful examination of himself and his administration.
We repeat, it is this newspaper’s firm view that a media council is unnecessary since there are already enough laws to govern the work of the media.

The court is available for people who feel that they have been wronged by any media organisation to seek redress.

So thanks but no thanks, we will not “rejoice and sing hallelujah and hosanna because the government is doing” the work for us.

First of all, we never invited the government to do any work for us. Secondly, we’re of the opinion that there is so much rubbish the government needs to clean up within itself first that it should leave the media alone to do it’s job.

Matā’afa Keni Lesa is editor of the Samoa Observer.
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