Pacific Media Watch

22 August 2014

SAMOA: Media regulation bill tabled in Parliament

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Samoa Observer editor, Mata’afa Keni Lesa. Image: Samoa Observer

APIA (Radio NZ International / Pacific Media Watch / Samoa Observer): A proposed new law which aims to set up a media regulation body in Samoa is one step closer to reality, having been tabled by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele in Parliament.

The Media Council Bill will see a media council set up to investigate public complaints and introduce codes of ethics and practice for Samoa's journalists, Radio New Zealand International reported.

It will also see the Journalism Association of Western Samoa becoming as the implementing body of the council, which would then act as an independent professional association, according to RNZI.

The new law may result in journalists' sources having more protection than they do now.

At the moment, newspapers are compelled to provide anyone who complains about an article with all the source material, including the names of confidential sources. But the new bill will mean that the courts have to first consider whether exposing a confidential source would be in the public interest.

The Journalists Association of Samoa will be given government funding so that it can elect a committee, who will then appoint a 10-member Media Council, to be headed by an 11th member, who must be a lawyer or judge, Samoa Observer journalist Jason Brown reported earlier this year.

"Overall, under section 4 of the the proposed Media Council Act, its purpose would be to “promote professional journalism and integrity in the news media, while observing the fundamental rights under Part II of the Constitution", Brown wrote.

But Samoa Observer editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa warned last year that a media council could potentially be detrimental to media in Samoa.

He said the government had instructed the Attorney-General to establish a media council.

“Our fear at this stage is that this media council will become another government body, designed to really shut down the media,” Lesa told PMW's Daniel Drageset then.

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