Pacific Media Watch

24 February 2012

SAMOA: PM explains state push for media 'reform'

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Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi ... critical of 'weak' local media. Photo: Samoa Observer

Charlina Tone

APIA (Samoa Observer / Pacific Media Watch): Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has taken a swipe at the “weak” local media amid mounting criticism of his proposed media regulatory body.

“The media should rejoice and sing hallelujah and hosanna because the government is doing their work for them.”  He said the government proposal to set up a body to regulate the media was long overdue.

He ordered the Samoa Law Reform Commission last November to make recommendations about the form such a body should take.

“For the past 10 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 said he didn’t understand why the media were questioning the establishment of such a body because it has been in discussion for so long.

“I have already spoken with your boss Savea Sano Malifa many times before about this issue,” he told the Samoa Observer reporter in an interview last week.

He said the Samoan media was “weak” and could not even carry out this simple task. Samoan journalists were recently divided on the government’s proposal and could not reach an agreement during a three-hour meeting held at the Government Office Complex on Beach Road.

Samoa Observer editor-in-chief, Savea Sano Malifa, objected saying there were enough laws in place presently regulating the Samoan media so that any more regulations would be completely unnecessary. 

He added that if a body to regulate the media on how it was carrying out its duties and responsibilities was to be set up, perhaps Samoa's laws should be cleaned up first.

He referred to laws protecting members of the public from being defamed by the media, including the Printers and Publishers Act 1992 which required publishers and editors to reveal their sources of information to government leaders who claim they had been defamed by them.

Although other countries have similar laws, this one is different in that the authority to reveal sources is not made by the judge but by the plaintiff himself, and it has to be obeyed.

At the recent meeting, some even expressed the view that it did not matter whether or not practising journalists and media supporters agreed to the government proposal.

This proposal though, was presented by the Executive Director of the Samoa Law Reform Commission Society (EDSLRCS), Leilani Tuala-Warren, and the commission’s Senior Legal Analyst, Mae Tanner.

“The Samoan Law Reform Commission received a reference on 15 November 2011 from the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General to review the need for a body to regulate the media, and to make a recommendation as to the form such as body should take."

The discussion is on-going and more meetings are planned to discuss recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission.

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Pacific Media Watch

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