Pacific Media Watch

11 September 2017

SAMOA: Treatment of camerawoman at Pacific Forum leaves ‘sour taste’

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Tahitian camerawoman Heidi Kow Yieng was struck on shoulder by security officer ... "this type of behaviour should not be tolerated". Image: Samoa Observer

By Joyetter Feagaimaali'i-Laumanu
APIA (Samoa Observer/Pacific Media Watch): An alleged incident involving a Tahitian camerawoman during the official opening of the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting at Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, has left some members of the media industry angry.

Heidi Kow Yieng was struck on the shoulder by one of the security officers at the venue as she was trying to protect her camera equipment from the rain.

Yieng told the Samoa Observer she was unclear what provoked the incident. 

“Up until now, I don’t know why I was struck by one of the security guys on the shoulder,” she said.

“I was at the back of the VIP tent because of the rain.”

She said she was not injured, but it has left a sour taste.

“This type of behaviour should not be tolerated,” she said.

‘Nowhere else to go’
“I was not in the way of the VIPs at all, I was just standing in the back of the tent because it was raining. I had nowhere else to go.”

Yieng said she does not wish to press charges.

“The issue started when there was no space allocated for the media and that’s why I went looking for a spot to protect my camera from the rain,” she said.

The incident has angered local and Pacific media.

Veteran journalist Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia is disappointed that this has happened in Samoa and has called on Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi to look in to the issue.

Autagavaia told the Samoa Observer this was something the Journalists Association of Samoa (JAWS) should have worked out with PIFs officers to ensure the media was looked after at the venue.

"The ranking of Samoa is significant in terms of press freedom,” he said.

'Bad name' for Samoa
“This will give Samoa a bad name, yet it's over the actions of someone who has zero respect for journalists and the work we do.

“Host countries should be working together, with the media, not working against them. Also, we are journalists and not terrorists.”

Another veteran Pacific journalist, Monica Miller, expressed concerns about the incident.

“It was upsetting to hear that a colleague trying to capture Samoa's traditional welcoming of Pacific Island leaders was collared by a policeman,” she said.

Renate Rivers of the Prime Minister’s Office, who is local coordinator of the Media Centre, said she had apologised to the Tahitian journalist.

Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu is a reporter with the Samoa Observer

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