APIA (Talamua / Radio New Zealand / Pacific Media Watch): The Prime Minister of Samoa has slammed some of his country's media outlets, likening them to the worst British tabloids, just as Parliament debates a controversial new law aimed at government regulation of the media.
Radio New Zealand has reported that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi said at the second reading of his proposed new media regulation law that "money was being used by media organisations in Samoa to collect information".
Tuilaepa said Rupert Murdoch had become "a billionaire because of false stories and illegal and corrupt methods to gather information" and that similar things were happening in Samoa.
Murdoch owned the British tabloid, News of the World, until he was forced to close the paper in 2011 after it was exposed that its journalists had relied on hacking and phone bugging to get stories.
The Samoa Observer said Tuilaepa did not name any of the media outlets he said were guilty of similar unethical practices, nor give any details.
Tuilaepa's comments came just after the major opposition party raised queries in Parliament about the planned Media Council.
Talamua reported that Palusalue Faapo, the leader of the opposition party Tautua Samoa questioned whether a government-funded Media Council could be independent.
Tuilaepa responded by saying "there are other councils and organisations funded by the government but it has not changed their negative opinions and criticisms of the government".
The Media Council is set to be administered by the Journalist Association of Samoa (JAWS).
While the new law may protect sources, who journalists will not have to expose unless a court feels it is in the public interest, Samoa Observer editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa warned last year that the Media Council could "become another government body, designed to really shut down the media.
There will be public hearings on the Media Council Bill before it comes back to Parliament for the third and final reading, Talamua reported.
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