COURT BATTLE UNDER WAY BETWEEN POLYNESIAN AIRLINES AND SAMOA OBSERVER

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APIA, Samoa (March 10, 1999 – Radio Australia)---A court battle is under way in Samoa as the state-owned Polynesian Airline seeks to have the publisher of the country's only daily newspaper arrested for contempt of court.

Last month, the Samoa Observer was prevented from publishing an issue after the airline won a restraining order barring it from using leaked airline documents.

The document's contents have been published abroad, revealing details of advances and allowances paid to senior airline staff.

On February 28, the newspaper published a Letter to the Editor and an opinion column that mentioned some details of the issue.

Meanwhile, in neighboring American Samoa, the Samoa News has called on the American Samoa government to take a stand against an abuse of basic freedoms.

It is suggested that local leaders retaliate by banning the Samoan ferryboat from entering Pago Pago Harbor.

SAMOA OBSERVER CONTEMPT CASE TO CONTINUE TODAY

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (March 9, 1999 – Samoa News)---The motion by Polynesian Airlines to arrest top leaders of the Samoa Observer newspaper will continue this morning at (Western) Samoa’s Supreme Court, according to Aumuagaolo Ropeti Ale, editor of the country’s independent mainstream newspaper.

Polynesian’s motion was prompted following the publishing of a Letter to the Editor and an Opinion from an angry citizen in the Feb. 28th edition of the Samoa Observer. The Letter and the Opinion both mentioned Polynesian Airlines.

The government-owned airline contends that the Samoa Observer defied a court order handed down on Feb. 15th that prevented the publication of salaries and advances provided the airline’s top executives and senior employees.

The airline now believes the newspaper should be held in contempt of court and is calling for the arrest of Samoa Observer’s publisher Savea Sano Malifa and editor Aumuagaolo Ropeti Ale and is asking for them to be confined at the Tafaigata Prison or in the custody of the state.

During yesterday’s hearing, Aumuagaolo said Polynesian Airlines lawyers took 45 minutes to present their side of the story to Judge Teafaasue Sapolu.

Because Samoa Observer’s lawyers were tied up with other cases, a continuation was ordered for this morning at 8:15 a.m. And Aumuagaolo hopes that the matter will be settled by the end of today. He, however, declined to comment further on the case while it is in the Supreme Court.

According to sources in Apia, while Polynesian Airlines does have its own team of lawyers on the payroll, they have hired outside lawyers to handle this particular case.

Another journalist jailed for contempt of court in Samoa was then editor Uelese Petaia of the Samoa Times during the early 90s. That move by the court prompted complaints from freedom of the press organizations around the world.

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