SAMOA BARS MEDIA FROM REPORTING FULLY ON POLITICAL MURDER

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (August 18, 1999 – Samoa News)---Samoa’s Supreme Court has issued an injunction prohibiting any and all media from communicating certain aspects of the case being pursued in relation to the killing of the late Minister of Works, Luagalau Levaula Kamu, and the alleged conspiracy to kill the Samoan Prime Minister.

The injunction, handed down Monday at the request of the Samoa Attorney General, applies to television, radio, newspapers, etc. It applies to any media circulated in Apia. Thus the New Zealand newspapers, which have been aggressively reporting supposed revelations in the case, will not be allowed into Samoa if they contain offending stories.

According to Samoa Observer Publisher Savea Sano Malifa, his daily newspaper will honor the injunction. Savea told Samoa News last night that the injunction does allow coverage of official court proceedings.

The injunction comes in the wake of overseas media, such as the New Zealand Herald, printing details gleaned from a 46-page confession provided to police by Eletise Leafa Vitale, the man now awaiting the death penalty for killing Luagalau.

The New Zealand version of the television newsmagazine 60 Minutes also provided coverage.

The basis of the court’s concern is reportedly that the media exposure would injure the Government’s case against the other suspects.

According to accounts provided to Samoa News yesterday, Vitale’s confession allegedly admits that his father, former Member of Parliament Leafa Vitale, conspired to the shooting of Luagalau.

Although the Samoa News does not have a copy of the confession, we did receive an anonymous phone call early yesterday morning from someone who claimed to have a "confidential" reportedly recently prepared by and for the New Zealand Government.

"This is the confidential report from New Zealand’s High Commissioner in Apia that details their information about the murder of Luagalau," said the man who called around 6:30 a.m. yesterday. "Are you interested in a copy?"

The caller did not identify himself but only said that this report has also reached other overseas groups. A few minutes later, the highly readable four-page report arrived at the Samoa News by fax. Samoa News verified its genuineness with Michael Field, an Agence France-Presse reporter based in New Zealand.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH Annandale, Australia and Suva, Fiji Islands

SAMOAN MEDIA GAGGED OVER ASSASSIN'S ALLEGED CONFESSION

APIA, Samoa (August 17, 1999 - Pacific Media Watch/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Justice Andrew Wilson has granted an interim injunction in the Supreme Court ordering Samoan news media not to publish, broadcast or distribute an alleged confession made by convicted assassin Eletise Leafa Vitale last month.

Public Works Minister Luagalau Levaula Kamu was gunned down by a single shot to the back at a political function on July 18. Vitale pleaded guilty to the murder charge and was sentenced to death.

His father, sacked Women's Minister Leafa Vitale, and the former Communications Minister, 67-year-old Toi Aukuso, also face charges over the killing.

PACNEWS reported on August 17, 1999 that the Attorney General, Brenda Heather, filed an injunction on August 15, which was delivered, to all Government and private media the following day.

The injunction relates to young Vitale's confession to the murder of Luagalau as revealed by a 60 Minutes current affairs program on Television New Zealand during the weekend.

The injunction will affect Samoan language newspapers printed in New Zealand and distributed widely in Samoa, namely the Samoana, Samoa Post and Tautua Samoa.

According to the injunction, Vitale made the statement on July 30 at Apia Police Station. It was witnessed by Detective Inspector Steve Shortland and Detective Sergeant Phillip Kirkham.

The New Zealand police officers helped the Samoan police investigate the July 16 shooting of Luagalau.

Vitale's statement is relevant to the Attorney General's case against Toi Aukuso and Leafa Vitale, according to the injunction.

Justice Wilson adjourned Aukuso's case to August 25 so he can engage a lawyer. He faces charges that he murdered and conspired to murder Luagalau, and also incited another person to murder.

Title -- 2303 SAMOA: Media gagged over assassin's alleged confession Date -- 18 August 1999 Byline -- Media release Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- PMW/Pacnews,17/8/99 Status -- Unabridged

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