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Reporter wanted picture of family-decorated cell

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Dec. 17, 2010) – In Samoa, a reporter who attempted to take photos of a cellblock at Tafa’igata Prison painted by the family of convicted lawyer, Semi Samau, was stopped yesterday.

Aigaletaulele’ā F. Tauafiafi of the Samoa Observer was refused permission upon an order from Police Commissioner, LilomaiavaFouTaioalo.

The decision was delivered by Assistant Commissioner, SalaSeagaUiliLafaele, and Head of the Prison.

"You’ve already got your story, he told the reporter. What more do you want? Isn’t that enough?"

He blocked the reporter from taking photos of the freshly painted cell.

By doing so, he overturned permission granted twice by Police media spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner, LeaupepeFatu Pula.

On Saturday 11 December, Leaupepe gave permission for the Samoa Observer to take photographs. Permission was sought when the news broke the family of Mr. Samau had done some work at Tafa’igata Prison.

"I can’t allow you to take photos today but there’s the prisoner’s special day Wednesday [15 December] next week, Leaupepe said on Saturday 11 December. You can go to that [event] and yes, you can take photos of those areas the Samau family helped with."

During a police press conference on Tuesday, Leaupepe re-affirmed his directive, this time to all media present.

"You can [all] take photos of the areas the Samau family painted and worked on."

But Sala refused to budge yesterday. Told about Leaupepe’s directive, he responded; "The work was done in a ‘holding cell’. There are too many other prisoners detained there awaiting judgment so that’s why you’re not allowed to take photos."

How many other prisoners, he was asked.

"Many, Sala said. More than ten? No, not more than ten. So please, you’re not allowed to take photos up there, just take photos of the festivities and that’s it."

The festivities were of prisoners celebrating Christmas.

Leaupepe was surprised when told late yesterday Commissioner Lilomaiava had vetoed his permission.

"Well if it was the Commissioner who made the call then that’s the final word on the matter. He’s the Commissioner and that’s his decision."

Asked for a reason why the Commissioner would have overturned his decision Leaupepe said, "That’s the Commissioner’s prerogative."

Mr. Samau, who was jailed five years for theft and falsification of documents, is in New Zealand undergoing medical treatment.

He’s to return on or before Wednesday 9 March 2011 and will appear in the Supreme Court at 2pm on that day.

Officers at the prison yesterday told the Samoa Observer, Mr. Samau will then be transferred from the ‘holding cell’ to "the jail proper".

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