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Council should be free of government involvement

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Feb. 27, 2012) – The editor of the Samoa Observer says it would be impossible for the media to operate should a media council be created while other restrictive legislation exists.

All media organizations, except for the Samoa Observer, agreed to set up a media council, but recommended the body be self regulated without any involvement by the government or other politicians.

[PIR editor’s note: Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi criticized local media, saying that, in spite of government waiting nearly a decade for the media to set up its own regulatory body, the governments plan has met with opposition. He characterized Samoa’s media as "weak" after representatives could not agree after a three-hour meeting over the new council. Talamua owner Apulu Lance Polu says the proposed council could play "a major role in maintaining and improving standards for media," although some media organizations have suggested the council should be self-regulating without involvement from the government or politicians.]

The Law Reform Commission revealed last week that a contentious criminal libel act will be removed from law in March.

But the editor of the Samoa Observer, Mataafa Keni Lesa, wants it to also remove the Publishers and Printers Act, which threatens press freedom.

"Unless the government is willing to get rid of those, then we can have a media council, because at the moment, if you have those two acts in place and then a media council on top of those acts, it’s just impossible for the media to do its work."

Mataafa says he believes other media organizations are simply resigned to the fact that the government will create a media council with or without their support.

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