Samoa Opposition Claims Media Ban Reminiscent Of Fiji

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Speaker threatened to ban media from parliament last week

By Sophie Budvietas

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, June 27, 2013) – Tautua Party Leader Palusalue Faapo II has likened the recent threat to ban media from Samoa’s Parliament to the current media climate in Fiji, under a military regime.

Speaking during a press conference held yesterday, Palusalue said it was undemocratic to threaten the media with the ban if they reported outside the ruling from Speaker La’auli Leuatea Polata’ivao.

"That’s going right back to the dark ages," he says. "Banning the media and freedom of information, the freedom of giving the media the right to do their job."

"It’s like going back the way Fiji is, so that’s sad."

Last week, La’auli issued a press release saying that as the media is entrusted a great freedom to report on Parliament, they must do so accurately and responsibly.

"Ideally, the media must reference their reports with official Parliament debate transcripts which may be acquired from the Legislative Assembly – before any matters discussed within Parliament goes to press," his press release reads.

The Speaker further asserted that failure to take heed of this ruling would result in media persons in breach of his ruling being banned from Parliament, with the added possibility of jail time or a fine, or both.

Palusalue says Tautua will always support the media because it is very important part of democracy as they keep the government transparent and accountable.

"So all this nonsense that the Speaker has been doing is threatening the freedom of expression," he says. "So what I have said to the media is to continue to do their work and just do it right.

"And to ensure that all the information is given to the public and also monitor what the government is doing to ensure they are doing the right thing for the people."

Palusalue’s Deputy A’eau Peniamina Leavai says Tautua will continue to work openly with the media.

He does not believe the Speaker will hold true to his threat of jailing or fining any member of the media for not reporting within his conditions.

"No I don’t think so because I think he’s being stupid," he says. "There is no law as such, well of course there is but it very hard to prove, and it would be very stupid if he did.

"I think he is only saying that – I know the guy, I don’t think he will."

It is the first time a Speaker has said news media should work from Hansard, an official transcript of debate from the house.

Previously, staff told news media that Hansard is for the internal use of members of Parliament only.

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