Samoa Media Association Head Denies Conflict Of Interest

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Uale is president of JAWS, but also public servant

By Iliā L. Likou

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, July 21, 2013) – The President of Samoa’s only media association is not denying that there is a conflict of interest between his role and his job in Government.

But Uale Papali’i Taimalelagi dismisses suggestions that the conflict represents a problem for either government or the Journalists Association of (Western) Samoa (JAWS).

"When it’s time to put my hat on as a public servant in the government, then that is my role and then when it is time for JAWS, then, I am for JAWS," he told the Sunday Samoan.

Last Tuesday, Opposition leader Palusalue Fa’apo II raised concerns about plans for a state media council and the fact that the President of JAWS comes from the Government.

"These kinds of conflicts of interest concern me a lot," Palusalue told the press conference.

"We must make sure the media is independent, not to be under the control of any political parties, to ensure the fairness of media within our country.

"Something that we have to look deeply into is, if the president of JAWS works together with the government, surely the media will come under the government when the act is approved."

In response to those comments, Uale said the media council was an idea first raised by JAWS.

But the concept has ended up with government stepping in and helping formalize the council because it was taking too long, he said.

His comments yesterday contradict those he made just over a week ago where he called on government to allow media the full two years recommended by the Samoa Law Reform Commission.

In its report last year, the SLRC recommended that news media be given a full two years to implement their own media council.

Last week, Uale also called on government to appoint an independent lawyer to draft any new law, if media were not to be given the full two year period.

During the interview with the Sunday Samoan, however, Uale made no mention of those pleas, instead saying that everything was "smooth" with government.

And Uale said that he still retains the confidence of a majority of JAWS members.

"It’s been five years since I was elected as President of the media and still they vote for me."

"Yes, I have been working in the government and JAWS, but, still, everything went well."

He said that there’s nothing wrong in working two positions at one time.

"For your information, I was a qualified journalist and this has helped me a lot doing this job."

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