Code Of Ethics For Samoa Media To Prohibit Acceptance Of Cultural, Commercial Gifts

Journalists urged to uphold the independence, professionalism of their work

By Pa’i Mulitalo Ale

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Feb. 14, 2017) – The first media consultation today on the draft Code of Ethics for the Samoa media have agreed for journalists not to accept commercial or cultural gifts that would compromise their work.

Today’s consultation was for local Editors and Reporters and looked at the Editorial Content of the Code. The other two sections of the code cover Advertising and Content Management.

Accepting commercial and cultural gifts 

Commercial and cultural gifts have long been a contentious issue for journalists and media practitioners as commercial gifts like those offered during press conferences as promotional material, were seen as bribes to provide favourable media coverage.

In a cultural setting, journalists always traverse a thin ethical line and accepted cultural presentations during events like funerals and title bestowals, saying it is rude and against Samoan tradition to refuse gifts presented under such circumstances.

President of JAWS, Apulu Lance Polu explained that there should be a clear standard dealing with gifts so as not to influence the coverage of any story or event where a gift maybe presented.  He also explained that it is part of JAWS work to explain that standard for the public to understand.

The Code of Ethics has been developed with the assistance of Australian Consultant Geoff Heriot with the financial assistance of the Australian funded Pacific Media Project (PACMAS).

The Code also includes earlier JAWS work from ten years ago that attempted to develop a self-regulatory mechanism to ensure professional standards are maintained in the Samoan media.

According to Geoff Heriot, much has changed in the last ten years in the media landscape not only in Samoa but internationally that requires the development of a new Code for the Samoan media.

In 2015, the Samoan parliament passed the Media Council Act that sets up JAWS as the national media association, as well as setting up a Media Council to adjudicate complaints against the media in an effort to maintain professionalism and ethical standards in the media.

In handling gifts, the Code as discussed by practitioners today, emphasizes “that under no circumstance shall a journalist accept monetary or any other form of gifts that may compromise the course of their work.

“At all times, journalists will seek to uphold the independence of journalism, avoid any circumstance that could be seem to be bribery.”

According to Lemalu Sina Retzlaff of Samoa Planet taking food should be accepted by the media if it is made available for everyone at a function.

Nanai Laveitiga Tuiletufuga believed that “it is our culture” and with his experience working for the Government, most of the villages acknowledged them as the government newspaper and it would be impolite to say no but accept it.

The acting Press Secretary Renate Rivers said, “Whether it’s a sandwich or $10 this should not be accepted.”

Rivers raised the issue about the election candidates who are not allowed to give even food or they will be facing charges of bribery and treating.

In her belief accepting gifts in any form should not be accepted.

The consultations are held at the Millennia Hotel conference room. The second consultation will be tomorrow and will focus on Advertising and Media Content Management.

Two more consultations will be with members of civil society and members of the Media Council.

The final Code is expected to be endorsed and adopted in the final workshop planned for Tuesday 21 February 2017.

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