Government to reinstate the Criminal Libel Act against ghost writers
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA- FRIDAY 03 NOVEMBER 2017: The Criminal Libel Act that was abolished in 2013 after a review of the Samoa Law Commission will be reinstated given the increasing abusive and malicious language used by Samoan bloggers on social media.
This was according to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi during his weekly media programme with Talamua Media last night.
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The Criminal Libel Act that carries a prison term for the convicted was abolished in 2013 and dropped from the Samoa Crimes Act 2013. It was also a trade off with the local media body JAWS to set up its regulatory process through the Media Council that was formally established last year after parliament passed the Media Council Act in 2015.
But the move to reinstate the Criminal Libel Act was put forward at the Human Rights Protection Party caucus meeting last week, after the Prime Minister returned from medical treatment in New Zealand.
“The issue then was the impact of the Criminal Libel Act on media freedom and freedom of expression,” the Prime Minister explained.
“That’s why it was abolished. But now, the language is very bad and malicious and defamatory. So it is fitting to reinstate the Act as recourse for those affected,” said Tuilaepa.
Tuilaepa emphasized that the freedom of expression is intact but the constant abuse on social media has prompted the Government to address this quickly.
Talamua raised the issue in relation to the expected easier internet access that will come with the Tui Samoa cable that landed in Samoa this week and promising more space and speed that could also increase the level of abuse on the internet.
Tuilaepa who has been a constant target of a certain blogger, said Government is aware of the identity of these people and they include politicians, retired Government officials and even lawyers, but the delay in charging them is that there is no law to guide Government actions.
A former church minister also laid a complaint with the police when he was maliciously attacked in the same blog and police had been investigating the identity of the blogger.
“The Attorney General is working on it now, and as soon as it’s done, it will tabled for Parliament to pass,” said the Prime Minister.
He said the intention is not only to protect the privacy of the individuals and the general public from unsubstantiated, vicious and inciting allegations posted by ghost writers on the social media but to safeguard and ensure peace and harmony in the country remains intact.