Media Council Bill finalized

Photo: JAWS President Uale Taimalelagi, Secretary Leilua Ame Sene and lawyers Constance Tafua-Rivers and Leitu Moananu during the consultation

Staff Reporters

APIA: WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2014: Over thirty members of the local media made their final views known on the Media Council Bill which is now expected to be tabled during the Budget session of Parliament this coming May.

The final consultation was held yesterday with two law draughters Constance Tafua-Rivers and Leitu Moananu from the Office of the Attorney General.

A significant feature of the Bill is the establishment of the media body JAWS by law as the implementing body of the Media Council.

Like the legislations governing professional bodies such as the Law Society, the Society of Accountants, the Medical Doctors Association and the Plumbers Association, the Media Council will be under JAWS as the professional media body in Samoa.

JAWS, will by law, appoint members of the Media Council that will be chaired by a lawyer or a Judge with members drawn from the public and media.

The Media Council will investigate complaints from the public according to a complaints procedure written into law. The Media Council will also ensure a Code of Practice and a Code of Ethics is practised aimed at improving the standards in the work of the media.

The Media Council has the powers to make orders and penalise media outlets if complaints made are upheld. Orders include a correction, public apology or a monetary penalty.

There had been wide consultation with the media over the past year on the Media Council Bill with opposition from other major outlets who see no need for such a Council.

The enactment of the Media Council Bill 2014 will also ammends Section 10 of the controversial Printers and Publishers Act 1992/1993, to ensure the protection of a journalists sources during a civil or criminal proceeding. This is unless the Court is satisfied that the public disclosure of a sources identity is in the public interest.

Also abolished is the blasphemous or criminal libel law under the ammended 2013 Crimes Act.

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