by Lagi Keresoma
APIA: THURSDAY 18 JULY 2013: The Prime Minister and Fiji leader Frank Bainimarama are the same – they want to control the media.
That’s why Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi instructed the Attorney General to draft legislation to establish a council to control the media, said Opposition leader Palusalue Fa’apo II.
Palusalue believes the media is capable of drafting their own legislation without interference from Government, said Palusalue.
It doesn’t help that a government press secretariat staffer is the president of the Journalists Association of (Western) Samoa, he said.
“Better to stick to what you know Palu,” the Prime Minister said in a statement, which adds:
“It was best if you kept quiet and just zip it. But you chose to open your lips. Now the whole world knows how uninformed you are.”
The Prime Minister said the media council has been on the discussion table for many years.
“In fact, it was the media themselves who raised and pushed the issue of setting up a media council to Government some years ago. They even brought in a media expert from England to present a report and negotiate with Government in setting up a media council a few years ago.
“Even people like Sano Malifa (Editor-in-Chief of Samoa Observer) – who is now making some nonsensical noise – was behind the idea of a media council back then when his then employee at the Samoa Observer, Tipi Autagavaia was President of the Samoa journalists association. So the issue of a media council is nothing new. But local media has been very disorganised in recent years and Government has taken up the media’s initiative to help them set up a council.
“So essentially, it’s not a Government initiative, it’s a media initiative.”
Regarding Palusalue’s comparison to media decrees in Fiji, Tuilaepa had this to say;
“Fiji is a dictatorship, it is not a democracy. It does not have a Parliament like Samoa that people like Palusalue and the Tautua Party enjoy every day. Bainimarama is an unelected dictator who rules with a gun and an iron fist and does not need to consult anybody. He and his military have the power to issue decrees and control the media and whatever they write and broadcast. Media freedom is thriving in Samoa. And it will continue to do so.”
The Prime Minister added;
“The proposed media council is more-or-less a complaints commission where people can forward any complaints about publications and broadcast. Even reporters can complain about their editors and publishers to the media council. It will be completely run by the media industry without any involvement from Government whatsoever.”
Last week, JAWS’s executive and the Office of the Attorney General and the director of the Samoa Law Reform Commission agreed to draft legislation for a media council together.