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Speaker rules on media reporting of Parliament

Parliament Speaker Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao

Parliament Speaker Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao

APIA: FRIDAY 21 JUNE 2013: The Speaker of the House, has identified the Samoa Observer article “Drunken claim infuriates MP” as the centre of his repeated warnings against the media covering parliament this week.

In a press statement issued this afternoon, the speaker Hon Laauli Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt MP issued a ruling pertaining to the media and their penchant for erroneous reporting of Parliamentary debates.

“This ruling was prompted by a Samoa Observer article on Wednesday 19th June 2013 entitled: “Drunken claim infuriates MP”.

“In short, the article inaccurately quotes an exchange between Tautua Samoa Deputy Leader, Hon AEAU Peniamina Leavaiseeta MP and the Prime Minister, Hon TUILAEPA Fatialofa Lupesoliai Aiono Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi MP – during Tuesday’s Parliamentary Sitting.

“Mr Speaker stated that presently, the media is entrusted a great freedom to attend Parliamentary Sittings and to report from within the Chamber. In return for such a privilege, the onus is on the media to report responsibly and accurately.

“The ruling highlights this responsibility which must be exercised by all purveyors of information from now on.

“Ideally, the media must reference their reports with official Parliament debate transcripts which may be acquired from the Legislative Assembly – before any matters discussed within Parliament goes to press.

“Mr Speaker further asserted that failure to take heed of this ruling will result in media persons in breach being banned from entering Parliament chambers and precincts for future reporting of any kind. In addition, the Speaker refers to possible charges under Section 25 (c) of the Legislative Assembly Powers and Privileges Ordinance 1960 which provides: 25. Publication of Certain statements and writings and offence – Every person shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding $100; or to both such imprisonment and fine who:

(c) Publishes any writing containing a gross, wilful, or scandalous misrepresentation of the proceedings of the Assembly or committee thereof or of the speech of any member in the proceedings of the Assembly or a committee thereof;

“It is well known that freedom of the press is a staple of open and free societies and is an essential check on power within any democracy.

“However, they in turn have a responsibility to the nation to disseminate information that is not only balanced but accurate. Inaccurate reporting can lead to an overall disease amongst the general populace and encourage public distrust of their nations leaders. It is hoped that this warning will serve as a reminder to all media persons as to their responsibility to not only inform the public of newsworthy matters but to do so with integrity and legitimacy.”