“Stupid” says PM of banning the media from filming Parliament proceedings

PHOTO: State owned Radio 2APs mast just outside the main entrance to the new Parliament Building

By Rula Su’a – Vaai

APIA, SAMOA – WEDNESDAY 20 MARCH 2019:  The Prime Minister has labelled as stupid, the decision that banned the media from filming yesterdays’ Parliament session.

The directive came as a Press Release from the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative informing the media that as of Tuesday 19 March 2019, all video and still cameras are prohibited inside the new Maota Fono during Parliament sessions.

The National Media Organisation, JAWS wrote to the Speaker of Parliament expressing concerns about an infringement on media freedom and the ability of the media to inform the public about what goes on in parliament in a functioning democracy.

When Talamua posed the question to the PM in his weekly Tuesday media programme, Tuilaepa said he was not aware of such a ban.

“If I had been told, I would have stopped the notice as there is no such stupid thing as stopping the media from parliament,” he said.

“No wonder why I hardly saw any of you (in parliament),” said Tuilaepa. “I thought you were boycotting parliament and now I understand why.”

Parliament was meeting for the very first time at the new multi-million dollar Parliament House that opened last Friday. The reporters from mainstream media, who have been covering sessions at the makeshift parliament at the gymnasium and the TATTE Conference centre, were not allowed to take cameras and telephones inside the new parliament yesterday.

Tuilaepa said he will talk to them (referring to the Legislative Assembly staff) about the issue.

In its notice to the media, the Legislative Assembly said “We would also like to inform the media as of Tuesday 19th March 2019 all video and still cameras are prohibited inside the new Maota Fono during Parliament sessions. An area for the media is set outside the Maota Fono where cables can be hooked on for live feed. Photos will be taken by the Office of the Legislative Assembly and will be made available on our facebook page immediately after the sitting.”

JAWS said this is a form of censorship when media is not allowed to film or take still photos (it wants) of parliamentary proceedings. “When these (video and photos) are provided by the parliament, this is censorship as officials can select and edit material which it wants people to watch or see. This is unacceptable for the work of the media to be an effective tool in any democracy.”

JAWS is pushing for a Media Gallery as in overseas parliaments and repeated the same request in its letter to the Speaker on the latest confusion.

“A Press Gallery would keep the media in a designated area while at the same time enabling the media access to resources in order to provide effective coverage of parliamentary proceedings,” JAWS wrote.