Church Leader & TVOne investigated for criminal libel

APIA, SAMOA – 24 JUNE 2020: The Prime Minister has called on the Attorney Generals’ Office to initiate criminal libel investigations of the World Leader of the Samoa Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church, (SISDAC) Pastor Wille Papu and TVOne Samoa following condemnation by MPs in Parliament of the sermons by the Pastor.

The sermons have been critical of the Catholic faith and prompted complaints to the Prime Minister. The Catholic clergy also challenged Pastor Willie Papu to a public debate following his sermons that have been labelled as “slanderous, insulting and inciting hatred and division among churches in Samoa.”

Earlier this week, the issue was raised in Parliament and the Prime Minister warned the pastor and TVOne for causing hatred and division among the local churches. The Prime Minister was also accused by the pastor of inciting violence and unrest among the churches. Pastor Wille Papu went further and said that Tuilaepa’s appointment as the country’s Government leader was influenced by a foreign government.

In Parliament today, the Prime Minister labelled the SISDAC pastor’s opinions as “antichrist” and reassured Parliament that Government will address the unorthodox ideology with the full extent of the law.

“This is character assassination. It’s worse than murder because of the public shame to be inherited by the victim and his or her children forever,” said Tuilaepa.

“Small knowledge is extremely dangerous,” he warned and strongly advised the Pastor to follow the Scripture’s teaching to preach peace and respect and not hate messages which reflect on the churches leadership.

“His Church was born just yesterday,” said the PM.

“These slanderous opinions are unacceptable not only in Samoa but to all Christians worldwide.”

Tuilaepa said the Pastor like many individuals obsessed with their opinions, believe that they are protected under their human rights to freedom of speech and expression and abuse their rights to publicly shame and slander individuals, organisations, church or government and think they can escape legal consequences.

“I can assure you Mr. Speaker and Members of Parliament that there is no absolute right to freedom of expression,” said Tuilaepa. “This was proven in the landmark case between the late Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana as plaintiff against the Samoa Observer newspaper.

“The unprecedented court ruling in favour of the plaintiff had reaffirmed that that there are restrictions which include freedom of expression. It’s all in our law books as well as our Constitution.”

The investigation will also involve TVOne Samoa as the vehicle for airing the sermons. The PM said when the state owned TV was privatized, the thinking was to give it to those with the expertise and professionalism and he was critical of the TV stations management for not paying attention to the sensitive content.

“It should never have been aired and many of the viewers have complained and shared their discontent with me, so I’m very disappointed with the lack of professionalism.”

Although it was abolished in the 1980’s, Samoa recently restored the criminal libel legislation when the Prime Minister was the target of rude social media video clips and posts. It carries a jail term for anyone convicted.

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