APIA, SAMOA – 18 AUGUST 2020: The CEO of TVOne Samoa, Galumalemana Faiesea Matafeo is concerned that the Government is trying to dictate how the media should use the information provided.
Speaking at the PACMS & Media Workshop on Reporting COVID-19, Galumalemana directed her concern towards the Government Press Secretary and Editor of the Government newspaper, Nanai Lavetiga Tuiletufuga.
The 3 day workshop looked at providing a better dissemination of information of the Covid19 pandemic from government to the public through the media.
Media practitioners expressed their frustration as the media had been given the run around to get information when there is a platform to provide credible and timely information through the media.
For a better and healthy working relationship, the media made several suggestions to the National Emergency Operations Centre to ensure the two parties work together not just on COVID-19 but all other events too.
The current system used by NEOC to get information out to the media is by responding to questions sent in which may take time especially if the top people are not available.
Nanai however stated that 10 years ago, there were no press releases from the Government or alerts giving the media heads up of government events for news coverage to which Galumalemana acknowledged as true.
She said whilst it is true there were no press releases then, but the line of communication was wide open and the media was free to go to the Ministers and Chief Executive Officers.
“I do not see Government withholding information but I feel they are trying to dictate how the information is used,” said Galumalemana.
“The media wants credible information and when information comes to the media late and they use it for bulletins, the Government says it is old news.
“Don’t give us stale – mafu information and expect us to give you news bulletins,” she said.
Radio news reporter Leilua Ame Sene pointed out that ten years ago, the media received Cabinet decisions straight after their weekly meetings.
“This was possible through the two late Press Secretaries and their assistance. We do not get those decisions anymore,” said Leilua.
No sense of trust
Nanai made reference to the Director General of Health Leausa Dr. Take Naseri who pointed out in his presentation that there is no sense of trust towards the media due to several instances in the past.
“Unless we overcome this, there will still be challenges as we try to get through a free flow of information,” said Nanai.
Leausa was among other speakers who reminded the media that they too have a part to play.
Galumalemana was quick to point out that the media is doing its job, then referred to the incident where Leausa danced with only his briefs on.
“The media didn’t ask him to drop his pants, it was his own doing. If he was an ordinary person, there would be no interest, but he is a public figure so he can’t blame the media,” said Galumalemana.
“What the media is asking is for open communication, accessibility to information and that the information is usable.”
Communication strategy – a way forward
Nanai explained and clarified their role and also the problems they have with regards to information, and this is due to the unpredictability of Government sometimes in respect to developments and changes.
For COVID-19, he and his team are doing their best to accommodate and facilitate all media outlets on a timely basis and the availability of Government officials to respond, which has always been a challenge in the past.
Nanai acknowledged the issues raised as valid concerns and said that the Government has designed a communication strategy as a solution to the problem.
“It’s a new initiative. The new strategy is designed that all 50 plus Ministries and Corporations should assign a liaison officer as a contact person to relay the needed information,” explained Nanai.
“There may be setbacks, but it’s a start,” he said.
He also asked that the media to be understanding as the Press Secretariat have challenges too, and assured the media that the Government is not withholding information.
“Give Government time to process the information so we are all on the same page,” Nanai said.