The Human Rights Protection Party

What is Good for Apia is also good for Savaii!
"O le mea e lelei i Apia, e lelei foi mo Savaii"

Feb 27

Without Press Freedom Democracy Withers and Dies

Press Freedom Hero

Editorial by Savea Sano Malifa - Editor in Chief, The Samoa Observer, APIA

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has a good reason to smile today. He is the hero among regional journalists who met in Apia last week.

On Saturday when their meeting ended, they (Pacific journalists) lauded Tuilaepa's stewardship for allowing press freedom to grow unimpeded in Samoa.

In Fiji, the opposite is happening.

Fiji Times Associate Editor Sophie Foster said she was glad she came to Samoa.

"I feel fortunate to be able to come to Samoa and see a vibrant press and broadcasting industry," she said. "In Fiji we have many challenges, not the least of which is censorship."

During Saturday mornings panel discussion on the Fiji governments censorship laws, sad stories of lawlessness and brutality were told. Soldiers jailed for murder were later freed by the military, one of the stories says. It goes on to reveal soldiers were virtually given the licenses to kill since they were exempt from prosecution by law. Grisly, frightful stuff!

One of the stories say before the censorship laws were enacted soldiers went to newspapers news rooms at 10 pm and went through all the pages one by one, then scraped all the pages they didn't like and the papers ended looking like mutilated rags.

And now journalists are being harassed by rigid censorship laws which have become a huge obstacle to fair and accurate reporting, Ms Foster says.

However she believes journalists have a duty to report regardless of these pressures. Fiji's vibrant media industry is being placed under significant pressure at present, she says. And we have a big challenge as journalists to remain true to our calling. Brave, inspiring words.

Ms Foster is one of several journalists who attended the Pacific for Democracy and Human Rights Seminar at the Millennium Hotel at Sogi. It was organised by the Sydney arm of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Journalists Association of (Western) Samoa (JAWS).

But Tuilaepa, as we all know, is hardly a novice in matters such as press freedom and human rights. In 2003 he and Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefoni were awarded JAWS World Press Freedom Award for their pledge to promote and support

Accountability, Transparency and Good Governance. It now appears that award was a good decision. When you're a World Press Freedom Hero and also the Prime Minister of your country, press freedom there is decidedly assured.

The point is that press freedom is the heart and soul of democracy. Without it, democracy withers and dies. Perhaps its something for the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) now said to be under the Fiji military governments control, to think seriously about.

Author: Savea Sano Malifa - Samoa Observer
Print PDF

HRPP © 2011 - 2016. All rights reserved.