Wednesday, November 3, 2010

[pima.nius] SAMOA: Opinion - Press freedom essential for democracy

11:37 AM |

Title – 7105 SAMOA: Opinion - Press freedom essential for democracy
Date – 3 November 2010
Byline – None
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Samoa Observer, 1/11/10
Copyright – SO
Status – Unabridged
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Samoa Observer editorial:

By Savea Sano Malifa

APIA (Samoa Observer/Pacific Media Watch): Samoan 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 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 morning's panel discussion on the Fiji government's 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 licences to kill since they were exempt from prosecution by law.

Grisly, frightful stuff! 

One of the stories says 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 scrapped 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," 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.  

Foster is one of several journalists who attended the Pacific for Democracy and Human Rights Seminar. 

It was organised by the Asia-Pacific office 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 it's something for the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), now said to be under the Fiji military government's control,  to think seriously about.

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