Monday, November 8, 2010

[pima.nius] Samoa tsunami aid disaster report now under fire in Mediawatch episode

10:53 AM |

Samoa tsunami aid disaster report now under fire in Mediawatch episode

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Courtney Wilson

Campbell Live's controversial report about Samoa's "missing aid funds" one year on from the tsunami disaster has already attracted a complaint from the Samoan government to New Zealand's broadcasting regulatory body. Now it has also been under fire on Radio NZ's Mediawatch.

While TV3 has vigorously defended the original programme on September 27 and a follow-up on November 1, Campbell Live's reporting of the issue and the "door-stopping" of Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi in Samoa two weeks ago faced criticism by Samoan journalists at a regional media freedom conference in Apia.

Campbell Live last Monday again asked: "Where has the tsunami relief money gone?"

The report showed villagers along the south-east coast of Upolu island who had not received aid money from the government. When questioned, they said they did not know where the money had gone.

Pacific Media Watch's contributing editor Alex Perrottet described the reporting on how aid money had been distributed in Samoa as unbalanced on the Mediawatch programme yesterday.

"It was a little sensationalised and one-sided," he told Mediawatch presenter Colin Peacock.

Peacock said one of the criticisms from the Samoan government had been that instead of just following the money to get a story, Campbell could also have followed the people, who were moving inland, where the money was being spent.

Perrottet, who volunteered in Samoa in the wake of the tsunami, said he had seen rebuilding during his recent visit, but progress was slow.

Coastal destruction
"I visited the places myself at the end of September. Sure I saw a lot of destruction on the coastal area, but there was an understanding there that there was building happening inland and I did see that," he said.

"I also saw a lot of building of sea walls and the new sort of structures the government has to put in place that I suppose were a condition of the funds that were given from some of the international bodies."

New Zealand's aid agency NZAid also defended Samoa's "demonstrable progress" following the disaster on September 29, 2009, that left 143 people dead and more than 4000 homeless.

Campbell's concern has been an alleged lack of transparency surrounding the amount of foreign aid given to Samoa and the amount the government has allocated to restoring homes.

Campbell has totalled up the amount of aid official agencies – such as the New Zealand government and the World Bank – say they gave Samoa after the disaster. He estimated the Samoan government had received around 190 million tala (about NZD$107 million).

However, the Prime Minister told Radio Australia the government had only received 35 million tala in foreign aid so far.

He also claimed that the Samoan government had spent almost 69 million tala by the end of August.

Front page story
Tuilaepa described Campbell as "stupid and uninformed" in the Pacific Beat programme. Campbell responded by branding the Prime Minister as a "coward" when he failed to carry through with a scheduled interview with TV3 in Apia, according to the Samoa Observer in a front page story.

Perrottet said there probably was a story behind the Samoan government's spending, but Campbell failed to try to explain both sides of the story.

Peacock suggested the Campbell Live interview could be an example of "parachute journalism" where foreign crews, lacking local knowledge, fly in and out of a situation, then "put out the story they were looking for all along".

The Mediawatch item followed criticism by Pacific Media Centre director associate professor David Robie who had described the original Campbell Live report on September 27 on his blog Café Pacific as "stunning in its crassness, cultural arrogance and ignorance and lack of evidence underpinning the sweeping allegations".

He had been a resource person for the four-day training workshop run by the International Federation of Journalists in Apia.

He added in his blog item: "No doubt there is a story there, but Campbell Live hasn't yet exposed it."

Campbell declined Mediawatch's offer of an interview due to the Samoan government's formal complaint against the TV3 broadcast.

It will most likely be up to the Broadcasting Standards Authority to make the final judgment on how Campbell Live covered the story.

Courtney Wilson is a final year Bachelor of Communication Studies student journalist on internship with the Pacific Media Centre.

Radio NZ's Mediawatch

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pacific islands media association
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aotearoa, new zealand
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