Thursday, November 4, 2010

[pima.nius] SAMOA: Wave of controversy over Campbell Live's PM tsunami interview

11:33 AM |

Title – 7109 SAMOA: Wave of controversy over Campbell Live's PM tsunami interview
Date – 4 November 2010
Byline – Jonathan Marshall
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Sunday Star-Times, 31/10/10
Copyright – STT
Status – Unabridged
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By Jonathan Marshall

AUCKLAND (Sunday Star Times/Pacific Media Watch): A stoush has broken out between TV presenter John Campbell and Samoa's prime minister, with lawyers hired and name-calling echoing across the Pacific.

The Campbell Live frontman travelled to Samoa last week to interview Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi on Wednesday.

But that 10-minute interview, bizarrely negotiated – at the Samoan government's request – through Kiwi law firm Chapman Tripp, flopped.

The interview followed an item on Campbell's show on September 29 in which the TV host said $59.4 million of foreign aid had been given to the Samoan government following the devastating September 2009 tsunami, but evidence of reconstruction was scarce.

The Samoan administration reacted angrily to the item, filing a Broadcasting Standards Authority complaint claiming the Campbell Live item was "inaccurate, misleading and unfair".

Campbell hit back by saying he would be willing to fly back to Apia to give Malielegaoi an opportunity to tell New Zealanders how his government had spent the relief donations. The prime minister agreed to the interview, even sending Campbell Live a personal letter outlining a schedule of the remedied villages he would take Campbell to.

But Campbell told the Star-Times last night that Malielegaoi cancelled the interview at the last minute "without any explanation".

The Samoa Observer featured a front page story with Campbell branding Malielegaoi a "coward" for bailing out of his interview commitment.

Malielegaoi reacted by accusing Campbell of bullying the government into a rushed interview.

Not so, said Campbell – he just wanted answers. "The people who embark on personal attacks are those who do not want to defend the facts," he said.

Campbell said it was strange that a prime minister would use a foreign law firm to arrange a media interview. "In my 21 years of journalism, I've never seen anything like it."

Although the interview did not go ahead, Campbell said he tracked Malielegaoi down to an island restaurant last week. "He was not overwhelmingly pleased to see me."

Campbell questioned whether the New Zealand government had done enough to seek answers on how its donations had been spent. His show had made an Official Information Act request for a comprehensive breakdown of how the money was spent, but been provided nothing.

Speaking from Vietnam last night, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said while he did not want to get involved in what "is a formal broadcasting complaint matter", he was "comfortable" and "satisfied" with how the aid had been spent in Samoa.

"Broadly speaking, our people have been very comfortable with the assurances they have been given [by the Samoan government] and what they have seen on the ground," McCully said.

"My own visit with a group of parliamentarians recently gave us an opportunity to see for ourselves and we were satisfied." McCully did not have the paperwork on hand to justify how the funds were allocated in Samoa.

* Campbell Live's latest report on Samoa [on demand]:

* Cafe Pacific's comment:

* Comment on this item



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