25 January 1999


Savea Sano Malifa replies to Prime Minister, calls for free media

Incident details

Savea Sano Malifa



(PINA/IFEX) - The award-winning Samoan editor-publisher Savea Sano Malifa
says if the Samoan government wants to win media awards, it should free the
it controls. It should open them to others of different political
Malifa says in a report carried by the Pacific Islands news agency "Pacnews"
on 25 January 1999.

**Updates IFEX alerts of 28 October, 20 September, 15 July, 22, 20 and 14
May, 30 April, 11 March 1998; and 24, 15, and 4 December, 18 November, 31
October, 12 September and 24 May 1997**

"Pacnews" said Malifa was responding to comments by Samoan Prime Minister
Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi. The Prime Minister criticised the Commonwealth
Press Union and Index on Censorship press freedom awards to Malifa and his
newspaper, the "Samoa Observer". Tuilaepa said the Samoan government should
have been the recipient for both awards for allowing the newspaper to be
published freely in the country.

"Pacnews" quoted Malifa as saying if the Samoan government wants media
awards the prime minister should open up the government media. "In
particular, he should tell TV Samoa Radio 2AP and the newspaper Savali to
grow up, and give the leader of the opposition, Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese, the
same publicity that he, Tuilaepa, has been taking for granted for many
years," Malifa said. All these government media ban or restrict views by
Samoa's parliamentary opposition.

Tuilaepa said the awards should not detract attention from the successful
defamation case brought by former Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana against
the "Samoa Observer". He said if the organisations involved saw how Malifa
operated as a journalist they would take back the awards in a hurry. Malifa
said these organisations have reliable sources of information, including
regional media organisations and diplomatic missions in Samoa. "They
recognise truth, integrity when they see them. Even all the way from
London," Malifa said.

Background Information

Malifa and his wife Jean are also previous winners of the Pacific Islands
News Association (PINA) Pacific Freedom of Information award. They received
this for their courageous defence of the right of the Samoan people to
freedom of information and expression. In 1998 they were awarded the
Commonwealth Press Union's Astor Award and INDEX on Censorship press freedom

The "Samoa Observer", which was founded by the Malifas, is Samoa's only
daily newspaper and main independent news voice. The government-run national
radio and TV services are heavily controlled by the government, which has
been in power for fifteen years. The opposition's access to the government
media is severely restricted.

Independent news media and journalists have faced increasing pressure after
highlighting reports alleging growing corruption and abuse of public office.

The "Samoa Observer" printing plant was burnt down under highly suspicious
circumstances; Malifa assaulted by relatives of a government minister; death
threats made to Malifa and his family; government advertising withdrawn from
the newspaper; threats made to impose newspaper licensing; and a law
introduced requiring journalists in libel actions to reveal their sources.

Malifa and the Observer continue to face mounting legal costs because of
criminal and civil libel actions against them over their reports and a
letter published in the paper. The actions have been mounted by former Prime
Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana and other government ministers. The government
has said it will provide public money to pay the legal costs of Tofilau and
other ministers and government leaders who sue for libel (see previous IFEX


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