Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is keeping the progress of a government-ordered hunt for a blogger known as “Ole Palemia” close to his chest.
Asked if they are anywhere near identifying “O.L.P.” since an investigation was launched in April this year, Tuilaepa told the Sunday Samoan the investigation is continuing.
“But I cannot tell you where it is at,” he said.
“That is an issue with the government where the investigation continues without seizing. That’s what governments that are alert do to protect those people who are suffering.”
The Prime Minister also dismissed claims that his administration’s move to reintroduce the Criminal Libel law, which was abolished by the government in 2013, is an affront to freedom of opinions and expression.
“The (Samoa) Observer’s thinking is wrong,” Tuilaepa responded. “Sometimes they’re right but this time they’re wrong.”
According to Tuilaepa, far too many people, especially online users, have resorted to use such a freedom to inflict irreparable damage on other people.
“So the government’s decision to revive these laws that had been revoked before is done with one intention, to protect people who are suffering,” Tuilaepa said.
“Some people have accused us of restricting freedom. This is wrong. The government is not restricting people’s freedom to express their opinions.
“People are free to express their opinions but when they spread opinions that break the law, that’s when they will be affected.”
The Prime Minister reminded that such freedom comes with responsibility.
“There is no law under sun where you can continue to hurt and defame someone with untruthful allegations. This is why the government is moving to do this to protect people the types who know that what they are doing is wrong but are driven by such bad motives,” he said.
“When it comes it to issues where the law is broken, the government cannot ignore it. The government tries to investigate them and when it comes the time to press charges, then we will go ahead and publicise it.”
The Prime Minister added that “anybody who has an opinion to publicise which is truthful, are free to do so.
“Why should we prosecute them if it’s the truth? But only when they use that freedom to defame other people, now that becomes an offense.”
Tuilaepa and his family are among many high profile public figures who have been the subject of personal attacks on O.L.P. and other blogs – including one out of New Zealand written by one “Dennis A. Smith.”
And now the government has had enough.
A statement issued by the government last month reads: “The intention is not only to protect the privacy of the individuals and the general public from unsubstantiated, vicious and inciting allegations posted by ghost writers on the social media but to safeguard and ensure peace and harmony in the country remains intact,” the statement issued last night reads.
The statement quoted Prime Minister Tuilaepa as saying that since the Criminal Libel law was abolished (from the Crimes Act of 2013) “some have abused the freedom to express their views in particular the defamatory allegations posted on social media.
“Some of these postings could lead to violent confrontation which may eventually cause misery to families and government will not stand by any longer,” Tuilaepa said.
Subject to approval by Parliament, the Prime Minister the law will ensure that the ghost writers will be brought to justice to answer to their writings. And they could be liable to be prosecuted with offenses that will include imprisonment.
“The H.R.P.P caucus is in full support,” Tuilaepa said.
“There are 4,500 hackers in Samoa. Some are children and even lawyers are among the best hackers in the country.
“And to find the writers hiding behind anonymity by using their freedom of expression to vent their vile and demeaning allegations on social media will no longer be tolerated. They should be warned now that their days of mischiefs are numbered.”
The hackers, added the Prime Minister Tuilaepa, will be used by government to track down the ghost writers.
“It’s like using a thief to catch a thief.”