The following statement from the Prime Minister of Samoa, Susuga Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, is in response to recent media coverage of an insensitive and unethical nature, that portrayed a recently deceased individual in a graphic and gruesome manner.
“Like many others I was appalled at the front page of the Sunday Observer, showing the lifeless body of a young person with such callousness and disrespect. As a parent, it was devastating to see someone’s child portrayed in such a heartless manner.
“The decision by the newspaper’s editor to share this image is one that raises many red flags and questions about the ethics and responsibility of the press. Like other democracies, our Government acknowledges and encourages freedom of the press.
Local media practitioners operate as they see fit, and for a long time an informal system of checks and balances have more or less ensured that news coverage is reflective of our cultural and Christian values. However, from time to time, there have been serious breaches of journalism ethics, and there is a clear disregard by some media outlets for fair and balanced reporting.
“For several years now, Government has been encouraging the local media industry to establish a regulating body to address issues of journalism ethics and standards.
Last year, Parliament passed the Media Council Act – legislating for this need to raise standards and ensure media practitioners adhere to their own code of ethics and best practice.
Although it has not yet been established, it is important to note that the Media Council will rely heavily on the Journalists Association of Samoa (JAWS), as the Act itself was formulated entirely through consultations with local media practitioners and is based upon the organisation’s code of ethics. All major decisions on media issues should be made by media representatives and private citizens.
This is the reason Government established the Media Council, so we can expect the media to act with greater responsibility and professionalism.
“This is an issue of professional standards and journalism ethics.
“What the editor of the Observer has shown to Samoa and the world, is that he is above any moral or professional obligation to report ethically and responsibly.
“Government has provided a clear, legislated pathway for media self-regulation, and as such it is the core responsibility of empowered media practitioners such as JAWS to ensure journalistic standards are held high and reporters and editors operate ethically and within moral and ethical boundaries.
“I have tried, on many occasions, to correct misinformation that has been deliberately twisted out of context by the Observer, so I am glad to see that some responsible people have come out and are strongly calling for more professional reporting on issues of importance to the readers of this country.
“Samoa deserves better.”