Challenges faced by the media in Samoa – with the onset of internet technology – will be the focus of a National Forum on Freedom of Expression Online.
It is part of World Press Freedom Day activities being organized by U.N.E.S.C.O. and the Journalists Association of (Western) Samoa (J.A.W.S.).
To be held at the Insel Fehmarn Hotel in Tanugamanono on 3 May 2018, the theme of the Forum this year is "Looking over Internet Risks and Challenges.”
The gathering will also look at the Government criticisms of media reports, fears about censorship, violence and the harassment of journalists in general.
“We intend to bring together several stakeholders to discuss the above theme and develop strategies to address issues as a result of Social Media,” said J.A.W.S. President, Rudy Bartley.
“It should also encourage a discussion how media freedom can be upheld and defended.”
According to Mr. Bartley, there will be a panel to discuss safety of journalists.
“Journalists who have been attacked or harassed online will be invited to tell their stories and from there the moderator should initiate a discussion on how journalists can keep themselves safe (ethical and professional behaviours).”
He said the open nature of the internet is a benefit to freedom of expression and access to information, but it does have challenges.
“The negative side of internet is the openness to transmit hate speech, deliberate defamation under the guise of freedom of speech, sharing and leaking personal information and the spread of fake news.
“These risks cannot be effectively monitored if there is the lack of and under-resourcing of self-regulatory systems by internet intermediaries or other stakeholders with a role to monitor online content.
“Elsewhere, it has fueled the growth of legislation and regulation imposing restrictions on freedom of the press.
“The national forum will create a platform for the J.A.W.S. and relevant stakeholders to talk about the challenges to media freedom online and offline in Samoa.”