Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has paid tribute to the Editor-in-Chief of the Samoa Observer News Group, Gatoaitele Savea Sano, Publisher, Muliaga Jean Malifa, and their staff for their commitment to press freedom in Samoa and the world.
“In any Government, the need for a newspaper such as the Samoa Observer is critical, a newspaper that is not timid,” Tuilaepa said. “They report what they see and interpret it the way they see it. So I want to congratulate Sano and his wife for their dedication. We know it hasn’t been easy.”
Tuilaepa offered his well wishes during a press conference in his Office as the Samoa Observer News Group prepares to celebrate its 40th Anniversary at Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel on Beach Road tonight.
The Prime Minister is among three speakers for the evening. The other two are the Deputy Director of the International Press Institute (I.P.I.), Scott Griffen, who flew in from Austria for the occasion, and the Samoa Observer’s Editor-in-Chief Gatoaitele.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa commended the Samoa Observer pointing out that 40 years is a long time where the newspaper would have already “grown some grey hairs.”
“I take my hat off to the Samoa Observer. It is slightly younger than the Savali, the Savali is nearly 200 years old which means the Samoa Observer is the son of the Savali,” he said, laughing.
“In all seriousness though, I take my hat off to Savea and his wife, Muliaga, for their hard work in developing their newspaper. You see I spent some time with him during his younger years; he is a lot younger than me. I told him to start a newspaper. I did not think at that time that this person would become one of my biggest headaches.”
The Samoa Observer’s relationship with the Government is based on mutual respect, Tuilaepa said.
“When you put aside our usual squabbles, the newspaper has a critical role to keep members of the public informed. Whether it’s wrong or right, a story is a story. But there are times when it’s good to get it wrong so that we can get it right,” he said.
“I know there are times when the Government takes them to Court, and they are also sued by different individuals but they have continued to produce the newspaper which is a testament of their resolve. And that’s why I take my hat off to Sano and his wife for never giving up.”
The Samoa Observer’s independence is one of its strengths, Tuilaepa said. He claimed that at one time, the Samoa Observer sought help from the Government, which he declined.
The Prime Minister said one of the best aspects about the Samoa Observer today – and this is why it is respected by readers – is because it is totally independent, without any Government assistance.
Tuilaepa also spoke about his experience with newspapers.
“From my experience with newspapers having helped with the Apia Weekly, it is a very expensive exercise; one publication costs a lot of money.
“So that’s how I know and I can appreciate the difficulties they go through.
“That’s why I always make time when journalists – including ones from the Samoa Observer - come to me for interviews. I know you guys need me because when I’m away, you have no news.”
As for the Samoa Observer being dubbed the “unofficial opposition party” given the H.R.P.P’s dominance in Parliament, Tuilaepa said he welcomes constructive criticisms.
“There are many things in the paper and when I look at something that I know would give me a headache, I just flip the page and read the overseas news. Don’t get involved in stuff that will harm your health.”
Lastly, Tuilaepa offered warm congratulations to the Samoa Observer.
“As the leader of the Government, I want to acknowledge Savea’s service to the country. I also want to acknowledge the support of Muliaga. Wives play such an important role. I congratulate them for their bravery, perseverance and hard work against all the odds.
“Now that the newspaper is turning 40 years, I want to say it has made a tremendous contribution to the development of the country by highlighting the developments being implemented by the Government. It has also assisted in terms of job creation for sons and daughters of Samoa. So well done to the Samoa Observer.”