Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s administration has been urged to reconsider the Criminal Libel Act.
The call came from the Deputy Director of the International Press Institute (I.P.I.), Scott Griffen.
He was speaking during the celebration of the Samoa Observer News Group’s 40th Anniversary at the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel at Beach Road last night.
Mr. Griffen, who travelled from Austria for the occasion, paid tribute to the work of the Samoa Observer’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa, whom in 2000 was named one of the World Press Freedom Heroes.
He highlighted the importance of press freedom and the role it plays in people’s lives every day.
Speaking about recent media developments in Samoa, Mr. Griffen said the Criminal Libel law, which the Government had recently returned to the law books despite abolishing it in 2013, is an obstacle for press freedom.
If the Government is concerned about abuse of media freedom, Mr. Griffen suggested that there are “better alternatives” than bringing back the Criminal Libel law.
The celebration of the Samoa Observer’s 40th birthday was well attended.
Among the guests in attendance was the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II, Member of the Council of Deputies, Tapusatele Le Mamea Ropati Mualia, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, a host of Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, members of the diplomatic corps and the business community.
Speaking on behalf of the Government, Prime Minister Tuilaepa congratulated Gatoaitele Savea and Muliaga Jean Malifa for their perseverance.
The Prime Minister said the Samoa Observer has had to overcome many challenges during the past 40 years with the newspaper continuing to grow.
He went on to thank the Samoa Observer for playing a major role in growing the H.R.P.P’s popularity among the voters, noting that since1982, they have won eight General Elections with an increased majority each time.
In his speech, Gatoaitele acknowledged Samoa’s support over the years.
He spoke about how the Samoa Observer’s journey was conceived while he was living in Washington D.C., and the ‘Watergate Scandal’ was threatening to drive President Richard Nixon, out of the White House.
“As I was following with much interest ‘Watergate’ spinning out of control, and how two young investigative reporters were redefining their roles in what were very turbulent time in America, it was indeed, fascinating reporting, and I was right there amongst it all.”
Fast forward to today, Gatoaitele said the Samoa Observer is extremely grateful.
“To Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his Government, we would like to express our gratitude for your patience and understanding of our work. Although we may come across as antagonistic now and then, deep down we know that your love for your country is sincere,” he said.
“We know that you believe in a ‘free press’ and the vital role it’s playing in our little democracy, and for that reason we want to agree that the love hate relationship that seems to make a habit of showing up now and then, is nothing but a front that’s hiding the respect we share.”
All the speeches from last night will be published in full in tomorrow’s Sunday Samoan. Full coverage in tomorrow’s edition.