May the late Jeanine Tuivaiki, rest in peace

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

Two days ago, a letter from the Attorney General’s Office arrived. Sent by the office’s Principal Legal Secretary, Fagalele Iosefa-Tualatamalelagi, it is in connection with the death of the late, Jeanine Tuivaiki.

Underneath the office’s address are the words: *Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your understanding ... Proverbs  3:5*

The letter reveals that “the Attorney General’s office has opened a legislative file, as a result of the reporting of the death of Jeanine Tuivaiki.”

It goes on to quote Attorney General, Lemalu Herman Retzlaff, as having said: “This is to do with suggested suicides, and how the reporting of this can be appropriately guided by law.”

He explains: “The aim is to produce in consultation with the community, legal guidelines for the reporting of suicide in Samoa because we do not have any at present.”

And so, the “truth” that we have been waiting for has finally showed up, so that for us here at the Samoa Observer, we are sincerely thankful to Attorney General, Lemalu Herman Retzlaff, and his staff, for bringing this matter forward.

We are grateful that they have made it publicly known for the first time that in the past, Samoa had not had any laws that guided “the reporting of suicides” and it still does not have any of them “at present.”

Now that is the “truth”, the untainted “truth.”

However, explains Attorney General, Lemalu Herman Retzlaff’s letter: “Government has been very clear, freedom of the press is sacred and must be protected.

“Therefore, this effort will aim to introduce rules that other countries have, that do not hinder the media, but rather guide it’s efforts when dealing specifically with this highly sensitive and emotional issue.”

Well done and thank you.

Indeed, we have no doubt that the role they are now playing, will ensure that any discrepancy of this nature will not recur at any time in the future, thus relieving us all of this doubt and this terrible anxiety.

Says Lemalu’s letter: “The prayer here is that the tough lessons experienced by all involved and the wider community, can result in a positive set of legal guidelines for the future.”

Lemalu’s letter is published in its entirety down below.

As for Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi though, he’s such a hard man to please. I seems as if even with all that power he’s wielding, he’s still craving for more and more.

He wrote: “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.”

He then wrote about his government’s attempts to “regulate” the media in Samoa.

 “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.”

And then “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 it is based upon the organization’s code of ethics.” 

What he did not say though was that the government took over JAWS, and then it ran it just like it did any other government department, and as a result JAWS is now jawless.

The point is that the private media is the proverbial watchdog of the government in the public interest, which follows that  throughout the democratic world today that role is respected, protected and encouraged.

Besides, talking about regulations, we believe there are enough laws in place presently regulating the Samoan media, so that any more regulations would be completely unnecessary.  

For instance, apart from the laws of defamation which has been around for a long time, there is the Printers and Publishers Act 1992, which requires publishers and editors to reveal their sources of information to government leaders, who claim they’ve been defamed by them.

Although other countries have similar laws, this one is different in that the authority to reveal sources is not made by the judge, but by the plaintiff himself, and it has to be obeyed.

And then there is the British law of criminal libel.

Inherited by Samoa and other British colonies during colonial times, it had not been used by any Commonwealth country, including New Zealand and Australia.

However, in the late nineties, it was used by the late Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana, against the editor of the Samoa Observer, for allowing a certain letter to the editor he found offending, to be published. 

And unlike a civil claim, the criminal libel carried the maximum jail term of six months. That matter, however, was discontinued. 

Still, we are sincerely thankful to Prime Minister Tuilaepa, for all that he has done for Samoa over the years. We know that his has been a daunting task, and yet for his love of his country he has persevered, and we have no doubt in our minds that his legacy will endure.

As for today, it is our prayer that all those problems we’re still struggling with in our quest to build a better Samoa for those who have yet to arrive, will soon become a thing of the past, never to be seen again.

May the late Jeanine Tuivaiki, rest in peace.

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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