The reinstating of the Criminal Libel Act will be subject to approval before Parliament by December, 2017.
This is according to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi during his weekly press conference with the media.
The Criminal Libel Act was abolished back in 2013 and the government has moved to reinstatement as part of efforts to address the growing number of ‘ghost writers’ who use fake social media pages to attack members of the public.
One such page is known as “Ole Palemia”.
The Prime Minister was asked for a comment on the concerns raised by Acting President of the Journalists Association of Western Samoa (J.A.W.S.), Rudy Bartley, who has called on the government to find “a more realistic” solution to track “ghost writers” who use fake social media pages to attack members of the public.
He believes the move to reintroduce the Criminal Libel law, which had been removed in 2013, is not the best way forward for Samoa.
However that will not be considered according to Tuilaepa.
He stated that at the next Parliament Session in December the Criminal Libel will be approved to be enacted.
“There is the mentality the reporters have; they can freely write whatever they think
“And this mindset was hammered by the court as there is no such thing.
“You cannot freely express what you think at the expense of others that is wrong,” said Tuilaepa.
“You should know that once you publicize what you think defaming another. Be prepared, as you will be struck.
“Under the law, journalists are under the impression they are free to publicly publicize whatever….well that has been corrected by the court.
“There is no such thing.
‘Freedom is not free; it is limited,” said Tuilaepa.
“If what you are saying is accurate then you have nothing to worry about.”
According to Tuilaepa there are those reporters who report what happened.
“They stick to the guidelines of their profession and report accurately and they don’t input their opinions or twist the story.
“This was not really a big deal back then, due to the lack of understanding of the matter. “Also back then people were under the impression that members of the press have the freedom to publicize anything.
“No, that is wrong.
“This is why the government moved to establish a Media Council who set up guidelines for the reporters and hold them accountable.
“There are two types of reporters; one who follows the guidelines and reports accurately and a reporter who would make up stories and make hefty accusations and defame people to make money, and also spruce up the headline on the paper to attract readers and make money.
“Those are the ones who are furious about us bringing back (criminal libel),” said Tuilaepa.
“They hide behind fake names and defame people all the time - a very unChristian thing to do.
“Those people, who are furious about the move, are the ones doing it.
“And if you see them, they look sick.” He said these types of people will never reach 60 or 70 years old and they will die early.
Earlier this week, Acting President J.A.W.S. said the re-introduction of the Criminal Libel law is of serious concern and it will have a negative impact on the work of the media in Samoa.
“Freedom of the media (to do its work) is fundamental to any democracy and laws which hinder this are not acceptable.”
Mr. Bartley made the comments in response to questions from the Samoa Observer.
According to Mr. Bartley, J.A.W.S. exists to help, develop and protect the work of the media and its practitioners in Samoa.
“We are also concerned about the use of social media as a platform for slander and malicious attacks,” Mr. Bartley pointed out.
“I assume this is the reason why the government is reintroducing this law.
“Those behind these attacks have tarnished the work and integrity of the media as a source of knowledge and information for our people.”
He also told the Samoa Observer the government should find a more realistic, practical solution other than reintroducing this law.
He explained the reason J.A.W.S. has not made any public comment about the issue until now, is that they wanted to discuss this further with their membership at their upcoming A.G.M. scheduled for 27 November 2017.