“Don’t waste money on King Faipopo Court case”
A freedom of expression rights group has urged the Samoan Government not to waste taxpayers’ money by prosecuting Malele Paulo or King Faipopo.
Pacific Freedom Forum, in a statement issued recently, said the Government should focus on fighting corruption and not its critics.
PFF chair Bernadette Carreon of Palau said Samoa should be reminded of its commitment to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, guaranteeing freedoms of expression.
"New legislation based on old criminal libel laws from colonial times forces Samoa leaders to look backwards, not forward,” she said.
Malele Paulo – who publishes on social media under the pen name King Faipopo – was arrested recently and charged after returning to Samoa from Australia to attend his mother's funeral.
PFF co-chair Monica Miller, who is based in American Samoa, says part of the problem can be traced back to the Samoan Government itself, which began censoring its own news years ago.
"Pacific countries need strong, independent public service news – free from censorship – to balance any claims via social media," she said.
"As our members heard from the Pacific media leaders summit in Auckland, fake news and misinformation thrives in the absence of credible news."
Solomon Islands-based PFF co-chair, Ofani Eremae, echoed similar sentiments and said the Government should respond to public criticism and not waste resources on stopping criticism.
"Samoa prides itself as a member of free market organisations like the World Trade Organisation. But economic success begins with a free market of ideas. Criticism keeps us sharp –and a sharp media protects our countries from the influence of corruption."
Prior to Malele’s return to Samoa, the Government earlier threatened to seek his extradition from Australia, alleging public threats against Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi.
Malele has been charged by the Police for making false and threatening statements against the Prime Minister and will appear in Court on March 5.