“Issuing written responses is a Special Exclusive Privilege and you should be honored:" says Prime Minister

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi said the Samoa Observer is given special treatment when it comes to responding to media inquiries. 

Tuilaepa was responding to questions on why the Samoa Observer is not permitted to ask questions during his weekly press conference or have a one-on-one interview with him. 

It was put put to the Prime Minister this week that he sings about press freedom, and yet does not extend that freedom to the Samoa Observer. 

“There is a huge difference between press freedom versus inaccurate reporting,” said the Prime Minister, but didn't identify the inaccurate report. 

The Prime Minister has a one-on-one interview with TV1 and Talamua Media afterwards every Tuesday, and Thursday is the live media programme with Radio 2AP. While other media are allowed to ask questions, the Samoa Observer is not given the same opportunity. 

This newspaper sends questions to the Ministry of Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, Nanai Laveitiga Tuiletufuga, for a written response.

He said issuing written responses is a “special exclusive privilege" and the Samoa Observer should be honoured. 

“It will help broaden your reporting abilities and also to educate and motivate you to investigate and report facts, not hearsay, gossip or rumors.  But most importantly - fair, factual and accurate reporting.

“Under no circumstance is this Privilege intended to undermine your press freedom. Paramount to government is for its side of the story to be presented fairly and accurately for our public to make informed decisions. 

“This Privilege allows Government to furnish factual responses to your inquiries and will also ensure that your articles do not compromise the Media Code of Ethics.” 

The Prime Minister then claims the Samoa Observer is confused with the role of the Press Secretariat. 

“Since you seem confused as to the role of the Press Secretariat, I’ll explain it to you. The Press Secretariat provides advice and information on issues raised by the media. 

"And to clarify, that means all of the media, not just the Observer, because I know your newspaper often believes you are the only media worth knowing. 

"So the press office deals with the media and that means many of the queries and issues come through their doors before it reaches mine. That is a normal situation and normal processes in all democracies, like New Zealand, Australia and U.S.A.” 

According to the Prime Minister, there is no special treatment “and you should not be asking for such. 

“The present policy stands for media inquiries to be handled by the Press Secretariat and there are no doors closed to any media in this country. So for now, enjoy the honor and the Exclusive Special Privilege,” said Tuilaepa. 

In January, 2019, the Prime Minister refused to be asked questions directly by the Samoa Observer rather asked that all questions to be sent to his press secretary, and at the same time accused the Editors of the Samoa Observer of changing his comments. 

During World Press Freedom Day earlier this month, Tuilaepa said press freedom is alive and well in Samoa. 

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