Clerk of Parliament explains media ban

The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, is standing by the decision made by the Speaker of Parliament to ban the media from reporting on pre-Parliament sessions. 

The ban was sprung on members of the media on Monday during a pre-sitting session where media representatives were told they could not report on what was discussed during the session. The sessions were previously opened to the media.

After inquiring about the change, the Legislative Clerk said he had raised the matter with the Speaker of the House, Leaupepe Tole'afoa Fa'afisi, who “reiterated the significance of Parliamentary privilege which is essential to the functioning of Parliament”. 

“Although we do not have a policy in place which guides our relationship with the media, but we’re mindful as well of the rights and powers conferred on Parliamentarians,” said Tiatia in an email.

He said the media outlets are able to report on the deliberations when matters are raised during Parliamentary sittings.

“Media will have their chance to report on the bills deliberations when the “Legislative Process” commences, i.e. Introduction/First Reading & Second Reading Stages,” he explained. 

Tiatia said another reason for the ban is for Government entities to present a brief overview to members of Parliament on the merits and principles of the bills to be introduced in Parliament.

He referred to the session being a forum to give M.Ps an opportunity to formulate their views constructively during the second reading debates. 

The Clerk said this is done based on the objectives being presented during the pre-sitting. 

He maintained that a revision on the Standing Orders for the next Parliamentary term is in progress and will establish a media policy as one of its priorities. 

Follow-up questions to the Clerk on why the media was not restricted in previous sessions and the sudden change were not responded to by press time. 

On Monday, the Sergeant at Arms for the L.A., Luatalo Setima said the media ban was based on orders from the Speaker of the House, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi. 

He explained the ban was made with the intention that whatever is raised during the session will be raised later in parliament, therefore making it public. 

“The discussions in pre-sitting should not be made public until then,” he said. 

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