Samoa Observer appeals Opapo and daughter's Court ruling

The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision over an application by the Samoa Observer Newspaper to dismiss a 2019 Supreme Court decision by Justice Mata Tuatagaloa against the newspaper.

The appeal against the decision in the lawsuit brought by Reverend Opapo Soanai Oeti and his daughter, Toaipuapuaga Patrick, was before Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, Justice Robert Lloyd Fisher and Justice Rhys Harrison, on Tuesday.

Justice Tuatagaloa’s decision dated 30th August 2019, found that “certain statement or words” in a letter to the editor published by the Samoa Observer in relation to the complainants, were “defamatory.”

The Samoa Observer was represented by lawyer, Travis Lamb, of Lamb & Wallwork Lawyers. 

Editor of the Samoa Observer, Mata’afa Keni Lesa, was present in the courtroom for the appeal.

Representing Reverend Opapo and his daughter was lawyer, Muriel Lui.

The letter in the middle of the dispute was an online comment, in response to a story titled “Church stigmata row deepens.” 

The decision by Justice Tuatagaloa followed a hearing in March.

During the hearing, Ms. Lui argued that the publication by the Samoa Observer of a letter to the editor, titled “Stop this madness” written by pseudonym M.R. in the Samoa Observer’s edition of 29th March 2017, was defamatory. She also claimed that the letter was similar to what was posted on the Ole Palemia blog.

The Samoa Observer has strongly rejected the claim, with their lawyers arguing the Samoa Observer could not be held accountable for the opinions of an anonymous blogger.

The decision on the appeal is expected on Friday.

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