F.A.S.T. calls for unbiased media coverage

The Leader of the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party, Laauli Polataivao Schmidt, has called on the media to maintain its objectivity in the lead up to the General Election.

Laauli's warning comes after he claims to have seen inappropriate language from reporters and one-sided reporting ahead of April's election. He did not say which media he was referring to.

But during a press conference on Monday at the F.A.S.T. headquarters in Tuanaimato, La'auli said the media's role was to deliver fair reporting on all political parties.

He specifically thanked state-owned paper, Savali, for its presence at the press conference saying it was nice to have them join after many attempts to invite them to previous events. 

The Government later denied it had ignored earlier invitations.

The Government media includes the Savali newspaper and 2AP radio station. The Savali Newspaper is under the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (M.P.M.C.) while 2AP is under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (M.C.I.T.).

The reminder follows multiple calls from Members of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong, both now F.A.S.T. candidates, for the state media to be opened to everyone not just the Prime Minister.

Section 1 (9) the Samoa Media Code of Practice specifies that when reporting on elections:

“[Outlets should] ensure that news reports do not favour one political candidate or party over the other,” the code reads.

“Do not permit a political candidate to dictate or influence improperly the journalists’ work.

“Grant equal coverage – including opportunities to present arguments on-air or in print – to the principal political parties; and grant a level of coverage to smaller parties and independent candidates appropriate to their status in the electorate."

Meanwhile, last week, the Owner and Editor of Talamua Media, Apulu Lance Polu, defended selling political merchandise on his website, Talamua, despite calls from the Journalists Association of [Western] Samoa (J.A.W.S.) to take the party gear down.

Apulu, who is a member of the Fa'atuatua i Le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party, although not standing for election, said there is nothing wrong with his news outlet website selling party merchandise.

President of the Journalists Association of Samoa (J.A.W.S.) Rudy Bartley said the merchandise on sale is a clear conflict of interest for Talamua. 

“Personally, I think it is unethical, it is not right. As media we are supposed to be impartial, we should be in the middle," he said.

“If it was me, I would have resigned from my position as a media person."

But Apulu said making space for F.A.S.T. on his website is about righting an imbalanced media environment, where the ruling party in Government has an abundance of broadcast and print options at their disposal.

But in a statement from the Government Press Secretary on Monday, it said Savali had only received one invitation to a F.A.S.T. media event.

"This is not a new issue and was again recently raised by Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong via their weekly interview with the EFKS TV," the Government spokesman said.

"And to that extend, Prime Minister Tuilaepa [Dr.] Sailele Malielegaoi had addressed these allegations extensively.

"Savali and the Government Press Secretariat which are under the Press Communication Division, (P.C.D.)  in case you may have not noticed, is one of the Prime Minister’s portfolios in his capacity as Minister of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, (M.P.M.C.) that oversees P.C.D.

"And PCD’s vision is to ensure that information sharing to all our stakeholders is performed in a timely fashion and that the information is accurate.

"This is in line with the Government as a whole approach by the Ministry and driven by the three MPMC’s pillars for a well governed, well secured and well informed Samoa. The ultimate mission is for our people worldwide to make informed decisions based on facts."

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