P.M. Tuilaepa dismisses media use claims

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi has downplayed concerns he is using State-owned media for his election campaign purposes.

Speaking during his radio program on 2AP on Thursday afternoon, Tuilaepa said he doesn't own the 2AP radio and television stations. 

“Firstly I do not own [the 2AP] and the television stations, but the Government is quite clear on their policies that it is up to the media whether to seek interviews for news purposes,” he said.

Tuilaepa said other political parties are more than welcome to use the State-owned media organisations, though they will have to pay for the airtime. 

“And I don’t want to do that because I don’t have time. I am too busy, but then [2AP] bothers me all the time for interviews given the nature of your work,” he said. 

“Also I don’t force the media to come interview me, they know [this interview] is good for their programs and also provides the opportunity for the Government to explain and announce government developments.” 

The two public-funded media organisations that the Prime Minister is making reference to is the Savali newspaper, which comes under the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and 2AP radio under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

Last month the Leader of the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party, Laauli Polataivao Schmidt, called on the media to maintain its objectivity in the lead up to the 2021 General Election.

During a recent press conference 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.

Former parliamentarians and F.A.S.T. candidates Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong have also called for all leaders to have access to State-owned media.

According to Section 1 (9) the Samoa Media Code of Practice, media outlets are obligated to give access to political parties or candidates and report without fear or favour.

“[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."

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