Ombudsman appeals for freedom of expression submissions

The Ombudsman Office has appealed to the public for submissions on freedom of speech, opinion and expression and will also hold consultations on the issue with selected villages.

The Ombudsman or the National Human Rights Institution is mandated under the Ombudsman Act 2013 Section 40 to prepare a report on the status of human rights in Samoa.

In line with its responsibilities to report on human rights, the N.H.R.I. has put out a public notice to advise that this year it will focus on freedom of speech, opinion and expression and it wants to hear from the public.

“This year the key human rights issue that will be explored is freedom of speech, opinion and expression,” stated the N.H.R.I. notice.

Inviting the public to send through their submissions, the Ombudsman said the submissions should revolve around the question, “what is your understanding of the freedom of speech, opinion and expression?

“Are there any issues as to how freedom of speech, opinion and expression is exercised in Samoa? 

“Are you aware that there are limitations and restrictions to freedom of speech?”

The questions were raised in the e-copy of a brochure that was uploaded to the N.H.R.I. official Facebook page.

It is not known whether individuals who work for media organisations in Samoa will be able to make submissions independently to the Ombudsman, who will be in a position to provide the context on the link between press freedom and how it compliments freedom of speech, opinion and expression.

Previously the Journalists Association of Western Samoa [J.A.W.S.] has cautioned that freedom of speech and expression comes with responsibility.

“The J.A.W.S. would like to appeal to the media to use the code [of practice] to help them in making decisions which they are unsure of, however, at the same time use their common sense,” said J.A.W.S. President Rudy Bartley.

“The code covers many of these issues of freedom of speech and expression, but people should know and understand that with such freedoms come responsibilities and limitations not to harm anyone or incite violence.”

The deadline for submissions to the N.H.R.I. is Thursday 8 April 2021.

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