Freedom Forum praises journalists for standing ground
Members of Samoa’s media have been praised by the Pacific Freedom Forum media watchdog following an incident outside of the national courthouse on Sunday barring entry to journalists.
“Samoa journalists who stood their ground after being told by Police to leave a parking lot at the Samoa Supreme Court should receive an apology, and an explanation of why they were not allowed in court”, the Pacific Freedom Forum said in a statement.
“Members of the Samoa media who had gathered at Samoa's Supreme Court precinct Sunday morning 24th May, to cover an urgent 'meeting in chambers' between the Chief Justice and Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) were asked to leave the court premises.”
“The Samoa Observer reports their Chief Reporter; photographer, Aufai Areta Areta, Radio New Zealand Correspondent Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia and Leilua Amesene Tanielu of Radio Polynesia were asked by the Police to ‘leave’ the parking lot.
“Police said their bosses had ordered the media to leave the premises because the entire compound was in 'lockdown'.”
P.F.F. Chair Bernadette Carreon said, in refusing to accept these reasons and seeking clarification, journalists bravely stood up for the public’s right to know.
"Reporting elections is a time of high pressure on media workers to get the facts right so voters know what's happening,” she said.
“With Samoa's historic 2021 polling outcomes and new developments, all parties should be even more aware of the importance of having media observers across all events."
The organisation’s Melanesia co-Chair, Robert Iroga, noted that the media were standing in a public place and not posing a public nuisance or threat.
“[They] were well within their rights to question the orders from the Police officers seeking their removal,” he said.
“It's disappointing that these officers may not have been aware of the excellent work led by the journalists of Samoa who have previously run training workshops with Police on the important role of the media, especially at times like this.
"We commend senior journalists for their calm and professional responses, knowing their rights, and providing this powerful learning moment.”