The importance of reporting the truth

By The Editorial Board 18 September 2023, 10:00AM

The Member of Parliament of Faleata No.3. Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi is right to exercise his legal rights to take to task two New Zealand-based media outlets and Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries La'auli Leuatea Schmidt for defamation.

This is after the two media outlets interviewed a person who obviously fabricated a story about the death of a teenager in 2021 and made further claims of assassination plots of two cabinet ministers. The fabricated stories spread faster than the fires in Hawaii.

Fueled by the power of social media, the fabricated yarn is being taken by many as the gospel truth because of the tendency of so many to blindly believe whatever posted on social media.

The Police Commissioner, Auapa'au Logoitino Filipo as the correct authority on this matter has dismissed all claims made by Sam Su'a (also known as Samuelu Leau).

"So we looked into what he said and the story he came up with does not make sense. So we need to be very careful about these things,” he said.

"He has the right to express his opinions but we will follow the law. Especially when it comes to people spreading false accusations against other citizens of this country."

"I can confirm that the accusations and information that have been shared on social media are inaccurate, inconsistent and do not verify the identification of any suspects, including allegations against Government officials in the performance of their duties.”

Bluewave TV which initially broadcasted this interview is based out of New Zealand and identifies as a Samoan language news medium. The first thing the producers, presenters or editors should have done was to verify the claims made by this man.

This is what journalists do, they verify claims and if there is truth in the statements, they present it with evidence. There was not one shroud of evidence presented either by Sam or the media outlet that could verify the claims.

The second rule that they did not even consider was to get a balance to their interview which in this case would have been Lealailepule and the Samoa Police. None of this was done and yet these outlets claim to be presenting news which affects the nation.

Leaders in Samoa are respected and things that they utter in a public forum is believed by many. For the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries La'auli Leuatea Schmidt to focus on this issue again and repeat what Sam said during the Soalepule programme televised by E.F.K.S. T.V.  last Wednesday and Friday were wrong.

Politics may be a dirty game but to stoop to such a level to ridicule an opponent is in no way the traits of a good leader. The Samoa Observer did approach the minister and asked him of his response to the impending legal action.

He offered to reserve his comments.

Perhaps the Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa needs to look at this issue among the others which have mounted on her plate including the Kite Runner and the Chinese stock exchange companies and deal with them accordingly.

The truth matters and it also matters that the leaders of this nation speak the truth no matter what the question or issue is poised at them.

Lealailepule in his comments to the Samoa Observer makes a good point when he says that he doesn’t mind whatever stories this guy Sam is telling because there's no truth in it.

“My disappointment is that this has been entertained by media outlets who have interviewed this guy and live-streamed it on social media for everyone to see," he said.

"It's very disappointing and it's sad because they did not bother to check this guy's background and whether he has any credibility before giving him the opportunity to tell whatever stories he had made up.

"The sad thing about it is that these so-called journalists are giving in to these kinds of people who would use the opportunity to destroy someone's reputation causing unnecessary hate and drama for the families of the people he has named.”

Lealailepule is also right in saying how much disharmony this fabricated tale is now causing among the Samoan community either here at home or overseas.

This should be a lesson to all those who claim to be journalists on how a story or interview should be approached. There should also be a lesson to our leaders who need to back themselves with the truth during public forums. 

As journalists and media outlets, we have a responsibility to bring out the truth without fear or favour and above all present facts with evidence.

For Sam, the Samoa Police are waiting for him as he is wanted for other crimes. But in the mix of all of this, the family of the young man who was killed in Vaitele is still without justice and each time such lies are spread, their wounds are made fresh again.

The truth will set you free.

By The Editorial Board 18 September 2023, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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