Cease mixed messaging and unite nation

It was a classic case of shooting the messenger, when two Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) stalwarts used the party’s social media platform on Monday to attack the Samoa Observer.

Party Secretary Lealaipule Rimoni Aiafi and supporter Maiava Visekota Peteru, in a video livestream on the party’s Facebook page, launched into a tirade over what they claimed was this newspaper’s poor quality journalism.

They each claimed that no one buys the 43-year-old newspaper, which is the country's first and only daily.

Maiava said the newspaper’s reporting was unbalanced and one-sided, prompting her to stop buying the paper

“I won’t waste my time buying it”, Maiava said, reports the Wednesday 8 September 2021 edition of the Samoa Observer. No one buys that newspaper [Samoa Observer] anymore.”

Lealailepule said it was a “waste” to see a newspaper decline in quality, suggesting he had a more respectful view of its past.

“It has no credibility anymore”, he said. “It’s a shame, the work done over so many years [Gatoaitele] Savea Sano [Malifa] to reach high standards and now this.”

The party duo also attacked this newspaper’s editors and even called for one to be sacked due to his “extreme” views.

It is not the first time for the Samoa Observer and its staff to be in the firing line of politicians and their party supporters, and it is unlikely to be the last as people exercise their constitutional rights to free expression.

But expressing oneself as a politician is a different kettle of fish: as an M.P. of Samoa’s Legislative Assembly, one would expect some form of civility and respect with criticism focused on policy and issues rather than the individual.

But true to form Lealaipule and Maiava opted to take the path that their party leadership has become known for in recent years. They proceeded to attack individuals, who are employed by this newspaper, rather than reveal evidence of poor journalism in the pages of this newspaper so they can be addressed.

And we have grown accustomed to that modus operandi by the country’s oldest political party, during those years when they were in the Government, with Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi as Prime Minister.

At one point in the last three of the H.R.P.P. Government’s recent five-year term of office, there was a media blackout on our reporters, which carried over into April’s election but it didn’t become a barrier to us contacting the party for comment.

So the goal post hasn’t changed for the Samoa Observer in terms of its editorial policies over the last 43 years – the same level of scrutiny that we’ve subjected the former ruling party to over the years when it was in the government – will also apply to the F.A.S.T. administration now that it is in the box seat.

Our role as a watchdog is a responsibility that we take seriously and continue to assess on a daily basis, hence if there are errors with our news content we will admit it and subsequently remain committed to the news organisation’s objectives, of reporting the truth without fear or favour.

Which is why our doors remain open to Lealaipule and Maiava to point us to evidence of poor journalism in our pages.

Unless they conveniently chose to criticise this newspaper for factually reporting that a proposed protest march against the F.A.S.T. Government wasn’t considered a priority for the Public Service Association (P.S.A.) following a special meeting with its members last Saturday?

Having come this far following a three-month-long constitutional crisis, which was solely the making of a disillusioned H.R.P.P. executive, it would work in the party’s favour to cease the dissemination of mixed messaging such as flawed interpretations of court rulings and promote the rule of law.

The swearing-in on Wednesday of the interim Attorney-General Su'a Hellene Wallwork at the Official Residence of the Head of State, with both His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II and Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa in attendance, confirms that the key actors in the months-long crisis can cross that bridge together when called upon to perform their constitutional functions for the nation.

It is also time for the H.R.P.P. leadership and their supporters to put the interest of this nation first before their own and that of the party's leadership.

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