President of Journalist Association slams met bill

The President of the Journalists Association of Western Samoa (J.A.W.S.), Rudy Bartley, has criticised a lack of consultation for a new Meteorology Bill coming before Parliament which enables the body to sue media outlets. 

Mr. Bartley said he’s surprised the Samoa Meteorology Service has gone to the extent of drafting a bill that allow it to sue media outlets for what it says is "inaccurate reporting." 

In the Samoa Observer on Saturday, the Meteorology office's Assistant C.E.O, Mulipola Ausetalia Titimaea, said the expected passage of the Bill in the next Parliament sitting later this year would give the forecasting body the authority under the law to sue media outlets.

Mulipola said that inaccurate reporting and the used of outdated forecasts by media organisations are major issues faced by the service. 

But Mr. Bartley disagrees.

“First of all we were not consulted," he said. " I don’t even think there was any consultation. I believe [we should] educate [rather] than legislate. Rather than spending that money on legal suits, they should spend it on media training. 

“In that way there is continuous development and the media will know there are issues that need to be fixed, that’s much better than suing the media, which will not get anyone anywhere and things just get messy.” 

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Mr. Bartley said there are already legislation such as the Criminal Libel Act and Media Council Act that govern the work of the media and having another one is "ridiculous". 

“We have the Media Council Act and it has a complaints process in that, so they could have addressed that issue there," he said. 

"If they don’t like how a certain term is pronounced, there’s a process they can go about to address it and not through legal means, not waiting for the media to make a big mistake and then they sue the media. 

“It’s counter-productive and it doesn’t help anyone. How will it help the journalist who didn’t get the pronunciation right, they’ll probably get fired, how does it help the Met office, of course they can win or lose the lawsuit but still they have to pay the legal fees." 

Mr. Bartley said to read about the Bill in the Samoa Observer was surprising as the media outlets were not consulted. 

“There was no consultation at least with the media. To read it in the Samoa Observer is not the way to do it, they should have approached the media organisation that’s incorrectly reporting the weather forecast and advise them that this is wrong," he said. 

“They should have let them know and have some discussion with them. 

"Don’t just go and do a legislation that will affect everyone, it could be just one or two media outlets that does these kinds of reporting, so why should it impact all the media. 

“Once you get it to that level of legislation, it’s complicated and does not do well to anyone. We have been doing workshops with the met officers recently and, funnily enough, nothing was mentioned of the Bill.”

The Meteorology Bill will also allow the Samoa Meteorology Service to charge aviation companies for specialists forecasts. 

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