Media banned from pre-Parliament sitting

The media has been banned from covering the pre-Parliament session.

The decision surfaced on Monday when a reporter from the Samoa Observer and a local TV station were asked by the Legislative Assembly's Sergeant at Arms, Luatalo Setima, to leave the session, ahead of Tuesday's Parliamentary sitting.

The pre-Parliament sittings held on the eve of every Parliament sitting gives Members of Parliament an opportunity to raise questions and ask for clarifications on bills being proposed.

Since the sessions started, reporters and media representatives were allowed to sit in and report on the discussions between M.Ps and the heads of Government Ministries who are there to explain proposed measure.

This changed on Monday. Luatalo said the new media ban was an order from the Speaker of the House, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi, prohibiting the publication of discussions in the meeting. 

Attempts to get a comment from Speaker Leaupepe were not successful.

But Luatalo explained that the ban was made with the intention that whatever is discussed would eventually be raised in Parliament, therefore making it public.

“The discussions in pre-sitting should not be made public until then,” he said. 

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Asked for further clarification on the changes, the Clerk of the House, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, said he was not aware of the change.

He said he would need to get clarification from the Speaker of the House before he could make an official comment.

A follow-up email to Tiatia on the issue was not responded to by press time. 

The Electoral Act was the only legislation that had its amendment discussed in the pre-sitting on Monday.

The pre-parliament sitting has been an avenue used by many M.Ps to voice their concerns and express views from their constituencies on changes to certain legislation.

In the past during Parliament sessions, some M.Ps who speak in Chamber about bills that were discussed during pre-sitting were scolded for “wasting Parliament's time” for raising questions again. 

The M.Ps were warned against taking up Parliament time and were instructed to attend pre-Parliament sitting so they can better understand the amendments. 

At one time in Parliament, M.P. for Salega Olo Fiti Vaai argued the reason why M.Ps repeated the questions from pre-sitting in Chamber is so their constituencies can listen to their concerns being raised. 

Olo added that Parliament should not suppress the views from M.Ps if they choose to speak on an issue or amendments during Parliament.

He said the pre-sitting is not the same as the official Parliament sitting where all ears from around the islands are listening to the debates. 

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