Journalist's assault shows all not as rosy as Samoan PM says
Following an attack on three reporters in Samoa, the Prime Minister is giving a glowing report of media freedom in the country.
Three female journalists in Samoa who were assaulted while reporting on a road accident have called for more respect for the media.
The journalists were taking photos of an upturned truck when the driver demanded they delete the photos.
The Prime Minister has boasted about media freedom standards in Samoa, but journalists say the reality is different.
Alex Perrottet has more.
When a small truck crashed and turned over near Vailima last week, three reporters from the Samoa Observer rushed to the scene. While taking photos, the male driver approached them and demanded them stop and hand over the photos or delete them. Lanuola Tupufia says the man became violent when her fellow reporter Sarai Ripine refused. He grabbed her arm, and she refused to hand over the camera, which he reached over and tried to take off her. She says police on the scene attending to the accident didn't take any action.
LANUOLA TUPUFIA: I asked the police officer why they haven't done anything. They should be standing between the parties and try to calm down the man. All he said was the man told you not to take any photos, but yet you still took the photos. And then he just looked away and walked away from us.
Ms Tupufia says they are often verbally assaulted by members of the public who feel threatened by the media. Also on Friday, the paper reported a boy taking photos of a police raid in the street had his phone taken and smashed to the ground by an officer. Reporter Nicola Hazelman-Siona was the third journalist at the truck accident. She reports in the Samoa Observer that there is a worsening attitude of police and government towards the media. But the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has a different view.
TUIAEPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI: Very safe. And, I tell you, it is probably the freest in the whole of the South Pacific island countries.
Tuilaepa says he speaks to the media every week and has an excellent rapport with journalists.
TUIAEPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI: I have two or three interviews with them every week. And I even welcome them to come to my home.
Ms Tupufia did say she has a good rapport with Tuilaepa, but Mrs Hazelman-Siona says he was not able to speak with the paper last week at all, and other ministries are refusing face-to-face interviews. Misa Vicky Lepou is a lecturer in media at the National University of Samoa. She says the government is moving very slowly on its promise to remove criminal libel laws that threaten journalists.
MISA VICKY LEPOU: Those were just words. We haven't seen any development since then. And it takes the media as one body to really push this issue through, which has been made known for many years.
Misa Vicky Lepou says there is a lack of unity in the media to effectively campaign against the law. She says it also allows government leaders to use taxpayers' money to pay legal fees in their claims against the media.
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