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Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Samoa

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1998
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Samoa, February 1998, available at: [accessed 21 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Samoa's largest daily newspaper rocked the government in April when it uncovered a scandal involving the alleged illegal sale of Samoan passports in Hong Kong. The ensuing political crisis, which has lasted for months, led to public demonstrations against the government and so angered Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana that he called for regulations to license and control the press. Prime Minister Tofilau brought criminal defamation proceedings against Samoa's only independent daily newspaper, the Samoa Observer in October. Tofilau then threatened to back legislation allowing the government to close newspapers "for stirring up trouble." The paper, viewed by most observers as pro-opposition, is no stranger to controversy. Its publisher, Savea Malifa, and Samoan-language editor, Fuimaono Fereti Tupua, face a stack of lawsuits dating back for several years, brought by government officials and business leaders. In 1994, the paper's editorial offices, printing plant, and press were burned down in what many believe was retaliation for the newspaper's reporting on allegations of government corruption. Many earlier suits against the paper have been thrown out by the courts, and the current defamation suit is awaiting appeal on constitutional grounds before it can be heard on its merits.

State-run radio and television deny air time to opposition leaders. In November, a government minister revealed that official discussions were underway aimed at shutting down Radio Polynesia, the country's only independent news radio station. Radio Polynesia carries interviews with opposition party members and anti-government protesters who are banned from the government-controlled radio and television. In May, Liauta Lesifataia, the head of the official Televisi Samoa, confirmed that the station will not allow appearances by opposition politicians.

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