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Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Samoa

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1999
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Samoa, February 1999, available at: [accessed 11 December 2017]
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.

As of December 31, 1998

In a move emblematic of the deteriorating climate for the press and following on the heels of a 1997 law compelling reporters charged with libel to reveal their sources, the Samoan government announced in May that officials could use public funds to pursue civil libel claims. Such suits, brought by officials vexed by news coverage of corruption and irregularities, have become drearily routine.

In September, the Supreme Court awarded Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana a $40,000 judgment against Savea Sano Malifa, editor and publisher of the Samoa Observer – the latest blow to the nation's only daily newspaper. The prime minister had sued the paper for defamation over a 1997 story claiming that public funds were used to upgrade a hotel owned by Tofilau's children in preparation for a visit by Britain's Prince Edward.

After the ruling, Malifa said he may be forced to sell the paper because of mounting legal expenses. In 1994, the paper's printing press was burned down in a mysterious fire, and Malifa and his family have received death threats. Malifa's plight drew international attention in 1998 when he received the Commonwealth Press Union's Astor Award for press freedom.

Other journalists have also faced intimidation in their attempts to report on those in high office. The assistant editor of the weekly Samoan-language newspaper Samoa Post, Molesi Taumaoe, reported that Telecommunications Minister Leafa Vitale threatened him with death in May to prevent the newspaper from publishing a letter containing allegations of corruption against the minister.

The government continues to bar opposition politicians from appearing on the island's sole television station, which is state-run.

Attacks on the Press in Samoa in 1998

07/06/98Samoa ObserverLegal Action
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