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House Speaker says media should be thankful they are allowed in

Rep. Fatulegae’e Palepoi Mauga has accused a “newspaper” of inaccurate reporting, while House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale says the news media should be thankful they are allowed to sit in and observe House proceedings. This took place during the House session last Thursday (Sept. 8th).

At the session, Fatulegae’e voiced his displeasure over a Samoan story in the Samoa News early last week that the House Vice Speaker had instructed him to follow House rules.  (The Samoan story was headlined: “A’OA’I SUI FOFOGA FETALAI IA FATULEGAE’E E TAUSISI I LE TULAFONO A LE MALO” (“House Vice Speaker instructs Fatuleagae’e to follow House rules”).

He said the story was inaccurate, as one faipule cannot instruct another faipule on what to do. Savali then supported Fatulegae’e’s statement, pointing out that House issues and work are not guided by what the media reports.

Savali said that there are a lot of stories by the media that are not accurately reported but he did not cite any examples. He then directed his statement to Samoa News and KHJ News reporters in the House gallery saying that the media should be thankful they are allowed in the House, but that does not give them the freedom to report whatever the media wants.

He also said there was incorrect news reporting from the budget hearings but again he didn’t give any details. Samoa News stands by all of its stories — both English and Samoan.

Responding to the Speaker’s statement on the media, Samoa News editor-in-chief Rhonda Annesley said, “Savali is mistaken in his belief that media are ‘allowed’ by his grace to enter his House… he is not God, he is a servant … ‘of the people’ and the House he does business from is ‘by the people’, and the laws he is supposed to legislate are ‘for the people’.

“The Fono is not a private club where ‘elected’ members get to party behind closed doors — it is financed with public money and as such answers to the public, surely the people’s protests when the lawmakers tried to give themselves a raise is an example of our great democracy, which ultimately answers to the people.

“As such, the media serves the community/ public, not the Fono,” she said. “And transparency and accountability will continue to be the bedrock of our mission to keep the public informed on issues that impact our daily lives and future.”

Asked for comments, Monica Miller, news director of South Seas Broadcasting — which includes KHJ and V103 — told Samoa News, “With all due respect, I find Speaker Savali Talavou Ale 's outburst disappointing. I have no doubts that the Speaker is well aware of the role of the media in a democratic government.

“We cover Fono proceedings so that the public is informed of the work of their elected representatives,” she said. “The Fono building belongs to the public and the House gallery is where members of the public, can see their lawmakers in action. Men, women and children who are affected by the decisions of lawmakers cannot be present at the Fono sessions, and it’s through the media that voters are kept abreast of the performance of their faipule.

“Speaker Savali's comment that the media should be thankful they are allowed to sit in the Fono cannot be ignored,” Miller said. “When there’s an affront on media access to public institutions like the law making body, it’s not just members of the media that should be concerned. The public should also be worried.

“Because if you limit media access, you also curtail information that the public has a right to know,” she added.