Freedom of Expression is a Human Right that Should Not Be Taken for Granted, JAWS President

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    Press Freedom Day is celebrated annually on 3rd May, unfortunately for Samoa, we had not had a chance to celebrate such a prestigious event in the past two years due to a political crisis in 2021 and COVID-19 2022.

    This year JAWS has left its celebration to culminate together with Samoa’s 60th Independent anniversary finale at the end of the month.

    This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme Shaping a Future of Rights-Freedom of Expression as a Driver for all” fits in well with the ongoing debate whether freedom of expression exists in Samoa or not.

    Whilst there is a strong belief it does, there is also an impression that it is just an “expression” nothing more.

    The debate became even more notable with the current defamation case in Court against a US based Samoan woman and the continuous argument from the former Prime Minister, currently suspended from Parliament, against the Speaker’s alleged abuse of power in trying to stop him and another MP from speaking on issues outside Parliament.

    Article 13 (1) of the Samoa Constitution refers to Rights of Freedom of Speech , Assembly, Association, Movement and Residence but section (a) specifically refers to all citizens of Samoa having the freedom of speech and expression.

    Whether the Speaker’s decision is unconstitutional or not, the questions raised were :

    * Does the freedom of expression extends to abuse,

    * Where do you draw the line between exercising your human/constitutional rights and the law?

    “Our Constitution is very clear on freedom of speech and expression, and we are very fortunate that our forefathers who penned the Constitution foreseen the importance of this to Samoa. However, such freedom does not mean you can defame or abuse others, “said JAWS President Lagi Keresoma.

    Freedom of expression is a human right that should not be taken for granted, said Ms.Keresoma.