Prime Minister Unaware of Media Protocol issued by Office of Legislative

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20 March 2019, Apia Samoa. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was unaware of the Media Protocols issued by the Office of the Legislative Assembly on Monday prohibiting the media from taking video and still photos inside the new Maota Fono during Parliament sessions.

The media were told that they can no longer sit inside the Maota Fono, and were shown to a room where they could see the live stream instead. The notice also prohibited the all video and still cameras.

New Maota Fono – Media Protocols

“We would also like to inform the media as of Tuesday 19th March 2019 all video and still cameras are prohibited inside the new Maota Fono during Parliament sessions. An area for the media is set outside the Maota Fono where cables can be hooked on for live feed. Photos will be taken by the Office of the Legislative Assembly and will be made available on our facebook page immediately after the sitting.”

Tuilaepa said during his weekly programme that the call by the Office of the Legislative is not right and had he known, he would have corrected the situation. 

He added that the Acting CEO of Parliament is new.

“Ou te leiloa,”

“E pei lava o si tama lena e fou.”

He went on to say that if he had known of this notice he would have told them to allow the media to come in and take photos as they used to do in the past.

“Ana faapea foi tou te logoa a’u analeila, se manu ou te faatonua  e leai se mea o le a faasa ai outou.

“Ia o le a taofi fua o lea sa masani ona tou iai i totonu sa iai I le taimi e lei talepea le maota lea sa tou iai i uta.”

The Prime Minister said that he had noticed the absence of the media, and thought the media was having some sort of protest when he didn’t see them in Parliament.

“Leitioa la a o’u fiu e autilo outou analeila.

“Sa ou faapea ua iai se mea o loo tou protest ai ua tou le o atu ai.

“Ae o lea o le a ou talanoa iai e aua nei toe faia ia uiga pa’aā faapea.”

Samoa”s media association President Rudy Bartley and his Executive Committee confirm that they had written to the Speaker of the House, Toleafoa Fa’afisi as well as the Office of the Legislative Assembly to reconsider the new protocol and allow the media to take photos inside parliament.

“This is very unprofessional and unbecoming of such a high profile government institution which represents the people of our country – as mentioned in the official opening, it is “the people’s parliament,” stated the letter.

“JAWS urges the Speaker and Legislative Assembly to reconsider this new protocol and allow media to film and take photos of proceedings as per usual. Thus this is why the inclusion of a PRESS GALLERY was so important in the initial plans of the new Maota Fono. Alas this was not to be and would have been the perfect solution to the dilemma of Samoa’s modern – state of the art 21st century Maota Fono now faces.

“A Press Gallery would keep the media in a designated area while at the same time enabling the media access to resources in order to provide effective coverage of parliamentary proceedings. Like any new project, these are only “teething” issues which can be fixed. We hope the new protocol is rescinded and phase two of the project include a Press Gallery, not just for the good of Media, but the service the media provides for the people of Samoa – for now and the future.”

Here is a full copy of the letter by JAWS:

 Statement 19 March 2019

New Maota Fono – Media Protocols

“We would also like to inform the media as of Tuesday 19th March 2019 all video and still cameras are prohibited inside the new Maota Fono during Parliament sessions. An area for the media is set outside the Maota Fono where cables can be hooked on for live feed. Photos will be taken by the Office of the Legislative Assembly and will be made available on our facebook page immediately after the sitting.”

JAWS wishes to express our deepest concern and much disappointment in the recent rules “ Maota Fono Protocols” as informed to the media by the legislative assembly (Monday 18th March 2019) in covering the next session of Parliament (Tuesday 19th March 2019) at the new Maota Fono. We are also saddened as there was no consultation with the media and forewarning in the introduction of these new rules. Just like the official opening, there was very little time the media was informed. This is very unprofessional and unbecoming of such a high profile government institution which represents the people of our country – as mentioned so in the official opening as “the peoples parliament.”

On Monday, the media was informed of the new “Media Protocols” the media have to follow at the start of parliament today. Banning of all video and photos (taken by media) is very unusual and disturbing especially for a brand new multi-million dollar Australian funded project. Australians are very much champions of Freedom of the Media and the importance of the media in any modern democracy. The irony of millions of Australian dollars being spent on this building one week and the following week, the media is denied the basic rights of reporting (filming video and taking still photos) of parliamentary proceedings. Parliamentary Media responsible for filming video and taking photos may not have the professional standards required for mainstream media coverage.

In addition, this action goes against the Freedom of the Media as the fourth estate to report on proceedings of parliament without hindrance or interference. This is a form of censorship when media is not allowed to film or take still photos (it wants) of parliamentary proceedings. When these (video and photos) are provided by the parliament, this is censorship as officials can select and edit material which it wants people to watch or see. This is unacceptable for the work of the media as an effective tool in any democracy.

In conclusion, JAWS urges the Speaker and Legislative Assembly to reconsider this new protocol and allow media to film and take photos of proceedings as per usual. Thus this is why the inclusion of a PRESS GALLERY was so important in the initial plans of the new Maota Fono. Alas this was not to be and would have been the perfect solution to the dilemma of Samoa’s modern – state of the art 21st century Maota Fono now faces.

A Press Gallery would keep the media in a designated area while at the same time enabling the media access to resources in order to provide effective coverage of parliamentary proceedings. Like any new project, these are only “teething” issues which can be fixed. We hope the new protocol is rescinded and phase two of the project include a Press Gallery, not just for the good of Media, but the service the media provides for the people of Samoa – for now and the future.

God Bless Samoa God bless us All.


Deidre Fanene

31 years old from the village of Leauvaa. Married with three children.
Deidre Fanene