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Opposition Leader Calls Govt Ant Media

Opposition Leader Accuses Government Of Anti-Media Tactics

APIA (Pacnews): Samoa's Opposition leader Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi has accused government of intimidating the media by making available public funds for the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers to sue for defamation, Pacnews reports.

"If you want to protect your good name go and pay your lawyer to do that," Tuiatua said.

He was reviving criticisms of government as his Samoa National Development Party (SNDP) prepares to fight the general elections scheduled for early next year. Tuiatua said giving ministers the power to use public funds for defamation cases was unacceptable in enlightened and democratic governments.

"We know power corrupts," he said.

The measure was introduced two years ago by then Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana when he was suing Samoa Observer newspaper for defamation. Tuiatua said as far as he knows, at least 1.3 million Tala (US$379,111) in taxpayers money were used to pay Tofilau's legal fees.

His Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), now led by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, has maintained the policy despite criticism by local and overseas media.

The criticism was revived when Prime Minister Tuilaepa recently talked generally of public responsibility and individual responsibility.

"Where do you draw the line when the legal expenses of a Prime Minister or Minister who sues a journalist or a newspaper for defamation, is drawn from public funds?" Tuiatua asked.

Previously cabinet ministers attempted to silence the Samoa Observer, the country's main newspaper, by filing legal action and then withdrawing after the newspaper had built up a huge legal bill, according to newspaper publisher Savea Sano Malifa. ... PNS

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