9 Jan 2018

Samoa govt criticised for lack of consultation on criminal libel

6:43 pm on 9 January 2018

The Samoa government is being criticised by the Pacific Freedom Forum for reinstating criminal libel without adequate consultation.

Pacific Freedom Forum chair Monica Miller

Pacific Freedom Forum chair Monica Miller Photo: Pacific Freedom Forum

The Samoa Observer reported the criminal libel law was re-introduced as part of a government-led hunt for online bloggers using anonymous names to attack senior government officials.

The Pacific Freedom Forum chair Monica Miller said the re-introduction of criminal libel was a backwards step for Samoa as far as media freedom was concerned.

She called on government to to hold consultations with a wide range of people and organisations in Samoa about the re-introduced law.

Ms Miller said the consultations should include members of the public, bloggers and other social media users as well as traditional media.

Speaking from Papua New Guinea, the forum's co-chair Alexander Rheeney said returning libel to criminal courts meant Samoa was stepping back from its regional leadership role in good governance.

He said Samoa media users, new and old, now risked jail time and criminal fines despite constitutional guarantees of their freedom of speech.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi repeatedly denied suggestions that his government's decision to revive criminal libel, which was abolished in 2013, was part of a move to restrict freedom of speech.

Tuilaepa described the re-introduction of the law as a Christian move to protect people from being defamed.