Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Samoa attacks on media highlight need for church partnerships

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For immediate release: 31 March 2009

The Pacific Freedom Forum is asking for partnerships with Pacific church leaders in the wake of last weeks attacks on journalists outside the courthouse in Apia.

Samoa media reported a TV crew and photographer were mobbed as they attended court last week, and managed to avoid serious injury when they escaped into the office of the CEO of Justice.

The court case involved a 62-year-old former pastor found guilty in a jury trial of attempted rape and indecent assault involving a 17-year-old woman in his former congregation.

However the presiding judge reversed the verdict on the attempted rape charge and accepted the finding on the indecent assault charge, saying he will pass sentence in August.

“The Pacific Freedom Forum condemns the attacks on media workers going about the sometimes difficult job of informing the public, and we want to stress how important it is that we learn from this and reach out to partner those who need help in understanding our role,” says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea of Papua New Guinea.

“Those who are closest to leaders whom we put on pedestals are often most likely to lash out at scapegoats when their leaders fail them, and it’s important for the public to understand their own anger and disappointment when these highly emotional trials take place,” he says.

PFF co-chair Monica Miller commended the important role of Samoa media colleagues in bringing the trial information into the public domain, within the legal constraints of a name suppression order and the cultural constraints of secrecy involving sexual misconduct amongst religious leaders.

“The fact that charges were laid gave the media an obligation to ensure coverage was fair to both the accused, and the community within which he served.”

“Ultimately, no good can ever come of a situation where the act of reporting on a crime is misunderstood and leads to more crimes being committed,” says Miller, who hails from Samoa. “It is the classic ‘shooting the messenger’ scenario which proves those with the mob mentality don’t understand the rule of law, and the role of their own journalists. The PFF is happy to make the offer to partner with relevant church agencies and build awareness in this regard.”


PFF interim Chair
Susuve Laumaea
Sunday Chronicle Newspaper
Papua New Guinea

Mobile: 675-684 5168
Office: 675-321-7040
Email: susuve.laumaea@interoil.com

PFF interim co-Chair
Monica Miller
KHJ Radio
American Samoa
Mob 684 258-4197
Office 684 633-7793
Email: monica@khjradio.com

The Pacific Freedom Forum are a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media.

We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance.

In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.

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