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MEDIA | NEWS RELEASE | FOR IMMEDIATE USE
An opinion piece headlining a journalist as “evil” has been disowned by daily and regional newspaper, the Samoa Observer.
Published 20 April, the piece attacks TVNZ One News Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver for her expose of gun and drug smuggling in Samoa.
“Barbara Dreaver: The evil side of journalism” is seen as one of the harshest attacks ever printed against an islands reporter.
The piece itself however contains no reference to “evil”.
Originally filed online under the paper’s editorial section, the piece has now been moved to “viewpoints.”
Today, Samoa Observer took solid steps to distance itself from the opinion piece.
NOT AN EDITORIAL
Editor Mata'afa Keni Lesa clarified that all Samoa Observer editorials are published with a photo and name of the writer. Not an official editorial, the opinion piece was in fact written by an academic.
In print, the piece had been bylined but the name was left off the online version reviewed by regional colleagues.
Mata’afa apologised to colleagues on the Pacific Freedom Forum for the confusion and said website staff were making changes.
“We will not say anything about this issue anymore.”
Today saw hours of commentary on the issue from media people around the region, including within private online forums like PFF and Pacific Islands Journalism Online.
Silence at the Observer and private industry debate were joined by public comments including more criticism of Dreaver from government newspaper, the Savali.
Long-time editor Tupuola Terry Tavita continued what has now become a two week long campaign of personal and professional attacks against Dreaver.
The latest, headlined “Whatever the outcome, Dreaver and TVNZ still lose” repeats earlier questions from Tavita over whether One News bought alcohol for the young men.
He also complained that Dreaver had implicated “those in high polices” but “she does not provide a single shred of evidence to support such a claim.”
A final criticism accuses Dreaver of asking the men to “play act” like “American gangsters.”
The state editor criticised One News as unprofessional.
“Their Pacific reporter Barbara Dreaver's credibility, and possibly her journalistic career, is as good as finished.”
However Tavita dropped earlier claims that Dreaver had represented herself as a film maker from “Hollywood.”
Outside of government and the media, attention now focuses on the role of Dr. Desmond Uelese Amosa, a lecturer at the University of the South Pacific, in the School of Management and Public Administration.
It remains unclear how his opinion piece came about, whether volunteered for publication or requested by the paper.
Still also to be clarified is whether the article underwent any changes before publication, especially the headline claiming Dreaver was “evil.”
Questions have been sent to Dr. Amosa regarding these issues and responses will be published when and if they become available.
Controversy over the TVNZ story and fallout from the fourth Fiji coup in 22 years has seen unprecedented levels of industry comment, debate and criticism across the region.
Asked to comment, the Pacific Islands Media Association issued a cautious statement from New Zealand.
“PIMA believes it is of paramount importance that individual journalists are able to conduct investigation and reporting without fear of potential attack on their integrity and personal safety,” reads the PIMA statement.
“Any deviation from this degrades the journalistic process and is a disservice to the community at large by not supporting informed debate.”
Without naming anyone or country or company, PIMA also cautioned media responsibility.
“PIMA feels any news agency which has not engaged the journalistic process with integrity and in accordance with the law should be held to account through appropriate legal means, starting in New Zealand with the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the New Zealand Press Council.”
Both PFF and Dreaver said they had no comment to make at this stage.
Meantime, a source says comments against the media by USP’s Dr Amosa contrast with his own work in October 2007, outlining effective strategies for supporting governance reform.
“Whistleblowing should … be encouraged under the Public Service Commission Act.”
“In essence, the current performance review for senior managers should be changed into a 360 degree performance appraisal approach that incorporates conditions such as fairness and equity.”
“This would give junior employees the opportunity to voice their concern without fear of intimidation on these matters,” reads the October 2007 policy paper from Dr Amosa.
His comments against the media leave some doubting how much confidence should be placed in either Dr Amosa or the USP School of Management and Public Administration.
Another notable Amosa entry on reforms claimed the public service of Samoa suffered from “favoritism, nepotism, inconsistent decision making and unfair treatment of employees.”
“Whether these claims are genuine is difficult to determine. However, they should not be entirely dismissed. These behaviours certainly featured in Samoa’s public service in the past (Controller and Chief Auditor 1994).”
In the 2007 paper, Dr Amosa identified a key problem as being attitude among people.
“Samoans are well known for their short interest in things, especially if they don’t benefit from it.”
Debate still rages within Samoa over the extent of the gun, drugs and gang problem there.
Most letter writers have responded to media commentary with similarly harsh attacks against Dreaver, TVNZ and their story.
A minority continue to express concern at the lack of law enforcement when it comes to guns and drugs, some expressing doubt at the idea of youth gangs.
POLICE AND GUNS
Earlier this year, government went against recommendations from a rare Commission of Inquiry that urged authorities to lay criminal charges against the Commissioner of Police and the captain of a police patrol boat for failing to ensure proper documentation on gun imports.
Documentation was found to be missing on two 12 gauge shotguns, a 22 hunting rifle and one pistol.
The guns were “presumably” for skeet shooting, reads a minute of the cabinet decision to ignore the commission and not prosecute the officers, Papali’i Lorenese Neru and MV Nafanua’s Logoitino Filipo.
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