The Samoa Alliance of Media Practitioner for Development (S.A.M.P.O.D.) has cautioned Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi against continuing with a threat to shut down Facebook in Samoa.
In a statement, the Group has reminded the Government that the right to free expression is fundamental to any democracy.
“The right to free expression is fundamental to democracy like Samoa,” the Group says in a statement.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the universal right to freedom of opinion and expression, which includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.
“Samoa is a signatory to the declaration.”
S.A.M.P.O.D. was founded by media veteran, Rudy Bartley, of WT Media. He is also the President of the Journalists Association of (Western) Samoa (J.A.W.S.)
The group has more than 30 media practitioners as members.
Last month, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Maleilegaoi threatened to ban social media platforms from Samoa completely.
That will happen if “gutless anonymous bloggers” continue to use the freedom social media affords them to abuse government officials and innocent members of the public.
“The Government will do what it takes to settle this matter once and for all, even if it means banning Facebook,” Tuilaepa said.
“Most Governments have banned Facebook, and we have been holding back because of the positive impact of social media.”
In response, S.A.M.P.O.D. points out that while they do not endorse the use of Facebook to defame, incite violence or spread misinformation, they continue to support freedom of speech and freedom of information within reason.
“Freedom of information and expression is essential to a functioning democracy, and Facebook provides an avenue for citizens to express their views freely,” the group says in a statement.
“Measures to control implications can be addressed under Criminal Libel Law and the Media Council Bill.
“Blanket actions that hinder the free flow of information and constructive criticism by members of the public are a direct threat to freedom of expression. It is a place for the exchange of ideas, a forum for debate on pressing social and political issues.
“In recent years, Facebook has also become an avenue for the media to verify stories and for crisis response and assistance.
“This tool is invaluable as we continue to experience disasters on a regular basis, and free access to information is important.
“We urge the Government to use existing mechanisms to address issues arising from the misuse of Facebook, but humbly caution against the banning of this essential medium of information for the people of Samoa,” according to the statement.
As reported earlier, the Prime Minister, in justifying why the Government is considering banning of Facebook, says Government has had enough of faceless ghosts who use sites such as Facebook to post defamatory claims against unsuspecting victims.
Tuilaepa said these faceless writers have been posting countless allegations including extra marital affairs, corruption and sensitive details about public figures, their families and their children.
“Because it’s all based on lies, those affected are government leaders,” he said.
“Those behind the social media posts are driven by the devil, their hearts are filled with hatred and I’m certain they don’t rest at night because they continue to make up fabrications.”
Tuilaepa added these writers have gone as far as to level allegations against Church Ministers.
“If the allegations are true, they would have been published in the Samoa Observer. It then allows us the opportunity to sue them and find out the accuracy of the allegations.
“Only gutless people would such a thing and make up these stories. Maybe their parents did this as well.”
He said other lies posted involve parents having sexual intercourse with their children.
Tuilaepa said he has an inkling about whom they are and they would eventually be caught.
He warned that once they are found, they “could be dead” in two days given the hatred they have provoked.
Tuilaepa said he has some names but does not want to say them yet because “bullets will be fired” and that’s what he doesn’t want.
“So I advise them not to play with fire. I want them to know that no matter where you hide, you will be caught.”
According to the Prime Minister, the only reason the Government is delaying the move to ban Facebook is because there are numerous people who utilise this site for the right reasons.
He said the Tui Samoa Cable was established for the betterment of services and connection to the outside world but this is the negative impact.
“The country is in turmoil due to these unfounded allegations.”