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‘Just zip it,’ says Samoan PM – angry after opposition leader’s Fiji media remarks

Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has responded angrily to the leader of the opposition, Palusalue Fa’apo II’s comparison of the media environment in Samoa to that of Fiji.“It was best if you kept quiet and just zipped it,” Tuilaepa said. “But you chose to open your lips. Now the whole world knows how uninformed you are.”The Prime Minister made the comments in a statement issued by the Office of the Press Secretariat late yesterday evening.It was in response to a press conference called by Palusalue and the Tautua Samoa Party on Tuesday, to highlight their concerns about the Government putting pressure on the media to set up a media council, Samoa Observer reports.Palusalue was highly critical of the Government.“We always talk about Bainimarama and the exclusion of freedom of speech in Fiji,” he said.“Samoa is getting closer to what’s happening in Fiji.”Dictatorship and democracyYesterday, the Prime Minister strongly rejected the comparison. He advised Palusalue to “stick to what you know.”“Fiji is a dictatorship, it is not a democracy,” said Tuilaepa.“It does not have a Parliament like Samoa that people like Palusalue and the Tautua Party enjoy every day.”Tuilaepa pointed out that “Bainimarama is an unelected dictator who rules with a gun and an iron fist and does not need to consult anybody.“He and his military have the power to issue decrees and control the media and whatever they write and broadcast.”In Samoa, the Prime Minister said “media freedom is thriving” and “it will continue to do so.”Nothing newTuilaepa said the idea to set up a media council is nothing new.He explained that “it was the media themselves who raised and pushed the issue of setting up a media council to Government some years ago.”“The issue of a media council is nothing new,” said the Prime Minister. “But local media has been very disorganised in recent years and Government has taken up the media’s initiative to help them set up a council.“Essentially, it’s not a Government initiative, it’s a media initiative.”According to Tuilaepa, the “proposed media council is more or less a complaints commission where people can forward any complaints about publications and broadcasts.“Even reporters can complain about their editors and publishers to the media council. It will be completely run by the media industry without any involvement from Government whatsoever.”