Governor uses media reports to check up on directors’ performances
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga during his first ever press conference with the media last week, said the reason why some directors don't want to communicate with the media, when they are asked for comments on certain issues, is because either they don’t know what they're doing, or they're not prepared to speak about the issue.
A press conference — for media representatives only — was set by the Governor’s Office last week, after Lolo and Lemanu became aware that the media is struggling to get accurate information from some directors on what's going on in their departments.
Samoa News and KHJ reporters, along with an official from KVZK-TV, were present at the press conference, during which Lolo said he doesn’t agree with how some directors are treating the media, they only want to communicate when there are good things happening in their departments, but when it's bad, they don't want to talk.
“That’s not the way the Administration should run things," he said. "We have an open policy with the media, because we want the media to report on everything the government is doing, whether it’s good or bad, it’s the duty of the media to report and we have to respond."
Lolo emphasized that one of the reasons why he wants the media present during all cabinet meetings, is because he wants them to have access to all government events.
One of the things Lolo suggested for the media to do every week, is to make sure they know exactly what the governor’s daily calendar looks like, to check with the governor's staff on daily updates to his calendar and schedule, so the media can report on all government events for the benefit of the community.
“I don’t like what some of my directors are doing, they only have an open relationship with the media when there are good events that give the department credit, but when it comes to controversial issues, they don’t want to be on the front line, but they try to push the media to me or the Lt. Governor — and that is not democracy,” the governor said.
Lolo thanked the local media for their hard work, especially the delivery of information to the public everyday on what's going on in government. He said he wants the media to understand how the government functions, so they will know exactly what information should be disseminated to the people.
The governor said every time the media reports on certain issues regarding each director’s performance, he and Lemanu use the information to check on each director’s performance — to check if what was reported by the media is exactly what happened.
“I encourage you (media) to follow government leaders everywhere they go and report everything that is happening in government; that will be a good way for the people to know and understand what exactly is going on in government.
“So instead of us trying to explain to the media what to report, you’re right there at the place where you can find the right information; not only are you witnessing what is going on, but you can do your own assessment based on what you see,” Lolo said.
He sought a recommendation from the media to help the government on how to improve its service to the people.
“Don’t be afraid to analyze and write whatever the people are saying about government. When people complain, it tells us the story on what to do to improve the government’s part. We don’t ignore what the people are saying. I use everything the people say to build up a good and solid government.
“This is the people’s government and we have to work together with the people; and the only way we and the people can share information is through you (media). Your role is very essential to the government, and that’s why we continue to invite the media to be part of every cabinet meeting,” Lolo said.
Speaking about the role of each director, Lolo said he and Lemanu are not stopping directors from speaking to the media, they only stop them from giving out false information. He said the reason why he recommended each director to speak to the media on behalf of their department and staff, is because they are the ones doing the job, not the governor or the lieutenant governor.
“We keep telling directors to allot time from their busy schedules to speak with the media, but it has come to our attention that most of the directors are not helping the media, instead, they are running away from them. Some of the directors advised us to stop the media from participating in cabinet meetings, but we told them no — we can’t do that. The media is a vital part of our democracy and we have to make sure we extend them the chance to be part of government,” Lolo said.
His words of advice to the media: "Freedom of expression is a two-way process. When the people wish to voice their concerns, questions and even complaints, the government needs to respond, elaborate, and even explain why things are happening."
Lolo explained that there are also reasons why sometimes certain information cannot be revealed. For example, the Department of Public Safety, they will never reveal any information to the media about any continuing investigation or confidential matters, unless that matter has been resolved. But for most of the directors, Lolo said he doesn’t see any reason why they are not willing to work together with the media.
The governor said he believes the close relationship between the government and the media will continue until the last day of his Administration.