Is it finally time for govt to broadcast Fono sessions and hearings?
Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale has posed a challenge for faipule to think about: whether it is the right time for the Fono to have sessions and hearings broadcast live on television and radio, so the public will know exactly what's being discussed, and to avoid the media from publishing wrong information.
Talauega was responding to a recommendation by Rep. Fagaoatua Dorian Salavea during a House Public Safety Committee hearing this week, that the only way the public will fully understand what’s going on at the Department of Public Safety, especially the issue of arming police officers, is for the Commissioner to call a press conference with local media representatives.
If the Commissioner agrees, the Fofo faipule recommends hosting a press conference once or twice a month, saying it is a good communication tool for the public and DPS to share information.
Fagaoatua's recommendation was a reaction to Commissioner Le'i’s statement that a lot of people are posting negative comments on the Samoa News website about cops being armed.
Le’i said he’s always emotional when people start talking negatively about cops being stupid, cops being out there shooting people, etc.
“This is an unprofessional response from those" posting comments on the Samoa News website, Le'i said, after which he told House members that he has to be very careful about what he says because Samoa News "is here, and I have to protect the lives and the safety of our local cops. All of your questions are being recorded by the newspaper, and they will put it in the paper tomorrow, and when people read it, it will create more anger."
Fagaoatua said there are a lot of issues the public needs to be aware of, and the only way for them to get the information is through the work of local media.
He said he fully understands the media’s role in society — they are the ones who inform the public on what's happening in the territory.
He recalled an issue he raised in the House chamber a few weeks ago, regarding the closure of the Leone Substation, which concerned him and the residents of Fofo District.
Fagaoatua asked Public Safety Committee chairman, Manumaua W. Wilson to look into what can be done to reopen the facility. He said he only found out that the substation had been closed down for two weeks after Emergency Medical Services (EMS) moved out of the facility.
The faipule said that after he raised the issue, the committee chairman told him that perhaps one of the reasons why the Leone Substation closed was the lack of personnel to do the work.
The Fofo faipule said he was shocked when media reports that week stated that the committee chairman told the House that the reason why the Leone substation was closed was because of guns.
“I did not mention anything about guns, but the media reported that the chairman said that's the reason why the Leone Substation was closed down. This is why I highly recommend that the Commissioner host a press conference with local media. It will be a good way to get the right information out to the community,” Fagaoatua said.
(Samoa News did not report that the Leone substation closed because of guns; it did report two years ago, that it had closed because it was the target of a drive-by shooting.)
Talauega referred to the English phrase, “lost in translation”, saying he sees this as an ongoing problem for the both the Senate and House, when the community isn't getting the right message from what senators and faipule are discussing during hearings and sessions, because of how the media is delivering the information.
“I’m not trying to tell you what to do," Talauega said to faipule. "All I’m asking is for you to consider, is whether this is the right time for the Fono to have their daily sessions and hearings broadcasted live on television and radio — so the community will get the chance to hear your voices and understand exactly what you’re discussing everyday.”
Talauega said he isn't trying to make the media look bad, he’s only trying to offer his help so the community will fully understand what exactly senators and faipule discuss every time the Fono is in session.
Some faipule told Samoa News the AG has a good point, but they feel the final say will come straight from Fono leaders.
Samoa News goes on record as supporting both the Senate and House sessions being televised live as well as broadcast live on radio, as a matter of transparency accountability — one of the cornerstones of a vibrant democracy.