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Group advises Samoa Govt. against Facebook ban

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi [SN file photo]

Apia, SAMOA — 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.

Read more at Samoa Observer