CIS – Fourth Estate – Samoa Observer

Chapter 10.

The Samoa Observer is the primary daily Samoan newspaper. Established some 40 years ago and run by a Samoan businessman (Savea Sano Malifa1) it claims a long track-record in taking on the Government of the day and standing up for the little guy.

This claim is true to some extent and it can be rightly viewed as a mix between a newspaper, a tabloid and a Fourth Estate watchdog in many respects. Their tendency to rush to press with one-sided stories and shallow investigative work is balanced with long-term tenacity on some important matters of exposing corruption.

In the last decade or so, as the owner has aged, and personalities have clashed between him and the current Prime Minister, quality of thought has mainly come from other editors who can have some good points at times but are rarely able to drill down into the real root cause of Samoa’s ills. While a challenge to speak words of wisdom daily as an editor of a newspaper, their response to corruption tends towards bleating and tut-tutting.

The owner of Samoa Observer is widely viewed as a crook2 as multiple people I have spoken to have recounted not getting a fair deal or simply not getting paid from him. I’ve detailed his foolishness in previous commentary and blogging but he’s a proud businessman driven by money, making it and protecting it. His number one concern is clearly to make money and to not get sued in the process.

His staff fear him and submit, for obvious reasons.

The paper does take up the stories of the small guy hard done-by on occasion but these stories are quite often shallow, one-sided and are countered in due course by official denials and cover-ups.

The Samoan government led by Prime Minister Tuila’epa appear to tolerate the paper and their stories but certainly do not respect them. I’ve noticed some good strikes from the paper in the five years that I have been here but the many more losses than successes indicate a gross inefficiency in terms of dealing with Corruption in Samoa meaningfully. They are a voice, but little more than that.

I would counsel people on the end of Corruption to seek Samoa Observer’s support in leveraging their exposure but wouldn’t hold my breath on any meaningful change.
CASE STUDY

Savea Sano Malifa – Fooled by Gossip3

The background

I came to Samoa from New Zealand in September 2009 and immigrated in February 2010.

I’ve blogged extensively about the Samoan culture, particularly in the context of the Christian world-view. This is my interest and I guess you could say it is a passion of mine.

My third book, A little Slice of Paradise is currently pending publication and talks a lot about the Samoan culture alongside the factual events of my first few years in Paradise.

I approached Savea on the 5th October 2012 (more than three years after I first came to Samoa), introduced myself, chatted a while with him in his office and told him that I would be interested in writing a column “Palagi Perspectives”, and shared a little of the planned subjects.

We agreed to a deal – I would write 300-600 words weekly (as long as it “made people think and didn’t get him sued”) and he’d run one daily classified advertisement for me, which was a roughly agreed equivalent value. I summarised this conversation and our agreement by email to Savea that same afternoon. He instructed his staff accordingly.
I blogged about the new challenge at the time4.

I delivered, on time as promised and Samoa Observer published the columns for several months.

Samoa Observer though didn’t deliver the advertisements as agreed. Despite several calls over those months, and follow-up visits, Samoa Observer dropped the ball badly. They didn’t or wouldn’t reconcile my account, although the Editor did recognise that they “should honour any deal they agreed to”.

Savea got news from his Editor that I had suggested that to rectify historical matters, he should just pay me for the missing adverts and start the adverts running properly, then he fired me off an email that contained a little bit of flowery language, basically telling me to F*** off!

Great eh?

Corruption, greed, foolishness and arrogance from the Fourth Estate!

You can read the entire sorry details of this saga online, if you’re interested, with the actual communications and my commentary. It’s quite sad to see the ugly pride of an old Samoan man, one who could be resting on his laurels with a lifetime of service to his country and the industry he worked in for decades, yet just shown up for being another greedy racist Samoan lacking in integrity the same as many others.

But that’s corruption in Samoa outworked yet again, for you!

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