Pacific Media Watch
Editor wins Freedom of Press award
Title -- 1780 SAMOA: Editor wins Freedom of Press award
Date -- 29 October 1998
Byline -- Susan Kiran
Origin -- Pacific Media Watch
Source -- Wansolwara (November issue - Journalism USP), 29/10/1998
Copyright -- Wansolwara
Status -- Unabridged
SAMOA EDITOR WINS TOP PRIZE
By SUSAN KIRAN
THE PUBLISHER of the Samoa Observer, Savea Sano Malifa, has received an international freedom of press award amidst his ongoing legal battle with the Samoan Government.
Sano Malifa, also the paper's editor, was named the 1998 winner of the Astor Award at the Commonwealth Press Union's biennial conference at Kuala Lumpur on Oct 27.
This makes him the first person from the South Pacific to win the prize - and the 24th recipient of the award.
Sano Malifa and his wife, Jean, founded the Samoa Observer, Samoa's only daily and independent newspaper.
With the paper intent on reporting about corruption and abuse of public office , Malifa has been under a lot of pressure from the Government because of these reports.
Campaigns against the Samoa Observer have been on going on for the past 16 years, beginning in the 1980s when the Observer reported alleged bribery by the logging company Pacific Development Company.
In an article in the Commonwealth Press Union News, he said: "The latest attacks are chilling.
"We are surely facing an orchestrated campaign to curb dissent and free speech."
In 1994, the paper's two-storey printing plant was destroyed by fire which was regarded suspicious by fire and police investigators.
In 1995, the Government imposed an advertising ban.
Recently, the paper was taken to court by the Samoan Prime Minister, Tofilau Eti Alesana.
In September, Malifa was ordered by the Samoan Supreme Court to pay $WS75,000 courts costs to Tofilau.
This was after the court ordered him to pay the prime minister $WS50,000 for defamation.
In a faxed message to the Pacific Islands News Association secretariat in Suva, Malifa said he had already had to pay $WS230,000 in legal fees, while the Prime Minister's legal fees of $WS783,000 were being paid by the Samoan Government from public money.
This was a civil action over claims that public funds were used to upgrade a hotel owned by Tofilau's children for a visit by Britain's Prince Edward.
Malifa and a Samoan-language section editor still face a case of criminal libel which is over a letter to the editor in the Samoa Observer strongly criticising Tofilau.
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