The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo, has responded to the front page story from yesterday's Samoa Observer. He is unhappy with the way his photo was used, as well as the way the story was written. His response is printed below.
Re: Front page Samoa Observer, Thursday 15 September 2017, with the headline ‘Head of Immigration explains diplomatic passport denial.’
In reference to your front page article, headlined "Head of Immigration explains diplomatic passport denial," I am very disappointed.
To set the record straight, the reporter was explicitly briefed by Press Secretary, Nanai Laveitiga Tuiletufuga, after the interview that my response to her inquiries and allegations is not “to deny or confirm” claims made by un-named sources to her that Cabinet has denied diplomatic passports requested by the former Head of State and his wife, but to clarify the government’s long standing policy on bearers of government and diplomatic passports.
For the record, there are already policies for all bearers of government passports, including diplomatic passports, to surrender these documents once their term of employments ends.
Secondly, the front page photo accompanying said article borders on the ground of defamation.
For your information, my photo used was taken during the handing over ceremonies for the Recognised Seasonal Workers Program from the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour recently.
The document with the government’s logo in my possessions as illustrated is a copy of the RSE Progress Report. However, superimposing my photo with the document to the Former Head of State and it implies that I am presenting the Cabinet decision to the Former Head of State.
I am aware that the Journalist Association of Samoa recently adopted its Code of Ethics, which begs the question if your reporters are aware the Media Code of Ethics does not tolerate inaccurate reporting as well as sensationalising the news.
My office is always open for media inquiries and should you need assistance, Press Secretary Nanai is at your disposal.
My prayer is that as Editor, you will take the appropriate measures to ensure accurate, balanced and fair news coverage continues to be provided by the highly acclaimed Samoa Observer newspaper. Ile ava ma le faaaloalo,
Chief Executive Officer Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet
Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo
Editor’s response: Thank you for your letter, Agafili. I also pray that you will understand we have a job to do. When we get reports from members of the public about such issues -- especially in something as serious as a diplomatic passport for a former Head of State -- our job is to ask you whether it is true or not. As a public figure, responsible for providing that answer, we thank you for responding. What you said was what was printed in the newspaper, yesterday. We find it difficult to understand what the big deal is with whether you deny or confirm the report. Isn’t that why we asked you in the first place? As for the photo, in hindsight, you might have a point. But defamation? Now, we find that absolutely sensational. In any case, we are happy to print your photo again today to show that we did not mean any harm. Have a wonderful day, God bless!