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Samoan government discusses closing down independent radio station

(PINA/IFEX) - The Samoan government has discussed closing down
the country's only independent radio station which runs news
bulletins, a government Minister revealed. Health Minister Misa
Telefoni Retzlaff disclosed the discussion about revoking the
licence of Radio Polynesia 98FM in an open letter he wrote as
part of an ongoing dispute he is having with Deputy Prime
Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

Radio Polynesia carries interviews with opposition party members
and anti-government protesters who are banned from the
government-controlled national broadcaster Radio 2AP. Radio
Polynesia is currently carrying interviews with the leader of the
opposition parties in Parliament, Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi, and
the leaders of anti-government protests over the cost of living
and alleged corruption.

Radio Polynesia managing director Maposua Rudolf Keil told
Samoa's independent Tala Nei news agency that his radio station
also sought interviews with Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana
and other Cabinet ministers, but they refused.

Background Information

The disclosure of the Cabinet discussion about revoking Radio
Polynesia 98FM's licence comes after Prime Minister Tofilau, on
20 June 1997, made similar threats against the country's only
daily newspaper, the independent "Samoa Observer". Tofilau told
Parliament then that he would change the law so that the business
licence of the newspaper could be taken away "for stirring up
trouble". Publisher Savea Sano Malifa, the "Samoa Observer", and
staff face criminal and civil defamation actions launched by
Tofilau and members of his Human Rights Protection Party
government or executives of government-owned organisations.
Meanwhile, Opposition leader Tuiatua says he has instructed a
lawyer from New Zealand to begin legal proceedings in an effort
to end a government ban on him having access to the national
broadcasting service. He says he has been unable to get his views
on Radio 2AP for the past three years (see IFEX alerts).

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:
  • expressing concern over the discussion about revoking Radio
    Polynesia 98FM's licence and the threat to close the "Samoa
  • reminding the Samoan government that Article 19 of the Universal
    Declaration of Human Rights states that: "Everyone has the right
    to freedom of opinion and expression: this right includes freedom
    to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and
    impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of

    Appeals To

    The Honourable Tofilau Eti Alesana
    Prime Minister of Samoa
    Fax: +685 21504

    (editor's note: Samoa was previously known as Western Samoa.
    Neighbouring islands which are an American territory are known as
    American Samoa. Tofilau is a chiefly title and after the first
    reference the prime minister should be referred to as Tofilau)

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