Following journalists’ restricted access to Samoa’s recent tabling of the next financial year’s budget in parliament, plans revealed Samoa’s new parliament would not include a press gallery. According to the Journalist Association of Samoa (JAWS), years of planning and Australian aid dollars went into Samoa’s new parliament, and it is surprising the government is excluding a press gallery.
Earlier when parliament tabled the budget for the 2019/20, media were given a tent to listen to proceedings without a television for visuals.
JAWS president Rudy Bartley said the use of tents outside the building presents a significant obstacle to the media’s ability to complete their work. Bartley suggested Samoa could ask Fiji to assist with setting up a press gallery.
The IFJ said: “A press gallery and media access for reporting on parliament proceedings is a standard set around the world and considered a fundamental component to a strong and functioning democracy. To do otherwise is to disregard this critical pillar – the fourth estate – but also to disregard the needs of the nation’s citizens for a watchdog on their democracy. Samoa’s media must urgently be given full and appropriate access to parliament to record and report debate and discussions in the national interest. We urge the government of Samoa to make critical interventions to rectify this worrying situation.”