Friday, August 22, 2008

SBC will get pay of blessings

SQB Shareholders Will Get Pay Off Blessings

By Pio Sioa

Samoalivenews: Cabinet has reversed an earlier decision not to award redundancy pay packages to the 10 staff members of SBC-TV, who will continue on as shareholders/employees of Samoa Quality Broadcasting, the new owners of the Government’s television and FM radio station.The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi confirmed the Cabinet decision yesterday.“These staff members are officially employees of Government whose services as public servants are terminated once the new company takes over, so they are entitled to redundancy pay off packages,” PM Tuilaepa told Newsline.“It would be unfair not to grant them redundancy pay when they are still public servants.”The PM admitted that there was a mix up at the start when Cabinet initially decided not to grant the staff involved pay off salary packages.SBC-TV staff members who are non shareholders were the only ones entitled to redundancy pay packages in the earlier decision by Cabinet.The new Cabinet directive is understood to have sparked the Ministry of Finance and the Samoa Broadcasting Corporation into a scramble to re-organise the financial commitment to include those who were left out.The Corporation employs a staff of just of 30 people but a few have selected to stay on with AM Radio, formerly known as Radio 2AP, that will continue to remain with Government.The Minister of Communications and Chairperson of the SBC-TV, Safuneituuga Neri, earlier estimated around $500,000 will have to be budgeted by Government to meet its obligations.But that amount will now have to be adjusted upwards to cater for the additional staff.The new owners of SBC-TV have already paid $2 million tala required under the purchase agreement with Government, to own and operate the television and FM radio station privately.A date is yet to be set however for the official handing over of SBC-TV by Government to its new owners, Samoa Quality Broadcasting.

Australasia and Oceania: The Line of Fire

By Colin Peters

IPI: In comparison to previous years, this year was a period of relative stability in the region. By and large all nations retained the status quo that had been established by the end of 2006 (with the notable exception of a change of government following Kevin Rudd’s victory in the Australian general elections). However, this does not mean that nations did not have to adjust to new circumstances. In Fiji, in particular, the new government established following the military coup had repercussions for press freedom. In Tonga, to name another example, the extended state of emergency imposed following the November 2006 pro-democracy riots was also felt in the media. These are discussed in the relevant reports to follow.
Press freedom issues also arose in other areas of the pacific that are not dealt with here in individual country reports, but which certainly merit a mention.
In the Cook Islands, proposed legislation that threatened to impinge on the freedom of the press was first revived and then shelved again. The Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Terepai Maoate, promoted proposals to reintroduce a media bill that would establish a government controlled media commission. Several voices spoke out against the need for such a law, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cultural Development, Wilkie Rasmussen. The Media Standards Bill was nevertheless presented to Parliament in April, with the backing of Prime Minister Jim Marurai.
If such a bill were to be passed, it would represent a legitimising of government intervention in the media that does not exist anywhere else in the region. Marurai had previously stood against the bill, and when asked why he had changed his earlier view, he stated that he now believed that some form of government control on media reporting was necessary. He also expressed his feelings that the bill did not encroach on freedom of speech or freedom of expression.
The bill went to a select committee for examination, and the establishment of a media council by the Cook Islands media has seen it placed on the backburner for the time being at least. Maoate has welcomed the media council, while expressing doubts over its efficacy. "We will wait and see if the council performs and whether local media live up to their pledge to honour decisions made by the council," he said in a statement posted on the government’s website. "I am very pleased that the local media industry has finally set up their own watchdog body, now responsibility falls back on them to make sure they deliver the best to their public," continued Maoate. Six months was mooted as the time needed to assess whether or not the council was meeting expectations.
In an eerie echo of events of last year, the premises of another Samoan newspaper were destroyed this year. The victim this time around was the newspaper Newsline Samoa, whose headquarters in the Samoan town of Malifa were decimated by fire in August. Although the editor Cherelle Jackson would not say whether or not she believed the newspaper had been targeted, she did suggest that the timing of the fire, just days before the start of the Pacific Games, the region’s main media event of 2007, was notable.
Samoa also witnessed some controversy in June, when the owner of Radio Polynesia, the largest radio station in Samoa, issued a letter to his news teams banning them from attending press conferences held by the leader of the opposition Samoa Democratic United Party (SDUP). In the letter, Maposua Rudolph Keil told journalists that they must "not attend another press conference held by Honourable Asiata Saleimoa Vaai at his office in Fugalei. Should he wish to announce his news items on the air using our facilities he shall have to pay for it, otherwise I will not allow it to be broadcast due to harmful and unproven topics he uses in his press conference." Maposua also indicated that the current government should be praised for the many good projects they have undertaken.
The Journalists’ Association of Samoa (JAWS) expressed dismay at the orders, but Maposua vehemently defended his choice and denied that he was infringing on press freedom. Referring to Asiata’s "unproven comments," Maposua said that "he can use his freedom of the press anywhere else but my radio station because I don’t want to be party to something that may be false. Let the other radio stations, TV and newspapers report on the bad things. Why don’t we report the nice things that these people are doing?" However, following a public statement issued by JAWS on the radio ban in August, the matter was resolved and the internal censorship was lifted. Referring to the incident on their website, JAWS stated that: "Once again, freedom of the press has prevailed."
Elsewhere in the region, comments made by a senior lecturer at the University of the South Pacific impugned the independence of the Kiribati state-owned Broadcasting and Publications Authority (BPA). The academic, Teweiariki Teaero, described their claimed independence as "sadly and disappointingly" more rhetorical than real.
The BPA has a strong history of independence, and critical reporting through its Radio Kiribati and newspaper Te Uekera. However, Teaero believes that this has changed, and laid the blame not only at the door of the government for their reluctance to grant administrative, financial and editorial control to an independent body, but also at the door of Kiribati journalists themselves. According the Teaero, journalists are suffering from a lack of awareness, and need to improve their capacity to perform their role as a public watchdog. He warned them to be wary of restrictions caused by the Kiribati way of thinking and respect for authority, particularly in a traditional environment.
"The other problem which obviously stops journalists from exposing corruption or running hard stories is that they value their employment more than the ideals and concepts of a free media," said Teaero. "Investigative journalism, an integral part of a free press, is missing from Kiribati journalism."
The story to come out of the Australasia and Oceania region with the most international resonance this year came from the region’s powerhouse itself, Australia.
For the first time, a Coroner’s Inquiry was held into the deaths of one of the five journalists known as the ‘Balibo Five’, who died during Indonesia’s invasion of Portuguese Timor in 1975. For a long time it had been suspected that Indonesian Special Forces had intentionally targeted the five journalists. The inquiry, which commenced in February following a request from the sister of Balibo Five cameraman Brian Peters, released its findings in November. According to these findings, the five journalists were intentionally targeted and not inadvertently caught in the crossfire, as was the official line hitherto. In addition, various governments, including the Australian government itself, were said to have covered up their knowledge of the intentional nature of the murders. Among other things, the inquiry recommended that certain then members of the Indonesian military be held accountable for their roles in the killings, and be brought to trial under war crimes charges. How the international community intends to react is still unknown.