Pacific Media Watch

20 June 2016

SAMOA: Sunday Samoan condemned for 'disgusting, degrading' reporting of death

Le Va, in partnership with Pasifika media, has launched the "Pasifika media guidelines for reporting suicide". This whiteboard video provides an overview.

AUCKLAND ( Va/Pacific Media Watch): Mounting anger over the weekend reporting of the death of a Samoan transwoman in Apia has spilled over into New Zealand with prominent transrights campaigner Phylesha Brown-Acton saying the Samoa Observer's coverage has left her "absolutely disgusted".

On the front page of its Sunday Samoan edition the Samoa Observer showed a full-length image of Jeanine Tuivaiki's lifeless body in a central Apia church hall. In the accompanying news story, the newspaper referred to Tuivaiki as "a man", and used the words "he" and "his."

"I am absolutely disgusted by the Samoa Observer and their front page photo of a young fa'afafine woman," said Brown-Acton, who described the reporting as "completely inappropriate and disrespectful".

"Where is the respect for this young person and her family? The use of such an image to sell newspapers is the lowest form of sales tactics and the editor and the reporter should be held accountable for such degrading journalism".

The Samoa Observer followed up with a front page apology that critics saw as closer to a justification, which in turn has faced criticism on social media.

Headed "And if you're offended by it still, we apologise," chief editor Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa's apology said the publication of the photo was "never meant to demean, vilify or denigrate".

The photo had been in circulation on social media for a week and "if you're offended by it still, all we can do is apologise".

Brown-Acton said the newspaper, the biggest circulation newspaper in Samoa,had "a track record of misgendering, misclassifying and misrepresenting fa'afafine and continuing to portray and promote fear among the community about fa'afafine."

Postings on the Samoa Observer Facebook page and a #BeautifulJeanine hashtag have been hugely critical of the reporting.

The Cook Islands-based media monitoring group Pacific Freedom Forum said in a statement the "shameful" publication of the unedited photo of the dead woman "breaches common decency, not just ethics".

Pasifika media can play a key role in leading safe messaging in reporting suicide to Pasifika communities, says Le Va.

In partnership with Pasifika media, Le Va has launched the "Pasifika media guidelines for reporting suicide in New Zealand".

Suicide in church hall - Samoa Observer story {withdrawn]

Le Va - guidelines for the media

Samoan PM's response - Media coverage, ethics and responsible reporting

Samoa Observer's full apology - in the newspaper, not on the website

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