Samoa's got an anti-freedom of speech libel law Donald Trump would love

Tuilaepa says the law is to fight 'ghost writers' and 'troublemakers'

Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi (Photo courtesy of Samoa Planet)

In Washington, D.C., President Donald J. Trump is howling for the courts to block publication of a new book suggesting that he's mentally incompetent and incapable of handling his job. In Apia, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is delighted with Parliament's decision to revive a criminal speech law originally created in 1961.

Media in the region fear that this would allow exactly the kind of outcome that Trump is unlikely to achieve, given the U.S. First Amendment guarantees enshrined in the Constitution by founding fathers who were certainly viewed as "troublemakers" and worse by their British colonial masters.

The Pacific Freedom Forum, a media organization, is leading the charge against the law, saying that there was no consultation with the media or individuals exercising political speech, a much larger group than in the past.

Describing the revived libel law as "a colonial-era law, from half a century ago," PFF Chair Monica Miller, speaking from American Samoa, says the consultations should include a wide range of representatives from across society.

Old and new media should be represented at consultations, including bloggers and other social media users such as on Facebook, as well as newspaper, radio, television audiences, and all voices supporting freedom of expression.

“Government and all media users need to sit at the same table to work out how the new laws fit with existing institutions, including the courts and the Samoa Media Council.”