Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Faleomavaega Cover Up Continues Despite Local Media Denials

In a December 17 interview with Radio Australia, Radio KHJ-FM news director Monica Miller said "I think maybe western media would know that or not know that the resources that we have, especially when things are happening off island or overseas that we have access to are very limited. But there was no cover-up, I am saying that with sincerity and that's the truth." In a December 12 page one story Samoa News indicated much the same thing, saying they have "asked similar questions of the Congressman’s office, however, there has been no reply."

In its headline for that story, Samoa News inaccurately said we "accused" the local media of a cover up when we did no such thing. Our headline asked if there were a coverup underway and said in the post that because local media provided so little information on his condition or whereabouts, "it could be construed that the local media is participating in a coverup." Construed means interpreted. That is not an accusation. That is a conclusion that could be drawn by readers and listeners based on the evidence available. Both Samoa News and Radio KHJ-FM deny they are involved in any cover up in Faleomavaega's condition.

This Blog is not seeking to be republished elsewhere nor even to be seen as a credible primary source for news. Our biases are well established as outlined in our statement of purpose and we do no original reporting ourselves. Mrs. Miller decries her lack of resources to do more extensive reporting off-island but we have even fewer resources than does Radio KHJ-FM, talalei.com or Samoa News, the last of which is a subscriber to the Associated Press. But we do have the an ability which seems in short supply in the legitimate or mainstream local press: the ability to synthesize disparate facts and come up with an analysis.

Now that it is established that both Samoa News and Radio KHJ are aware of the questions that this blog has posed--based on the concerns voiced by their listeners and readers--and have suggested remedies, this blog must go on to say that both media organizations from here on now appear to be complicit in a cover up of Faleomavaega's condition whenever they makes inquiries about his condition and whereabouts but do not report their findings, even if they have nothing more to say than the delegate's office did not respond or refused to say. They are also complicit in a cover up if they publish or air stories concerning the delegate that are based on press handouts from his office without carrying some sort of disclaimer that they are unable to verify if Faleomavaega actually said or did what the releases claim contemporary to the release.

News comes from the word "new." If he is well enough to direct his staff to issue releases with his quotes, then, given what is known about his health, he should be well enough to have a brief conversation with reporters or even a single pool reporter to verify the veracity of the releases. To publish or air this information without such disclaimers amounts to being complicit in a cover up. To publish old photos with stories without identifying them as file photos also is misleading and just bad journalism. Our prescription is simple: Samoa News and Radio KHJ should insist on verification before publishing or airing any story that suggests Faleomavaega is conducting normal business as if he were a well man unless that were the case.

Their ability to deny coverage is powerful. It is no different than what is happening right now at the White House, which has placed restrictions on press photographers. In protest, several major newspaper groups have announced they no longer will publish official photos supplied to news organizations by the White House. In turn, the White House is now having to rethink its policy and likely will come to some sort of compromise with the photographers. If Faleomavaega's staff either by direction or on their own is making the decision to stonewall the press, they are making a horrendous blunder.

We may think the territory would do better with someone else in Congress but by no means do we want to see him sick or dead. To the contrary, we hope he retires in full health to enjoy his remaining years with his wife, children and grandchildren. He deserves that and his family deserves that. If his office would just tell the public the truth about what is going on--as Monica Miller says: "I always say that the constituents have a right to know how their leaders are doing, in good health and in ill health and I hope that things will change"--I think they would find a very sympathetic public ready to rally around him and pray for his full recovery. They are doing a grave disservice pretending things are normal if they are not--and our local media should go along with it.

Mrs. Miller, don't just hope things will change. You can do something about it. This blog will continue to monitor the local media and if they continue to cover Faleomavaega the way they have been doing it, we will continue to speak out. We may have only 16 "followers" but that is only because so many people are afraid their anonymity would be compromised and that there would be reprisals. As Samoa News acknowledged, this blog is republished by the Hawai’i Free Press online, which then distribute[s] it locally and off island. Still others redistribute the same blog write-up to their friends and relatives." The website host provides us daily with statistics on the number of people who read the blog and, although few readers make comments on each blog post (again fear), our email address provides another avenue for us to hear from them--and we do.

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