An Australian company is consulting with the community at the moment about the design of the new Parliament, which will replace the old building on its current site.
Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson, editor of the Apia Financial Review, tells Bruce Hill that a press gallery and media offices in Parliament would underline the important role of the media in democracy.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson, editor of the Apia Financial Review
JACKSON: Well having accommodation would be good to start with. Currently with the parliament setup in Samoa there's no space for media or journalists to sit down and report from. So if you're coming and actually sitting in the public gallery, two cameras are allowed in but there's no specific location for journalists to report from. As a journalist in Samoa and having practised for well over 10 years in this country, I think it's quite necessary that a space is allocated in the Parliament House for local journalists to report from, because at the end of the day these are the people who are reporting out to the community. This is how Samoa is listening into the proceedings of government, of parliament.
HILL: I know that in the parliaments of Australia and New Zealand the seats to one side are the public gallery, the seats directly facing the Speaker are called the Speaker's Corner, and the seats directly above the Speaker looking at the rest of the parliament are allocated to the press gallery. Is that the kind of arrangement you want specific seats in the parliamentary chamber specifically allocated for the media?
JACKSON: Yes ideally we would have space inside the House for the media, and also perhaps offices outside of parliament so that journalists can file from location instead of driving back to their offices. We currently the national radio can have the space inside, but that's also quite limited. So it would be ideal like the setup in Canberra or Wellington to have some sort of advantage point for media to take part or to listen into the proceedings.
HILL: What's the attitude towards the media by the parliament today? Are they accommodating to the media or is there any sort of friction between the politicians and the media?
JACKSON: The relationship between politicians and the media are quite different to that between the parliament and media. Politicians are generally well receptive of interviews in between sessions. However the parliament itself, like the legislative staff and the rules of parliament are not really receptive to the media being nearby or inside the room. So there are exceptions during some proceedings where the media can take part, and then some of the public hearings. However when there's major events, like for instance the conferment of the head of state we were not allowed inside the building. We were actually some of the journalists, including myself, were manhandled outside Parliament House because we weren't allowed inside. However the government media were allowed inside. So I think in order to truly observe the process of democracy, it's important that the press is actually recognised within parliament.
HILL: Let me get this straight, you and the other non-government media were actually physically manhandled?
JACKSON: Well I was, two of us were by the police officers. The Parliament House right now is actually it's a glass building, so because we were told we were not allowed to go inside the house, we stood outside of the glass and tried to take photos of this historical event. But what happened was the police officers were instructed not to let anyone stand around that area even to take photos, so we were actually quite aggressively told to leave the side of the building.
HILL: So I guess what you're saying is if the design of the new parliament building takes into account the needs of the media, has a specific press gallery, maybe some offices for them, that might help change the attitude of parliamentary officers towards the media?
JACKSON: Indeed, indeed it would. And it will actually give us a level playing field so that special treatment is not given to the government media and that everyone can go in and that the rules apply to all press, not just the private media or the church media.