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Government considers legal action against Television New Zealand

(PINA/IFEX) - The Samoan government has engaged a lawyer for advice on legal action against Television New Zealand (TVNZ) for a story which it says inaccurately portrayed Samoa as a haven for organised crime, according to the "Samoa Observer".

This move was revealed by the Ministry of Police in a statement released to the media by Acting Commissioner of Police, Lilomaiava Fou Taioalo, on 16 April 2009.

The story damaged Samoa's reputation as a safe destination for tourists at a time when there is a world economic crisis, the statement says. It named a gang called Makoi. The acting commissioner of police said no such gang exists. The statement says, "The reputation and image of Samoa has been tainted by an inaccurate news item broadcast by TVNZ ONE News on 5 April 2009 titled 'Gangs and Drugs in Samoa.'"

"The Ministry of Police has subsequently obtained written statements from certain individuals who appeared in the news item stating that they are not real gang members and that they were asked by those involved with the TVNZ ONE News crew to act as though they were gangsters and drug dealers for the purposes of a 'documentary.' The individuals also state the TVNZ ONE News crew provided alcohol to other locals involved in return for their cooperation with the 'documentary.'"

"The Government of Samoa is concerned by the inaccurate report and the seeming lack of professionalism of the reporting of this news item by TVNZ ONE News. There is a risk that the recent news item has damaged the reputation of Samoa as a safe and secure place for tourists. As Samoa relies heavily on tourism as one of its main source of income, especially during the current world economic crisis, the Government of Samoa is taking this incident very seriously. The Government of Samoa has therefore engaged, through the Office of the Attorney General, the law firm of Chapman Tripp in New Zealand to advise it on any further action that needs to be taken within New Zealand", declared the acting commissioner of police.

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