Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz
Mounting anger over the weekend reporting of the death of a Samoan transwoman in Apia has spilling over into New Zealand with prominent transrights campaigner Phylesha Brown-Acton saying the Samoa Observer’s coverage has left her “absolutely disgusted”, reports Gay NZ.
On the front page of its Sunday Samoa edition the Samoa Observer showed a full-length image of Jeanine Tuivaiki’s body hanging from the rafters of a central Apia Catholic 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 an apology that is 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 said the publication of the photo was “never meant to demean,vilify or denigrate”.
He wrote that over the recent past, a proposal by Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi to “change Samoa’s constitution to make Christianity the country’s sole religion has drawn much opposition from other religions to the point that there is growing division in Samoa today”.
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 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”.
Le Va says Pasifika media can play a key role in leading safe messaging in reporting suicide to Pasifika communities.
In partnership with Pasifika media, Le Va has launched “Pasifika media guidelines for reporting suicide in New Zealand”.