Index 2024
22/ 180
Score : 78.41
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Index 2023
19/ 180
Score : 82.15
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This Pacific Island archipelago with 218,000 inhabitants has a reputation as a regional model of press freedom although it suffered in recent years under authoritarian pressure from the previous prime minister, despite the vitality of some of its media groups.

Media landscape

The fight for press freedom is symbolised by the Samoa Observer, an independent daily founded in 1978, that has resisted threats, harassment and the torching of its headquarters, and thus enjoys a reputation that is admired by editors throughout the Pacific. The other main newspaper is Savali, a state-owned, bilingual (Samoan/English) weekly, that focuses on providing positive coverage of the government’s activities. The main TV channel, TV1, is the product of the privatisation of the state-owned Samoa Broadcasting Corporation. The Talamua group operates SamoaFM and other media outlets, while the national radio station 2AP calls itself “the Voice of the Nation.”

Political context

Although Samoa is a parliamentary democracy with free elections, the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) held power for four decades until it was narrowly defeated in the April 2021 general election by Samoa United in Faith (Faʻatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi, or FAST), a new party led by Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa. Part of the reason for the HRPP’s defeat was its plan to overhaul Samoa’s constitutional and customary law framework, which would have threatened freedom of the press. Nonetheless, some politicians continue to attack press freedom.

Legal framework

A law criminalising defamation was repealed in 2013, raising hopes that were soon dashed in December 2017, when parliament restored the law under pressure from then Prime Minister Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. Under the law, the prime minister could attack journalists who dared to criticise members of his government. Journalists have no guaranteed access to state-held information, and the government's refusal to make information available to the media, or submit to regular scrutiny by journalists, has been highlighted by two health crises: a severe measles epidemic in 2019 and the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020-21.

Economic context

State and privately owned media coexist, each with their own sources of funding. In both cases, their financial base is fragile, which can result in staff layoffs in a crisis, as was the case during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sociocultural context

Samoan society is 98% Christian. Both Protestant and Catholic churches have a strong presence in the media, and this has increased substantially since 2017, when Christianity was named the state religion in the constitution’s preamble. Subjects such as gender violence, gay rights and abortion are excluded from public debate. The FAST party’s rise to power in 2021 has confirmed these taboos.


In 2020, then Prime Minister Tuila’epa threatened to ban Facebook in response to journalistic content he did not like. He then personally sued a blogger for defamation. The Journalists Association of (Western) Samoa (JAWS) is press freedom’s leading champion.

JAWS president Lagi Keresoma warned in May 2023 that while Samoa’s constitution was clear on the freedom of speech and expression, “such freedom does not mean you can defame or abuse others.” She added that freedom of expression was a human right that should not be taken for granted.