Monday, November 1, 2010

A Samoan side to Campbell Live - Tuilaepa's 'Kiwi nemesis'

HOW IRONICAL: While a four-day International Federation of Journalists-organised training workshop for media freedom monitors was under way in Apia last week, an intrepid “investigative” journalist from New Zealand was feuding with the Samoan prime minister.

TV3’s John Campbell was staking out a local restaurant in an ill-fated attempt to corner the prime minister for a response to his controversial “missing aid millions"story on Campbell Live on September 29. When his lame door-stopping attempt failed – “we don’t do door-stopping in Samoa,” insisted one senior local journalist at the IFJ Pacific workshop – Campbell didn’t hesitate in branding Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi a “coward” for canning a promised interview at the last moment. The New Zealand Herald followed up with the same insult. (Actually, this isn’t the way Tuilaepa sees it. According to local media reports, the PM’s version of events is that the interview was lined up for November 4 and Tuilaepa wants to take Campbell and his crew on a tour of the inland aid areas where considerable progress has been made. He also wants Samoan TV journalists in on the act.)

Campbell told the country’s only daily newspaper, the feisty opposition publication Samoa Observer:
We had a formal agreement [with the PM, reportedly arranged through an Auckland legal go-between]. This is a man who has slagged us off for the past month. He slagged us off on Samoan TV, on TVNZ and on Australian radio – and Australia hasn’t even seen the story. When it comes to the crunch, he is too much of a coward to do an interview – he pulled out at the last moment.
In an Observer editorial, editor-in-chief Savea Sano Malifa branded Campbell Tuilaepa’s Kiwi nemesis”, explaining the TV journalist’s assignment in Samoa. He described the “real mission” as one to find out about how the millions of dollars donated in aid had helped improve the lives of tsunami victims since Campbell Live had reported on the disaster on 29 September 2009. Some 143 people died in the tsunami and 4000 were left homeless.
What [Campbell Live] saw shocked and distressed. Aleipata was torn apart, people had been killed, others were swept away by the wave and were never found, stories of survival were sad and heart-rending.

Back home when they returned, they told their story on the screen across New Zealand and people went silent.

Soon afterwards, New Zealanders started giving. Moved by
Campbell Live's story they donated generously towards helping Aleipata's tsunami victims.

However, when John Campbell visited on the tsunami's first anniversary he was disappointed. Aleipata's broken homes along the coastal villages were still there. Some homes had neither running water nor electricity. Village after village, sadness and depression reigned.

And so this time, the images and story
Campbell Live put on the screen across New Zealand were hardly flattering. Instead, they might have inspired disappointment and even revulsion.

He even suggested that "up to $US45 million in aid had been misappropriated, while many tsunami victims are left without water or electricity".
However, this was a very different story from Pacific Scoop's Alex Perrottet who recently did a compelling series on aid and development in Samoa. Tuilaepa retaliated by branding the Campbell Live report as "stupid and uninformed" in a Radio Australia Pacific Beat item. He told interviewer Geraldine Coutts the claims were "all ridiculous and based on the report by this amateur reporter, Mr Campbell, who came here and spent all his time talking to the Observer newspaper - and then, in his own words, spent much time on the coast. People have moved inland, and therefore he could not have seen what has taken place." Talamua also carried a story describing the Campbell report as "sensational" based on very few interviews and information.

For many of the Pacific journalists who watched and discussed the Campbell Live report during an ethics and democracy workshop at the conference, the item was stunning for its crassness, cultural arrogance and ignorance and lack of evidence underpinning the sweeping allegations. No doubt there is a story there, but Campbell Live hasn’t yet exposed it.

A follow-up story inevitably featured the door-stopping incident on Campbell Live last night. And again, the question was posed – “Where has the tsunami relief money gone?” – and yet again failed to offer any real answers. Once again, not much balance and fairness in sight. The story said:
In New Zealand, the government would be compelled to answer it – and would do the same as a matter of course.

But the Samoan government was outraged by it and embarked on a sustained campaign against Campbell Live’s story – including making a formal Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) complaint.”

Yes, there are new roads and electricity is back in the region. The Samoan government says it has spent 68.74 million tala so far, but many tsunami victims feel deserted by their government and wonder why so little of the money has made its way back to them.

Documents obtained by Campbell Live suggest many millions more dollars have been received than have been spent around the coastline.
Nevertheless Café Pacific reckons the “investigation’ will need a lot more hard facts and evidence to get anywhere.

Last word - from a blogger who, while acknowledging the money trail is worth following, dismissed the original report as a “shocking abuse of his viewers”.

Describing Campbell’s visit to a typical fale, offered by the journalist as "evidence" of the misuse of aid – including an extraordinary “houses without walls” comment, the blogger, Pervach, wrote the situation was portrayed out of context:
[Campbell] knows that most of his viewers in their cosy western houses in New Zealand will compare this shack to what is normal in New Zealand. Now, I have been to Samoa – I have seen normal Samoan villages, where people live in fales.

There are no toilets, bathrooms, kitchens, windows made of glass [and] water pipes. We are talking about Samoa here – a Third World country. It is normal in Samoa to have none of these things.

In Samoa, if you have these things, you are rich.


Anonymous said...

Please outline where in campbell lives story there is to be found this crassness, cultural arrogance and ignorance, as for the lack of evidence, fair enough I suppose he could of gone elsewhere to interview Aid centres like the NGOs such as Oxfam and Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Caritas, Digicel, however I suppose as Tv3 in NZ isn't government funded, the most cost effective and most informed person in Samoa, who you would expect to get a perspective of the situation would be the person in charge of the country?

I find your use of english in this blog to contain the same crassness, cultural arrogance and ignorance as the story you blogging about.

Why are you giving a detailed peice about a reporter who is trying to ask some interesting questions about your government, without actually chasing up the questions that aren't getting answered.... you state that John Campbell hasn't provided any answers....


Anonymous said...

This blog is so far from truth. There were SO MANY interviews in that video, and many more posted to that Campbell website of unhappy Samoans. Are you suggesting the people who live in the affected areas are lying or making trouble because they WANT Samoa to be portrayed negatively in the New Zealand media? Your arguement makes no sense and has no proof, unlike Campbell.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for an alternative view on John Campbell's journalism efforts. I agree, there are some questions that need to be asked of the Samoan Govt, but Campbell has made a "missed interview" the focus of his attention.

Anonymous said...

As a Samoan living in NZ I couldn't help but cringe when watching this piece on Monday night. The Campbell Live team obviously do not have any Pacific/Samoan advisors to give guidance on Cambell's reporting techniques with Tuila'epa. What may be appropriate for sensational journalism in NZ do not necessarily apply in Pacific countries. I am not disagreeing with Campbell asking some hard questions - but there are culturally right ways to go about getting answers.

I think the terms crassness, cultural arrogance and ignorance rings true in how Campbell Live reported the story. This western type of media reporting does not fit in to the context it was presented in. I can not see Campbell rocking up to Suva and getting up Bainimarama's face in the same way asking hard questions.

Petelo Suaniu said...

Letter from on Pacific Scoop:

It was a complete hatchet job. John Campbell's reports were completely unbalanced and completely ignored the govt’s explanations on the matter (even without the PM’s supposedly ‘cancelled’ interview).

Some really big holes in John Campbell’s report.

1) He failed to properly analyse the government’s tsunami report and later media release. It clearly said that the World Bank and ADB and IMF funding that the samoan govt has received is NOT SPECIFICALLY FOR TSUNAMI-RELATED EXPENDITURE. In his reports, John Campbell said that those ADB, World Bank and IMF grants was all part of the aid that was sent to Samoa for the tsunami. This is completely wrong. It wasn’t.

Those World Bank, IMF, and ADB grants had already been committed to Samoa long before the Tsunami even struck, for things like the economic stimulus to weather the global recession; the expansion of the nationwide water and electricity supply; and the sanitation projects in Apia. Some of this expenditure would obviously be in tsunami affected areas (eg: new power and water lines) but this funding was not sent to Samoa for the tsunami. It was sent as part of a wider package of pre-tsunami initiatives to develop the country (as per the Samoa Development Strategy 2008-2012). John Campbell should not have added these grants into his figures that he came up to counter the PM’s assertion that only $35 million was received.

2) John Campbell also says that there is a discrepancy in the government’s tsunami report in that MORE than $35million has been spent in the year to date.

The govt has already answered this question in the 2010-2011 Budget statement of accounts (also available to John Campbell through the Ministry of Finance website) and also in the media release released after the Tsunami report. The SAMOAN TAXPAYERS had to cover the rest of tsunami-related expenditure for the first year of Tsunami recovery because only $35 million had been received.

3) Why didn’t John Campbell interview those that DID receive government housing??? He could have asked them how they got their houses and what the process was for getting their houses.

3) He interviewed a guy from the NUS and a lady from SUNGO about when the govt was likely to make available an audited report to parliament. How would these people know??? They’re not a part of the govt. Why didn’t he interview the Ministry of Finance or Parliament’s Chief Secretary for the timetabling of parliamentary business?? Is it any wonder that the NUS and the SUNGO said they wouldn’t have a clue??

4) Also, for balance, why didn’t John Campbell interview the NZ High Commission in Samoa? He keeps saying that by (his) ‘estimation’ the NZ govt had given this much and this much in aid. Why didn’t he interview the NZHC to actually get a clear picture of the situation from the NZ govt’s point of view? They are the people on the ground in Samoa. Murray McCully isn’t.

I don’t deny that there are questions to be asked. However, what John Campbell did was completely misread the figures that he got, added in some other figures from non-tsunami aid donors, and totalled them up to come up with a total that was totally at odds with the $35million that the govt of Samoa says it has received and then insinuated that there is missing money.

It is a legitimate case for the Broadcasting Standards Authority to have a look at.

Full letter at:

Anonymous said...

In hindsight two things stand out in this mess. The first is the grassy knoll syndrome is prevalent in the world including Mr. Campbell's homeland. Secondly, I think this would have probably been a storm in a teacup if the Samoan Government had a savvy public relations department.

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