Samoa newspaper uses trans-gender death to make a point

Outrage has erupted in Samoa after a newspaper published a photograph of a dead trans-gender woman.

The suspected cause of death is suicide.

The 20-year-old computer student was a regular at the Catholic Church of Taufusi.

She was discovered in a church hall on Friday morning local time.

A photograph on the front page of the Sunday Samoan depicted how she was found at the scene.

Emotions ranged from anger, sympathy, dismay and disgust.

“Those who expressed their views included lawyers, doctors, atheists, Christians, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, friends, family’ says a blog on a website called 16 Days of Activism Samoa.

“And many many many more of differing backgrounds and cultures who all saw the front page and expressed their negative feelings,” the blog continues.

“What is most unfortunate about this story is that the editor of Samoa Observer wrote an editorial yesterday demanding the nation to have sympathy for Samoa Observer’s battles some twenty years ago.”

“Yet today victimizes a human being right on the front page.”

“Hypocrisy is a very very ugly trait.”

The Sunday Samoan has issued an apology to its readers.

Long serving editor-in-chief, Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa, has at times outspokenly defended human rights.
In 2000 he was named an International Press Institute Hero.

IPI World Press Freedom Heroes are journalists who have displayed tremendous courage and resilience in fighting for media freedom and the free flow of news – often at great personal risk.

Malifa was awarded the Pacific Islands News Association’s Freedom of Information Award in 1994.

He received both the Commonwealth Press Union’s Astor Award for Press Freedom and the Index on Censorship press freedom award in recognition of his courage and commitment to the principles of free expression.

Malifa said the photograph was placed alongside two stories about divisions in Samoa’s religious communities as it appeared to have symbolic meaning.

Religious division had caused violence, “painful disunity”, and suffering, he said.

“That was how it felt when that photograph showed up. It was a sad sight.”

“But then behind the sadness and the pain was the image of Jesus Christ.”

Malifa said it was as if the dead person was telling Prime Minister Tuilaepa, Pope Francis, and Rev. Mauga Motu, to make friends with everyone, and let there be peace.

“That was the inspiration that guided us to put that photo on the paper’s front page.”
“It was never to demean, vilify or denigrate.”

The photograph had been circulating on Facebook for a week, he said.

Malifa ended by saying: “And so if you’re offended by it still, all we can do is apologise.”

The photo is no longer posted on the Samoa Observer Website.

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News category: Asia Pacific.

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