The Samoan Observer on Barbara Dreaver's Reporting. No different than on Fiji

See also the report on, and criticism of, Michael Field's coverage of a tourist death in Fiji. Croz.
Barbara Dreaver: The evil side of journalism

Barbara Dreaver in Samoa on a previous occasion. Photo: Alan Ah Mu.
Born and raised in Kiribati, this soon- to-be 41 year old mother and a Pacific reporter for TV New Zealand has caused excruciating pain and unnecessary fear to Samoans living in Samoa and abroad recently.

This happens following her controversial revelation on TVNZ that gun smuggling, gang violence and illegal drug trade are truly alive in Samoa.

Emotions are running high in this country, not because it is a case of “the truth hurts” but mainly because it is a case of “lies and deceit”.
To compound matters, the good international image long enjoyed by the people of this country and the associated benefits that come with it are now largely at stake.

So what makes Dreaver’s script deserve the shredder?

One does not have to look that far; her story is in clear violation of the free-to-air television code of the New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA). The code has 11 standards that should be followed closely by reporters working for TVNZ.

Its ultimate purpose (mainly because of the power of the media) is to ensure the integrity of reporters and their stories while at the same time upholding the freedom of expression. A quick look at some of these standards makes Dreaver’s production similar to “Tom and Jerry’s” series. Standard 4 of the code requires broadcasters to be balanced and impartial when presenting news, current affairs etc. It simply means that the reporter should make a good effort to obtain and presents counted views when dealing with a ‘controversial issue of public importance’.

So why wasn’t Dreaver making a genuine effort to obtain and present the views of those that matter the most in this issue – especially when she knew very well the far-reaching and negative implications of her story on the people and the reputation of this small island.

Besides the Commissioner of Police, there are others in the department whose opinion could have been sought. There is also the Prime Minister, the Minister of Police, Members of Parliament, political parties, the Justice department, the Office of the Attorney General, the Church leaders, the NGOs – the list goes on, unfortunately, not a single view was presented. This shows the lack of balance and impartiality – Dreaver has made up her mind already.

Accuracy also features in the Code. It means that news, current affairs etc. ‘must be truthful and accurate on points of fact’. Well, the jury is out there – what about the email exchange between Dreaver and her ‘Charlies Angels’ agent exposed by the Editor in Chief of this newspaper?

What about the confession of the future ‘Hollywood Stars’ in our country who were exploited by Dreaver and her crew following the grand opening of their production? Obviously Dreaver’s story
is a mere fabrication.

Dreaver was quick to challenge Dr. Clydesdale’s controversial study on Polynesian migrants last year on the ground of selective and inaccurate data, yet in her own piece of work that now tarnishes the image of this country, not a shred of factual data (which is readily available from the responsible authorities) was presented to substantiate her story. Is it because the data does not support her motives?

Dreaver’s revelation is also in breach of the fairness requirement under the Code. In other words, the responsible authorities and institutions in the country implicated in her story were not fairly represented in terms of presenting their side of the story.

These include the Ministry of Police (and other agencies) that deal(s) with the issue of drugs and guns; the matai (chiefs) that are responsible for upholding traditional structures in the country; the Commissioner of Police who was referred to as a gun smuggler.

It shows Dreaver’s lack of respect and appreciation of these individuals and traditional institutions’ intelligence, hard labour and effort. This is an unethical act and unprofessionalism of the highest order for a foreign journalist, especially for someone who is tagged by her employer as the “Pacific Correspondent”.

This editorial does not have to extend the analysis to the other eight requirements for obvious reasons. However, what has been discussed so far warrants an earlier claim made in this editorial and by other contributors on this subject that Dreaver’s presentation is a case of “lies and deceit” - hence it does not deserve any form of recognition. But the issue should not end here.

This case warrants the call for the ‘messenger to be shot’. Dreaver should be held accountable for her incompetence and the unpleasant repercussions of her story on this country and its people. Earlier editorials in this paper have rightly pointed out these costs to the country.

For this submission however, the main concern is about protecting the role of the media and the freedom of expression. This editorial does not have to justify the immense importance and the influence of the media on every walk of life in this country and the whole world, hence when an incompetent journalist like Dreaver spoiled the hard and good work of her colleagues in the industry, immediate and swift action should be taken to protect the image and the role of the media.

As Pio Sioa rightly points out “Dreaver’s unprofessional handling of the report has done more harm than good to the work of local journalists”.

In fact it is not just the journalists here in Samoa, but also Dreaver’s colleagues working in New Zealand.
And speaking of the New Zealand media, one name comes to mind – Deborah Coddington, a regular contributor to the New Zealand Herald recently.

Her recent pieces on the baby found on Poly-Blue and the art of forgiveness in the Pacific way published in the Easter weekend were a touch of brilliance and intelligence. Both pieces reflect how the author appreciates diversity and the complexity of public policy making and human rights.
Any comparison between Coddington and Dreaver makes Dreaver a naïve and a ruthless rookie.
Manuia lou aso Samoa.


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