My news-feed was burning with extremely irritated readers of the Samoa Observer today. Emotions ranged from anger, sympathy, dismay and disgust. Those who expressed their views included lawyers, doctors, atheists, Christians, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, friends, family and many many many more of differing backgrounds and cultures who all saw the front page and expressed their negative feelings.
What was the front page? The picture is as follows, accompanied by a headline that stated “Suicide in a Church Hall”. Here are the reasons this story, photo and headline combo are extremely unethical and essential is a case of human rights violation for the victim and family.
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 Observers battles some twenty years ago – yet today victimizes a human being right on the front page. Hypocrisy is a very very ugly trait.
Here’s some ethical violations by Samoa Observer in publishing that story – and statements by members of the public who agree with it.
A journalist’s first and foremost obligation is to the truth as every journalist, no matter how famous or unknown wields a
great amount of power and influence in shaping public opinion.
- Journalism exists to serve the interests of the people and to provide them with accurate, reliable information required to function in a society. This story did not serve the interest of people. No information in here was verified by authorities – it is heresay based on what a “friend” said and on a photo found on Facebook. There is no proof that she committed suicide – it is pure allegations – there was no statement from Authorities to confirm the cause of death, name of victim or even time and location of incident.
- Journalisms primary purpose and objective can be expressed most appropriately through the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) mission statement: ‘inform, educate and entertain’. Some would add “influence” as part of the main objectives. It is very clear that this story does not achieve any of these objectives – as this is not informative, educational, “entertaining” but I will say this, it does “influence.
- Publishing details of suicide is a huge breech of journalism ethics the world over – BBC, CNN, AP, AFP, WSJ – all publications I have contributed to will NEVER EVER publish details let alone a picture of a suicide. Because there is a social responsibility and ethical violation tied to detailing suicide – it triggers what is well known in the industry as “copycat suicide” – meaning if someone has suicidal tendencies and sees this picture, it will prompt them to commit suicide. It also introduces the concept to young readers, vulnerable populations and so forth. Essentially it is “influencing” people to seeing suicide as an option. Yeah – good going Samoa Observer – very very wise of you to do this.
- Respect for the victim. There are two schools of journalism that are quite distinct in nature. 1. Broadsheet (real journalism that abides by ethics etc.) and Tabloid – which takes a very brutal approach to stories without regard for ethics. This type of story belongs on a tabloid as it disregards the rights of the victim, families and friends. It does not respect the societal value placed on the victim.
- Fa’asamoa. The practice of journalism is circumstantial – so in countries which have certain cultural norms – these are observed on the pages of its national daily. For Samoa – o le ava fatafata ma le tofa, are just some which in this case should have been observed. The victim is no doubt borne of Chiefs and cultural figures who deserve all due respect within the realms of the Fa’aSamoa. By publishing this picture – the newspaper disregards these fundamental values that are unique to Samoa.
- Gender referencing: GG on FB was correct to point out that the victim was identified as a man and second referenced as a man. How very said that in death this poor soul is not given her desired identity.
- Finally – where the hell is common decency? This is a human being in a small society. We should know better.
Statements by Samoans on Facebook on this.
Samoa Observer- you stupid, insensitive assholes. You showed that you don’t care about LGBTQ as the photo you published on the front page and the pronoun you used for her just reinforces the abuse, insensitively and hate our brothers and sisters who identify as LGBT go through. Poor Jeanine deserves respect and decency, even her death you mistreat her with this “other-ing” piece. You are merchants of hate, no matter what your self absorbed freedom of the press cliches are. – GG
Was it necessary to put that picture of Jaenine Tuivaki on the front page of the paper hanging from the rafters of a Church Hall. Yes she is a transgender person, but where is the respect for the dead….she is a Suli of Samoa, Suli of Aiga, Suli of a mum and a dad….I am disgusted at the lack of Respect for this human being. Would this be done to a person who was not a faafafine? Jaenine was someones child, someones sibling, someones love. Journalism without any respect is what this is. – MM
NOT A SUICIDE.
“SUNDAY SAMOA” IS INSENSITIVE AND DISRESPECTFUL OF THE DEAD.
Judging for what is on their front page today, this newspaper is only after money at all cost. It makes no sense to me to have a picture of a dead person strung up. This person has friends & relatives who love him very much. Even if he is dead he still should be respected
That picture suggests murder NOT suicide – PP
Just utterly disgraceful, inexcusable, totally unprofessional, and gives ammunition to those who want greater controls on the media for other purposes, to shut down political criticism or investigations into corruption. Media ethics classes will study this outrage for years to come as it’s an awful example of how to absolutely NOT report these kinds of stories. – Mark Hayes, Journlism Professor and Expert
Really?!? Is this what it’s come down to?!? Instead of rushing to get her down, they take a photo of her? And reaaaally Observer? Where is the dignity respect and love that Jeanine so desperately needed in life that she also deserved in death?! Where can one write complaints about this? Can they be sued? Tasteless and disgusting – FT
Whatever speck of respect I once had for Samoa Observer is now all but lost! Insensitive & disrespctful are understatements. This family should take legal action against SO! – AS
To reverse the negativity in the departure of this beautiful soul, let’s hashtag #beautifuljeanine
Photos: FB, PP, GG.