Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of speech and press. The law stipulates imprisonment for any journalist who, despite a court order, refuses to reveal a confidential source upon request from a member of the public.
After abolishing it in 2013, parliament reinstated the Criminal Libel Act in December 2017, making defamation a criminal offense. The bill was rushed through parliament, passing its first, second, and third readings in less than one hour, and there was no public consultation on the bill. This move was largely in response to an increase in social media bloggers posting defamatory allegations, often about government leaders. Local media protested the law, calling it an obstacle to press freedom and questioned the need for it, since libel is already handled as a civil matter.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law authorizes the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) to file suit against any person who publishes information about the tourism industry that it deems prejudicial to the public perception of the country. Violators are subject to a fine or maximum imprisonment of three months if they fail to retract the information or to publish a correction when ordered to do so by the STA. The STA did not exercise this authority in the year to October.
The government did not restrict access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. Internet access was widely available in most of the country via cellular technology, but the high cost limited internet access for much of the population outside the capital. According to the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 30 percent of the population had access to the internet.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
The constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation and the government generally respected these rights.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting refugee status, but the government has not yet established a system for providing protection to refugees. There were no requests for asylum or refugee status.