A certain anonymous writer and his followers have been screaming that Samoa Planet is government owned and funded, and that our souls belong to the Prime Minister. The attacker claims Samoa Planet only publishes government propaganda and we get paid loads of corrupt money to do so.
He also has an obsession with our alleged evil sex activities, and calls us the ‘most dangerous and manipulative women in society’. This makes us sound far more exciting than we really are, but okay. I might even get that put on a T.Shirt.
Clearly, this attacker is unhappy with Samoa Planet and our work.
Now there’s several ways to try and discredit a newspaper or media site.
One method is to say the writing is terrible and not worth reading. The attacker couldn’t use this method, however, because the owners of Samoa Planet have won multiple international awards for their writing. They have been published worldwide, and have secured numerous contracts to write strategic plans for both the private and public sector – all on the strength of their writing techniques. One of us is the author of 9 books and recently named 2018 Pacific Writer Laureate by the Africa Caribbean Pacific Group Secretariat (ACP).
I suppose another tactic is to say a news team is uneducated and uninformed about Samoa and the world. The attacker couldn’t use this either.
The Samoa Planet team has several university degrees amongst them. They grew up in Samoa, and have travelled extensively for schooling and work. They have lived and participated in their villages, churches and lived in multiple overseas locations. Our Editor previously worked for 9 years as a legal researcher and political analyst. Our reporters came to us with excellent academic records, entrepreneurial skills and the bonus of knowing how to manage a home, parent several children and work a career.
One of us is an active matai in her village, an Accredited Mediator and Accountant, the first woman to chair the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and a leadership development expert who is frequently consulted by local and regional bodies.
So that leaves targeting the objectivity of a news company. Questioning their REAL agenda and priorities. In our case, the attacker is claiming that we are paid mouthpieces for the government, we are rich from government bribes, and so therefore, trust nothing Samoa Planet writes.
We’ve kept silent for a month now as the attacks have raged on, and today I’m ready to give you the truth behind Samoa Planet.
Samoa Planet was founded by two women – myself and Tuiloma Lemalu Sina Retzlaff. It’s something we do “on the side” as we each have our own careers in other fields. I’m an author and also Office Manager for my husband’s construction company Young Steel. Tuiloma owns Pacific Global Solutions, a consultancy firm specialising in strategic planning, professional development and facilitative mediations.
Samoa Planet is a partnership business registered with the Ministry for Revenue.
It started 17 months ago with just me and Tuiloma doing everything. For the first 6 months, we were #TeamNoSleep. It’s been a hard slog and steep learning curve. The growth has been phenomenal though. Samoa Planet had over 100,000 visitors last month, from all over the world. In just the past 12 months of operations, our writing has won us two international awards. We consistently get praise for our team’s thorough and accurate reporting. Our coverage of NZ Prime Minister Ardern’s recent visit was lauded and quoted by regional media experts and analysts. We may be new to this, but we’re fast learners and building a worthy reputation.
Samoa Planet now has 4 employees. One Editor, one IT specialist, and two reporters, one of whom is currently away on maternity leave. We also feature articles from some great contributors and Opinion Columnists.
As a startup, Samoa Planet still isn’t earning enough to pay for it’s own upkeep. Neither of us co-founders are on the payroll. When business revenue isn’t enough, we keep Samoa Planet alive using injections from our own pockets, (and in my case, my long-suffering husband’s pocket.) Anyone who has ever started a new business will know that the struggle is real!
Huge appreciation to those awesome companies who have come on board to advertise with Samoa Planet and take their products and services to our audience of a few hundred thousand. We are excited to be partners with you and hope to welcome many more businesses.
We get no funding from government. Samoa Planet doesn’t even have a single advertising slot from ANY of the government ministries or state owned enterprises. We wish we DID get their ads and notices, because that would help to ensure our survival! (#HintHint to any CEOs out there who are fans of our work…no seriously! lol)
So if we get nothing from it, why then are we doing Samoa Planet? The truth is that yes, we do have an agenda. Several of them in fact.
The first is to prioritise women. Samoan and Pacific Islander women specifically. Their voices, their work, their stories, and the programs they are involved in. A friend recently gave me critical feedback on Samoa Planet. She liked the quality of our reporting, but “you have so many articles about women! It’s obvious you’re biased.” I took that as a compliment. (I also asked her if she complained to other media that they “have too many articles about men! It’s obvious you’re biased!”)
Male dominance in global media is well documented. Both in newsrooms and in news articles, men are leaders—they make more money, get more bylines, spend more time on-camera, and are quoted far more often than women—by a ratio of about 3:1. As the only media in Samoa owned and managed entirely by women, Samoa Planet tries to do our part to rectify that imbalance. While we report on all topics, we prioritise issues relating to gender equality and to women in development. We’re particularly interested in women in business, women as climate change warriors, women in leadership, and women in sport.
That ties in closely with our focus on development issues in Samoa and the region. We believe that many people are working very hard across different spheres to develop our country and make it better. We try to give them a platform for their work and their different perspectives.
But that’s not our only dangerous devious agenda. We’re also overly committed to reporting on family violence in Samoa, and the work being done to address it. Tuiloma and I bring to Samoa Planet, our own experiences and advocacy work against domestic violence and sexual abuse. It’s why our team will spend 3 straight days listening, learning and reporting on the Family Violence Inquiry or covering ways that religion and Samoa’s churches can help. It’s why we cover so many sexual assault and abuse cases in court, why we write about things like How to Get a Protection Order in Samoa. Our resources are limited and so when it comes to investigative work, for example, we tend to pass on an alleged financial scandal at a particular government ministry, because we are pursuing an in-depth series about the Samoa sex offender’s register.
There’s more though. We prioritise covering LGBTI issues and amplify the voices of Faafafine and Faafatama. We’re the only media in Samoa that has a section devoted to LGBTI issues, Rainbow Planet, and our ongoing series featuring Faafafine/Faatama/lesbian /gay/ bisexual/trans/intersex Samoan and Pasifika artists/leaders and their awesome work worldwide is one of my personal favorite priorities.
So yes, I am forced to admit that while we do aim to be objective, Samoa Planet does have its non-neutral agenda. But we don’t try to hide it. And much respect to our nation’s leader, but our agenda has nothing to do with the Prime Minister.
Which leads me to ask, why is this anonymous writer attacking us? Does he feel threatened by us? What is it about Samoa Planet and our agenda that frightens him so much?
When much of the malicious commentary is calling us ‘bitches/whores/sluts’, immoral /promiscuous’ and manipulative women, I have to ask if the attack is simply because we are two Samoan women who write and speak publicly? Is this another form of gender violence?
Or is it something else?
Every day, I read another message from this person’s followers calling us liars/thieves/ frauds, demanding we be beaten, burned, drowned and imprisoned – just because they have read his repeated attacks on us.
I’m supposed to say that it doesn’t bother me. That none of it matters. But that would be a lie.
The truth is, I’m afraid and overwhelmed by the depths of their hate and venom. I worry for my children, especially those living overseas, that they will encounter some of these people somewhere, and be harassed and abused because of me. I have trouble sleeping. I pray often for their safety. I’ve thought about quitting Samoa Planet, but thankfully, my husband has talked me through my defeated moments and lent me some of his resolve and strength.
I look back over the hard work and struggle of the last year to get Samoa Planet to where it is today. All the time taken away from our children so we could do this work, the days we’ve been discouraged to the point of almost giving up but we forged on. We think of the impact our reporting has had on so many, the small sparks of change we have lit… It is incredibly offensive and hurtful that anyone would try to take away from that by claiming the Prime Minister and government bribes had anything to do with it.
We did it. With the Lord’s blessings of Godly wisdom, strength and talent – we did it all. Me, Tuiloma, our awesome little team, our mentors and advisors, our cheer crew of close family and dear friends.
Today, I am proud of the work Samoa Planet does, the quality of our reporting, and the vision that drives us. I am proud to put my name to this work and say, yes this is me. This is us. This is who we are.
My challenge to our attackers is – can you say the same?
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