Award-winning editor of Samoa Observer resigns after 22 years

Mata'afu Keni Lesa
Mata'afa Keni Lesa ... recognised by the United Nations for upholding gender equality and giving a voice to victims of violence. Image: Maina Vai/SGN

Pacific Media Watch newsdesk

Award-winning editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa is moving on from the Samoa Observer after 22 years, reports Samoa Global News.

Mata’afa Keni Lesa joined the Samoa Observer in April 1999 as a junior reporter and within seven years had moved up the ranks to his appointment as editor, a position he has held for the past 15 years.

Among his achievements and awards, Mata’afa was the first Pacific Islander to win the Boerma Award by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 2017 for his reporting on food security.

Mata’afa has also been recognised by the United Nations for upholding gender equality and giving a voice to victims of violence, as well as several awards by the Journalism Association of Samoa (JAWS).

Samoans will have memories of Mata’afa’s articles and reports over the past two decades as political correspondent, sports editor, news editor and his tell-it-as-it-is editorials that have challenged the status quo and pushed boundaries of Samoa’s decision makers and policy setters.

Mata’afa’s career has spanned major events in Samoa’s history such as the 2009 tsunami.

As one of the first journalists to arrive on site. His vivid description of what he saw and experienced that morning and in subsequent weeks would be republished widely by international media outlets and organisations.

Never a dull moment
The editor says there was never a dull moment and the most rewarding part of the work was to see the change in people’s lives through empowering them to tell their stories.

“Whether it’s helping someone build a new fale, giving food to people who need it or enabling a family to send a sick relative overseas for medical treatment, those are things I would remember,” he said.

“It’s about empowering people to find their voice and tell their stories.

“Also, I’ve worked with so many people who have gone on to do great things in life, just being able to help them along the way is greatly rewarding.”

“I believe in a God of times and seasons”.

Mataafa said he would always cherish the time he has had with the Samoa Observer, but believed it was time to move on.

“I believe in a God of times and seasons,” says Mata’afa.

“I am grateful for the season I have enjoyed with the Samoa Observer and I will always cherish it. But it is time for the newspaper to take another step, and for some new faces and new talent to take over and shine.”

Reflects on his journey
Mata’afa reflected on his journey and the challenges of getting a daily newspaper out on time, and paid tribute to those who had supported him over the years.

“I have the greatest admiration for all my colleagues in the newsroom, layout, printing, advertising, sales, accounts, production, including the newspaper sellers on the streets and I will miss them. I want to thank them for all their hard work.

“I also want to thank our dear readers for their loyalty and support..

In a joint statement, the founders of the Samoa Observer, Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa and Muliagatele Jean Malifa, thanked Mata’afa for his contribution to the newspaper over the past two decades.

“He has worked in the service of the readers of the Samoa Observer for a long time and for that we thank him and wish him all the best as he moves on.”

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