26 Feb 2003

Tonga Government bans independent newspaper

5:03 pm on 26 February 2003

The Tongan Government has banned the newspaper Taime O Tonga from the country.

The Nuku-alofa based editor, Mateni Tapueluelu, says he received a fax from the Minister of Finance listing the newspaper as a prohibited product and that is to be banned from the country.

Taimi O Tonga, which is Tonga's only independent newspaper, is printed in New Zealand and then distributed in Auckland, Tonga, Hawaii and Australia.

Mr Tapueluelu says the owner, Auckland based Kalafi Moala is seeking legal advice.

He says no reason was given for the ban and he says the government is breaching Tonga's constitution which protects the freedom of the press.

".this is the absurd thing about the letter that we have received - no one delivered to us in person. First it was faxed to us. Second, it doesn't state the reason why the paper is forbidden - the right of the press is guaranteed under clause 7 of the constitution, it'll be just a matter of going through, but I am sure we will have to put up one hell of a fight, with this government."

Mr Tapueluelu says the government is trying to close down the newspaper because of articles it's run questioning the government's performance and the lack of transparency surrounding the royal family's business activities.

He says the paper will be published and distributed to its other markets from tonight as scheduled.