28 Feb 2003

PINA calls on Tonga to reconsider newspaper ban

11:16 am on 28 February 2003

The Pacific Islands News Association has condemned Tonga's ban on the Auckland produced Taimi O Tonga paper and has called on the Tongan government to reconsider its action.

In a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, the Tongan government says the paper has been banned because it is a foreign concern with a political agenda, and that it had been ruthlessly campaigning to overthrow the country's constitution.

It also says the paper, showing strong cultural insensitivity, has incited disaffection among Tongans.

And the Government says the paper's approach to stories on politicians, the church and morality are unbalanced and that those facing criticism, or holding opposing views, are not treated fairly.

The PINA president, Johnson Honimae, says Tonga is justifiably proud of its long constitutional rule and independence, but the ban on the paper is a clear breach of the Declaration of Human rights.

He says if the Tongan government believes something is wrong with what is being published, it has ample opportunity to challenge this under either Tongan or New Zealand law.

The Tonga Journalist Association says it's concerned and dissatisfied with the government decision to ban the newspaper.

It says this action is as it put like a smack-in-the-face of the country's constitutional right to press freedom and freedom of expression.

The Association says anyone is quite capable of interpreting newspaper stories in whichever way they like.

Meanwhile, the Tonga Media Association says it is unfortunate that the Taimi o Tonga newspaper is not a member of the Association.

In a letter to the government, the Media Association says it is regrettable that the Taimi has sought to protect its position and will not be answerable to the Association and certainly not to the Tongan government.