19 Jun 2003

Tonga Media Association rejects foreign criticism

4:16 pm on 19 June 2003

The Tonga Media Association has gone on the offensive over what it calls inaccurate, irresponsible and culturally insensitive criticism of the Government by overseas media.

This report from Don Wiseman

"Its President Sangster Saulala has complained to the New Zealand Media Council that the New Zealand media has falsely depicted corruption in the Kingdom's Government and caused dissent among Tongans."

He says the foreign media is recklessly campaigning on behalf of the pro-democracy movement.

Much of the criticism came in stories covering the Government's bans on the Auckland-produced Taimi O Tonga newspaper, which resumed sales last week after being shut out of Tonga for nearly four months.

Mr Saulala says the organisation will also formally protest to the New Zealand Government over what he calls the offensive comments made in a report to Foreign Minister Phil Goff from former High Commissioner to Tonga Bryan Smythe.

The Government run Tonga Broadcasting Commission has also hit out at what it calls the distorted picture given of Tonga by the foreign media.

It says it is for Tongans to solve their own political and economic issues.

Kalafi Moala, the publisher of Taimi O Tonga, which does not belong to the Media Association, says it is a government controlled organisation set up to muzzle the media.