29 Jul 2003

Controversial constitutional changes in Tonga pass first reading

6:22 pm on 29 July 2003

The controversial amendments to Tonga's Constitution have passed their first reading.

The publisher of the Taimi O tonga newspaper, Kalafi Moala, says if these amendments become law, then the Media Operators Bill and the Media Management Bill will be introduced.

These will restrict the ability of a foreign owner from operating or controlling the content of a paper.

Mr Moala, who is Tongan with American citizenship, says they are canvassing for support.

"we are trying to send messages to certain members of Parliament, asking them if there is a way for this to be adjourned or postponed so they can cool down, because the mood swing this week is really a direct reaction to our victory at the Judiciary on Friday"

Kalafi Moala.

On Friday, the Government lost its appeal against the lifting of its bans on the paper.

Mr Moala says until the constitution is amended, both new bills would be unconstitutional.

Parliament is debating changes to clause seven of the constitution which would limit press freedom.