1 Aug 2003

Tongan government's Newspaper Bill condemned by human rights activist

11:07 am on 1 August 2003

The director of Tonga's Human Rights and Democracy Movement, Lopeti Senituli, has condemned another measure aimed at controlling the media in Tonga.

He says the Newspaper Bill will go further than the Media Operator's Act, passed earlier this week, which restricts foreign media ownership to twenty percent.

Mr Senituli says the new bill will give the Government the right to shut down any newspaper regardless of its origin.

He says the Government could make decisions based on content, the paper's intepretation of Tongan culture and national identity, and other matters as determined by the Minister.

"It virtually gives the minister a blank cheque - the Minister and the cabinet a blabk cheque as to what standards they can impose, and lays down how that can be imposed."

Mr Senituli says the measures are laying a minefield which could entrap the Government itself.

He says the pro-establishment papers could also be threatened by the measure, as they have also recently questioned the new legislation.