16 Aug 2003

Tonga pro-democracy movement to continue opposition to constitutional changes

8:27 am on 16 August 2003

The Tonga government's amendments to the constitution, which will place restrictions on the media, have passed their first reading.

Last month, the government passed the Media Operators Act which restricts foreign media ownership to 20 percent.

That measure was seen as being aimed at the Taimi O tonga newspaper, which is owned by Kalafi Moala, who is Tongan but has American citizenship.

On five occasions earlier this year, the government banned the paper from the country, but those bans were overturned by the Supreme Court.

The constitutional amendments restrict what the media can say and also removes the opportunity for the courts to review laws.

But the director of the pro democracy movement Lopeti Senituli says they will continue to campaign to change the MPs minds.

"It has to go through three readings, and i was informed it might take another month or so for that to happen. We see that as an opportunity, a window of opportunity where we can go back and do a lot more work, especially in relation to the nobles, so that we can block its passage when it comes to the second and third readings."