15 Oct 2003

Tonga attorney general says constitutional changes won't restrict freedom of expression

4:42 pm on 15 October 2003

The Attorney General of Tonga has vowed any proposed constitutional changes will not restrict freedom of expression.

Aisea Taumoepeau told parliament that a new constitution will recognise and consider the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

He said the bill to amend the constitution was important, and the articles of the United Nations' declaration would be considered together with other Acts, instead of interpreting them separately.

Article 19 states everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Article 29 says everyone has a duty to the community in which alone the free and full development of their personality is possible.

Tonga's legislative assembly has now entered its second week of debating the proposed changes.

But public petitioners and people's representatives argue if the amendment becomes law, it will restrict basic rights and the freedom of the public and the media.