17 Oct 2003

Tonga Government says constitutional changes to embed principles of three year old Communications Ac

4:20 pm on 17 October 2003

The Tonga Government has dismissed claims that the constitution has been amended to shut the Taimi O Tonga newspaper out of the country.

The Legislative Assembly voted yesterday to change the constitution's clause seven - a move opponents says will severely restrict freedom of speech.

The publisher of the Taimi O Tonga, Kalafi Moala, says the measure will possibly spell the end of the distribution of the paper in the Kingdom.

However the Government spokesperson Eseta Fusitua says the changes merely complete a process begun three years ago with the Communications Act, which was brought in to police the internet, television and radio.

She says the principles needed to be embedded in the constitution.

"good quality lawmaking should ensure that the principles are in the constitution to enable the specific bills to be made, so really in the case of the media, our principles were not fully embedded and quite clearly we did not have the individual bills to deal with the four mediums"