10 Feb 2004

Pacific media organisation says Tonga newpaper licencing is attack on democracy

5:17 pm on 10 February 2004

The president of the Pacific Island News Association, Lance Polu, says the new approach to the licensing of newspapers in Tonga is an attack on democracy and freedom of speech.

The government has denied licences to three publications under two controversial laws which were introduced late last year following amendments to the constitution which had prompted widespread opposition.

These include the pro-democracy newsletter the Kele'a and the independent newspaper, Taimi o Tonga.

Publisher of the Taimi, Kalafi Moala, says the government has been biased in its approval of licences by issuing them to church papers and pro-government publications.

Mr Polu says the latest move shows clearly why the Government amended the constitution.

"We've been trying to follow events since the amendment of the constitution, despite what I'd call the euphemism given by the government as the reasons why they were intending to amend the constitution. It seems very clear now that the efforts by the government were all to stifle freedom of speech and freedom of people to express themselves and also to stifle any efforts towards democracy."

Lance Polu.