12 Feb 2004

New Zealand calls for Tonga to rethink media restrictions and guarantee freedom of speech .

4:47 pm on 12 February 2004

The New Zealand Government is hoping the Tongan government will reconsider its decision to deny licences to three publications.

The New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, Phil Goff, says he has asked the High Commissioner in Tonga to investigate the new newspaper licensing process in the kingdom.

The Tongan government has denied three publications licences under two controversial laws which were introduced late last year.

Mr Goff says the move has gives the impression that the government is denying licences to publications who have been critical of them in the past.

And he says he has asked High Commissioner, Warwick Hawker, to express his concern.

"We hope that within Tonga there is the ability to reconsider the decisions that have been made and to stand by a tradition going back more than 125 years of guaranteeing to people, freedom of speech and that also includes the freedom to publish."

Phil Goff.