10 Mar 2004

New Zealand Government called on to speak out over lost press freedom in Tonga

4:26 pm on 10 March 2004

A New Zealand MP has called on the New Zealand Government to speak out about what he calls the supression of the press in Tonga.

The Greens Foreign Affairs spokesman Keith Locke says the Government has been silent since the new media laws came into force late last year.

So far several publications have been denied licences, including an offshoot of the New Zealand-produced Taimi O Tonga newspaper.

The Taimi may no longer be sold in Tonga.

Meanwhile, New Zealander Alani Taioni is facing charges after handing out copies of the Taimi during a visit to Tonga last month.

Keith Locke says it is just not good enough for New Zealand to keep silent.

"we owe it to the Tongan people to support them in their hour of need and this is it I think, when the press is actually being suppressed, it is not just a question of legislation, now it is a question of the suppression of free speech and the circulation of newspapers in Tonga and we should speak out as a Pacific neighbour"