11 May 2004

Challenges issued over Tonga's constitutional amendments

10:15 am on 11 May 2004

Four parties in Tonga have issued a challenge to amendments to the constitution made by the Tonga government last year.

The changes allowed the passing of the controversial Media Operator's and the Newspaper Acts, which critics say limit press freedom and freedom of speech.

Last year, after a series of failed attempts to ban the Auckland produced Taimi O Tonga, the Government amended clause seven of the Constitution.

But one of the plaintiffs, leading pro-democracy MP, Akilisi Pohiva, says the original clause seven states that media freedom is guaranteed forever, but this has been taken away by the amendment.

He says the plaintiffs contend the Government does not have the right to change fundamental principles in the Constitution.

"Clause 79 of the Constitution does not allow Government to amend or change the law of Liberty ..so Clause 7 squarely falls within the Law of Liberty."