24 Jan 2007

Prominent Tonga newspaper publisher says unbalanced reporting helped foment riot

8:00 pm on 24 January 2007

A Tonga newspaper publisher says the media has to take some of the blame for the riot on November 16th.

Kalafi Moala, whose Taimi O Tonga, newspaper was once banned by the Tonga Government, has this month been conducting media training for government personnnel.

He has told a workshop that unedited television footage of village meetings conducted by the pro-democracy movement helped to foster the ill feeling.

Mr Moala says the footage was unbalanced, and included language not normally used in Tongan culture and criticism of key figures who were not given a chance to respond.

"All of that was going on weeks before November 16th and I felt that it made a direct contribution to inciting and getting people angry and excited and wanting to vent their anger on somebody."

Mr Moala says both the government and the private media need to work more closely together, because the government is very timid and the private sector is too independent.