20 Aug 2010

New Zealand printer cuts its losses in defamation suit by Tonga's leader

1:50 pm on 20 August 2010

A New Zealand newspaper printing company has apologised to the Prime Minister of Tonga, accepting that statements about his handling of the sinking of the Princess Ashika were untrue and defamatory.

Dr Feleti Sevele claimed the Kele'a newspaper, printed by Horton Media in Auckland, had accused him of lying to the Royal Commission investigating the sinking of the Ashika, and of manslaughter by way of negligence.

Horton Media's chief executive, Matthew Horton, says they would normally take the position of being an innocent third party, but it was concerned the case would become too costly.

"The Prime Minister was merely asking for an acknowledgement of defamation and we decided, in consultation with their lawyer, that the simplest and easiest and cheapest way for us to extract ourselves from the action was to accede to his wishes for an apology."

Matthew Horton.

The management of the Kele'a have yet to make comment on the printer's move, but a spokesperson for the Prime Minister says the paper has to pay for, what he says, are its many untrue and defamatory attacks on people.