3 Dec 2010

Tonga government closes down radio station amid post-election debates

4:46 pm on 3 December 2010

A radio station in Tonga has been shut down by the government information ministry, apparently for inciting with programmes about the political reform process.

FM 88.1 began broadcasting just over a year ago, using a licence held by publisher, Kalafi Moala.

But Mr Moala has now withdrawn that licence, claiming the ministry had told him about the complaints concerning the station.

The station's owner, Katalina Tohi, says this prompted the ministry to serve it with a 'cease broadcasting' directive, saying 88.1 was operating without a licence.

Ms Tohi rejects any suggestions that they were partisan in their programming.

"We have aired programmes of candidates in the pro-democracy movement, in the Friendly Islands Democratic Party, but at the same time we aired both programmes. We have programmes from government, we have programmes from anybody, but it has to go through the procedure. We have a look at the programme. We edit the programme if it needs to be edited."

Katalina Tohi says she believes the information ministry is trying to stop the public discussion about the negotiations over the formation of the new government.

The pro-democracy movement has often complained about the government-owned television and radio stations ignoring it.