3 May 2017

Tonga's PM says state broadcaster has failed in role

2:55 pm on 3 May 2017

Tonga's Prime Minister says the leadership of the state broadcaster has to change because it has been failing to fulfil its role for the past two years.

Tonga Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva.

Tonga Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva. Photo: RNZ

'Akilisi Pohiva has had a tense relationship with the Tonga Broadcasting Commission in recent times, labelling it an "enemy of the government" and criticising it for not supporting the government's work.

He has forced the TBC chair Tapu Panuve to resign, is looking to replace the general manager Nanise Fifita and has not ruled out other changes.

Mr Pohiva said the board had repeatedly failed, in spite of regular requests from cabinet to make sure that the TBC carried out its function.

He said as government property the TBC needed to adhere to those requests.

"It is completely different from any other independent media here in Tonga. So if that is the case, Radio Tonga and Television Tonga's main role is best to facilitate government. But that doesn't mean that government stops TBC from criticising government but it must be do it in a way that is not malicious."

He said replacing the leadership of the state broadcaster is all part of a plan to introduce positive change in the country.

Mr Pohiva has not ruled out other changes and said moves have to be made.

"We are now in a process of transformation and for change to be meaningful and real, we have to introduce reforms. What we have been doing in regards to the operation of TBC is one of the reforms which is necessary and appropriate to be taken so that we can move forward."

Last year Tonga's Supreme Court quashed the removal of the previous chair and another board member, awarding them costs in the process.

At the time of the dismissals of Lady 'Eseta Fusitu'a and Lady Tuna Fielakepa, Mr Pohiva said it was part of a government reform strategy recommended by the World Bank.

Kaniva news reports the lawyer for Lady Fusitu'a and Lady Fielakepa, Clive Edwards, has now been enrolled to legally assist Nanise Fifita.

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