19 Oct 2017

Lawyer says moving Tongan journalists into sales is unlawful

8:15 am on 19 October 2017

The lawyer for two Tongan journalists says their shift out of the Tonga Broadcasting Commission's newsroom is unlawful.

Viola Ulakai and Laumanu Petelo

Viola Ulakai and Laumanu Petelo Photo: RNZI / Twitter

The public broadcaster's chair Tu'i Uata has begun his tenure by moving editor Laumanu Petelo and news manager Viola Ulakai into the marketing department.

Both journalists had run-ins this year with the prime minister 'Akilisi Pohiva who called the TBC an enemy of government because of its critical coverage.

Mr Uata said the move was because the TBC was running at a loss and its content was unpopular.

But the journalists' lawyer, Clive Edwards, said it was a political move which had broken the law, particularly in the case of Ms Ulakai.

"They've got a contract. They've eliminated that and assigned her to something totally inexplicable insofar as to what is required of her. In other words, they have just removed her. In effect what they are doing is removing her from her job so the way can be clear for the chairman to take over. "

Mr Edwards said he was preparing breach of contract proceedings for the women.

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