30 Oct 2017

Former TBC boss says Tongans denied pre-election talkback

2:18 pm on 30 October 2017

The former head of Tonga's state broadcaster says the end of a talkback show means people are missing out on opportunities to discuss issues leading up to the 16 November election.

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Nanise Fifita Photo: supplied

Nanise Fifita was the Tonga Broadcasting Commission's general manager before she was controversially sacked in May.

The move came after prime minister 'Akilisi Pohiva called the TBC an enemy of government, after numerous clashes with its staff.

A judicial review into Ms Fifita's sacking was dismissed on a technicality.

Last week, she spoke at the National Dialogue on Democracy in Nuku'alofa on the role of the media in political development.

Ms Fifita said the media was there to provide a platform for healthy discussion of issues that matter and to educate and inform.

But just a few weeks out from the election she had doubts that was happening at the TBC.

Recently the TBC moved its two most senior reporters out of the newsroom, citing revenue issues, and Ms Fifita said a popular talkback programme has also been canned.

"Seeing what is happening now. The two most experienced reporters, Laumanu and Viola, have been moved to a non-news section and I have asked why do you have to drop that very popular live talkback programme. That is very sad. We need healthy discussions through the media."

She said the recent friction between the government and the media fits an international trend.

Ms Fifita said the attitude of the government to the media was similar to the line taken by US president Donald Trump and others around the world.

"If you don't like the news that is covered that is about you or the decision you make or how you live in the community, how you live your life as politicians - they won't like the news media that covers such a story. They only need good things, positive things, but that is not how we operate in media coverage."

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