2 Nov 2017

Media watchdog condemns Tonga Govt for TBC move

5:04 pm on 2 November 2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has criticised what it says is an apparent government attempt to seize control of the state media in Tonga, two weeks out from the election there.

The international NGO referred to the decision by the Tonga Broadcasting Commission chair to move two senior journalists out of the newsroom.

Viola Ulakai and Laumanu Petelo

Viola Ulakai and Laumanu Petelo Photo: RNZI / Twitter

RSF said the first step came a month ago, when Tu'i Uata, an ally of Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva, was appointed chairman of the TBC.

Mr Uata then moved chief editor Laumanu Petelo and news manager Viola Ulakai to the sales department.

RSF's Daniel Bastard said since it took office in late 2014, the Pohiva administration had been trying to intimidate those within the TBC who don't toe the line.

Mr Bastard said the prime minister needed to understand that public service broadcasting did not mean government propaganda.

He said if guarantees of media independence were not given quickly, international bodies, including the Commonwealth, should reconsider the aid they provided to Tonga.

The regional watchdog, Pacific Freedom Forum, already said the government needed to stop using revenue losses as an excuse to gag the public broadcaster.

Tonga is ranked 49th out of 180 countries on RSF's World Press Freedom Index, after falling 12 places in the space of a year.

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