9 Apr 2003

Tonga government says new privy council order comes after shock over judicial review

10:36 am on 9 April 2003

The Tongan Government's chief secretary says the judicial review of a Privy Council ban on the Auckland produced newspaper Taimi O Tonga challenged some of the fundamental pillars of Government.

Eseta Fusitu'a says this was the motivation for a second Order in Council, which placed a further ban on the paper, despite a Supreme court ruling that the earlier bans were unlawful.

Ms Fusitu'a says it is incorrect to say the second Privy Council Order came in response to the court decision.

She says it had already been printed before the ruling was announced on Friday last week.

Ms Fusitu'a says the court review of an Order in Council shocked people in Tonga.

"When you find the government finding that some of the fundamental pillars of a government are challenged and at this stage successfully, like I said it's not the Taimi matter any more....you know the decision of the court to actually judicially review an Order in Council is a first in Tonga and when that review you know is successful and government loses that has a great deal of implication for how the government rule"

Eseta Fusitu'a.

The paper's publishers say they believe the court ruling lifting the ban also applies to this latest Government action.

Meanwhile, ..

The President of the Pacific Islands News Association,

Johnson Honimae, says the latest ban placed on the Taimi O Tonga newspaper is outrageous.

Mr Honimae says recent threats to media freedom in the Pacific have sent alarm bells ringing in the region.

He was referring also to threats from Papua New Guinea's Parliamentary Privileges Committee that it might punish media that criticised MPs, and recent draconian newspaper laws brought in in Kiribati.

Mr Honimae says these attacks will be highlighted as part of World Media Freedom Day on May 3rd, and also feature in a special session at the PINA conference in Samoa in July.