23 Oct 2003

Tonga government defends latest media legislation

12:13 pm on 23 October 2003

The Tongan government rejects claims that the newly passed Newspaper Act will be used to muzzle the media.

The Act, passed Tuesday, is the latest in a series of moves by the government to extend its control over media following its unsuccessful attempts to ban the Taimi O Tonga newspaper.

The Government's spokesperson, Eseta Fusitua, says the Act is simply to bring Newspapers under the same regulations applying to other media.

Pro-democracy MP Dr Fred Sevele says he fears that any paper which is critical of the Government could lose its licence, but Mrs Fusitua says this can't happen.

"The Newspaper Act is just like any other act in any country. It cannot violate, it cannot trespass upon other laws, so our laws within our constitution - freedom for example - this act cannot trespass on that."

Eseta Fusitua.

The Taimi publisher Kalafi Moala says he does not accept the Government's statement and fears for the future of his paper.

We maintain that we need to stay free, and obviously if we are going to continue in the way we have been conducting business there is going to be some infingement of those new legislations.