9 Feb 2004

Tonga Government accused of bias over issuance of newspaper licences

4:05 pm on 9 February 2004

The publisher of The Taimi o Tonga, Kalafi Moala, says the government has been biased in its licensing of newspapers in the kingdom.

Two controversial laws introduced late last year changed the licensing requirements for publications.

The Taimi's application was declined as was the application for the pro-democracy newsletter, the Kele'a.

Mr Moala says he always expected his application to be turned down because of the Taimi's history of independent reporting.

He says the government's licensing system means there will no longer be independant reporting of events in Tonga.

"They've approved the government newspapers and the church papers, that's no surprise. They have also approved the Tonga Star as well as the Ofa ki Tonga. Both are papers that are run with an extreme right-wing, pro-monarchy paper so there's obviously very strong favouritism."

Mr Moala says news will only be covered that the government and royal family approve of.