1 Mar 2003

Publisher of banned Tongan paper objects to being labelled a foreigner

10:11 am on 1 March 2003

The publisher of the Taimi o Tonga newspaper, Kalafi Moala, has taken issue with the Tongan government's statement that banning his paper is justified because it is a foreigner's publication.

Mr Moala who was born to Tongan parents has US citizenship and his Tongan-language newspaper is printed in New Zealand.

The paper was this week banned because of its alleged campaign to overthrow Tonga's constitution.

Mr Moala says he doesn't feel a foreigner.

"I'm an American citizen but to call me a foreigner, implying that I'm non-Tongan is crazy. You can have a citizenship of a different country and still maintain your ethnicity and your nationality. My parents are Tongan, I was born in Tonga, raised in Tongan, I speak Tongan and to call me a foreigner is quite insulting."

But a spokesperson for the Tongan government, Eseta Fusitua, says despite Mr Moala's Tongan roots the paper is legally a foreign product.

The owner has two identities. Now when government wants to act on the paper it has to act according to the legal identity of the owner but the owner also has the other identity which is right. It's just the case...so long as we don't mix the two identities together. Now the second point is: because the paper and the publisher are located overseas and are overseas entities it's very difficult to be actually subject to Tongan law.

Meanwhile, the Paris-based organisation, Reporters Without Borders has protested to the Tongan government about the ban.

It says the move threatens the right of Tongans to independent news.

And the New Zealand-based Pacific Islands Media Association says it will be encouraging all Tongans in New Zealand to buy the paper and mail it back to their families and friends in Tonga.