10 Jun 2003

New Zealand branch of UNESCO condemns Tongan plans to change constitution

7:28 am on 10 June 2003

The National Commission for UNESCO in New Zealand is urging governments in the Pacific to speak out against Tonga's plans to make changes to its constitution.

Commission member, Laurence Zwimpfer, says they understand the law change would effectively legalise a ban on the distribution of the Taimi o Tonga newspaper.

Mr Zwimpfer says the commission feels the move would constitute a breach of press freedom and freedom of expressions.

He says these principles go to the very heart of what UNESCO is all about and for a member state like Tonga to ignore them is a concern for all Pacific nations.

Mr Zwimpfer says New Zealand and other nations work hard to promote the needs of Pacific states and secure resources for the region but he says the Tongan government's moves undermine their efforts.