4 Jun 2003

Calls for Commonwealth to pressure Tonga over planned media curbs

4:54 pm on 4 June 2003

New Zealand's Green Party says the Commonwealth should consider suspending Tonga if it goes ahead with plans for sweeping restrictions on media freedom.

The Government yesterday introduced a constitutional amendment which, if it becomes law, would quash media freedom and ensure that some laws were not subject to judicial review.

The Green's Foreign Affairs spokesman, Keith Locke, says the first step is for the Commonwealth to press the Tongan Government to drop the legislation.

"but if the king insists on proceeding and the law does actually suppress all dissent in Tonga, then the Commonwealth should act and consider doing what it did in the case of Fiji, suspending it from the Commonwealth, and New Zealand which has taken a strong stand in a country as far away as Zimbabwe for suspension should, be consistent and press for similar measures if this law goes through."

Keith Locke.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff has warned Tonga to ensure that the proposed change does not breach human rights obligations.

He says they appear to be contrary to the spirit of Commonwealth and Pacific Islands Forum declarations of basic rights.