3 Jun 2003

Anger over planned new constitutional curbs on the media in Tonga

5:33 pm on 3 June 2003

There is outrage over Tongan Government plans for constitutional amendments which its claimed will curb freedom of speech.

This follows months of government bans on the Taimi O Tonga newspaper and court orders stating that they should be lifted and the New Zealand-produced paper allowed into the country.

The publisher, Kalafi Moala, says they spent the last week waiting in good faith, after the government told them that it was only paperwork that was holding up the distribution.

But, he says instead it was a delaying tactic in order to introduce the amendments with clause seven a big problem.

"A person can be free to speak and to print anything as long as it complies with cultural traditions, as long as it doesn't violate the rights of people. They do not specify what cultural traditions are, but it leaves open for the government, to come up with the whole list of things, including that you cannot criticise the royal family, because that would be against cultural traditions, you could not criticise the government or the leadership of Tonga, so we're looking into a situation where there is a major movement to make the government of Tonga, far more dictatorial than it's ever been."

Kalafi Moala says by the end of the day, they'll be filing an injunction in court in order that the paper can be distributed.