31 Jul 2003

Pacific journalists say new Tongan media law is unacceptable

4:12 pm on 31 July 2003

The Tongan Parliament has been called on to reject laws aimed at curbing the freedom of speech.

The Pacific Island News Association or PINA and Tonga media representatives have issued a joint statement saying they're gravely concerned at the government plans.

Members of Tonga's Legislative Assembly are to debate amendments to the constitution, which if passed, will limit the ability of the media to report freely on issues.

The president of PINA, Johnson Honimae, says this is unacceptable.

"They will impose restrictions on the media in Tonga... they're dictating what newspapers and media operators can say or report, so this would represent a severe infringement on Tonga society's inherent right to know what's been done in its name and the right of the media to inform people."

Johnson Honimae.

In a related development, the Media Operator's Act became law earlier this week.

This restricts foreign ownership of the media in Tonga to 20 percent.