1 Aug 2003

Growing concern over Tongan media restrictions

4:48 pm on 1 August 2003

There is mounting concern over Tongan plans to impose restrictions on the media.

Linda Skates reports.

"Tongan media representatives and the Pacific Islands News Association, PINA, says it is better for the media to be self regulating than to impose legislation which will restrict its freedom."

And they are proposing that a new Tonga Media Council be set up to deal with issues as they arise.

Both parties have expressed concern at new measures being debated this month in the Legislative Assembly.

The outgoing PINA President, Johnson Honimae, says the introduction of bills dictating what media can report is a severe infringement of society's right to know what is going on.

And Kalafi Moala, the publisher of the Taimi O Tonga newspaper, says he will go back to court over the new Media Operator's Act which restricts foreign ownership.

This follows Mr Moala's success last Friday in defeating Government efforts to exclude his paper from Tonga, when it lost an appeal to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that the bans were illegal.

All parties are calling on the Legislative Assembly to avoid legislation which curbs freedom of speech.