17 Apr 2007

Tonga newspaper editor dismisses claims media is persecuted

6:57 pm on 17 April 2007

The editor of Tonga's Taimi o Tonga newspaper says allegations in the media of persecution by the government are misleading and false.

Kalafi Moala has raised objections to an editorial piece in the Suva-based Islands Business magazine by its editor Laisa Taga.

Ms Taga's recent piece described a government-driven crackdown on pro-democracy media in Tonga since last November's riots in Nuku Alofa.

Three leading journalists have been arrested and charged with sedition since the riots - including those running the two main pro-democracy news outlets, Sangster Saulala of OBN TV and Tavake Fusimalohi, the editor of the Kelea newspaper.

However, Mr Moala says Tonga's media continues to operate freely in the aftermath of the riots, and he dismisses the notion of a crackdown.

"I think that's nonsense. Ourselves as a media, we have had defamation cases, sedition charges, I personally have gone through that over the years, the laws of Tonga provide for that. But to say that they were persecuted for their political stand is to me kind of stretching the truth quite a bit."

Kalafi Moala