9 Apr 2009

Tonga's Supreme Court rules local newspaper is liable for damages worth thousands

10:34 am on 9 April 2009

Tonga's Supreme Court has ruled that the newspaper, Kele'a, is liable for damages worth 245-thousand US dollars for publishing a letter to the editor which defamed the Prime Minister and a leading economic advisor.

The letter, published in October 2007, was purportedly in response to Economic Adviser Rob Solomon's defence of Tonga against its poor ranking in Transparency International's corruption index.

The Court found that the letter in the paper Fifita Tau'ataina contained false accusations including that Mr Solomon was employed directly by the Prime Minister Dr Feleti Sevele when he was actually employed by the Prime Minister's Office.

The letter also said that Mr Solomon's appointment to the position was as a result of favouritism and nepotism.

As well as the 245-thousand US dollars in damages, Kele'a has also been ordered to pay Rob Solomon the legal fees for his legal counsel.