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Tonga Media Council Wants Ban On Mike Field Lifted

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By Manu Manuofetoa

SUVA (Wansolwara Online/Pacific Media Watch): The Tongan Media Council has asked the government to allow banned New Zealand journalist Michael Field into the country for the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) conference in October.

The president of the council, Pesi Fonua, said the council made the request so that the parties could talk "face-to-face and sort out everything".

Field was first banned from the kingdom in 1996 after writing an article the Tongan government and monarchy deemed "disrespectful".

His application for a visa to cover the general elections in March was declined. No reason was given.

Undeterred, he has also applied for a visa to attend the PINA conference.

Fonua said the council tried to inform the government that there was no good reason for prohibiting Field from entering the country.

"The government should lift the ban because Michael Field¹s case was not as serious as those of sedition and treason," he said.

On the other hand, Fonua said Field was trying to challenge the government.

He said Field should not have written a letter and asked for permission to enter Tonga "because journalists are coming in and out of the country".

He also said that it was the former Police Minister, Clive Edwards, who barred Field from entering Tonga.

At the time, the Immigration Department was under Edwards' jurisdiction. He has since been ousted and the department now falls under the Foreign Affairs jurisdiction.

Fonua hinted that this could pave the way for Field's entry into the kingdom after nearly a decade.



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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