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Tonga urged to reconsider move on constitution

Tonga urged to reconsider move on constitution

Foreign Minister Phil Goff is urging the Tongan government to ensure that proposed changes to the Constitution do not breach international human rights requirements.

"It is up to each nation to determine its own constitution and laws, but there is also an obligation on all countries to ensure that constitutional and legal provisions are consistent with international human rights," Mr Goff said.

"The present Tongan Constitution, when it was first put in place, was ahead of its time in guaranteeing such an important right as the freedom of the press.

"Proposed amendments, however, qualify that right of freedom and remove from judicial review laws and ordinances passed in the kingdom.

"These changes appear contrary to the spirit of Commonwealth and Pacific Forum declarations of basic rights.

“The proposed change qualifying freedom of the press should in particular be re-examined against Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. This states: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers'.

"I hope that the Tongan government will reconsider the proposed amendments, and its ban on Taimi O Tonga, in light of its international obligations and that it addresses any concerns it has in a way which is consistent with those obligations," Mr Goff said.

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