PMW Protests To Tongan Government Over Ban
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PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH PROTESTS TO TONGAN GOVERNMENT OVER BAN
AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): Pacific Media Watch has protested to the Tongan government over the prohibited import order against New Zealand-based Taimi 'o Tonga and appealed for urgent lifting of the ban.
The independent watchdog group based in Auckland and Sydney yesterday appealed to the Prime Minister, Prince ŒUlukalala Lavaka Ata, saying it was concerned that the government action had "gagged an important publication in the kingdom and stifled free debate".
"We note the harassment and persecution of the newspaper¹s publisher, Kalafi Moala, and his staff in recent years," said co-convenor David Robie.
"The Supreme Court last December awarded US$26,000 to Mr Moala, his then editor, and a pro-democracy MP, in compensation for being jailed unconstitutionally in 1996."
Pacific Media Watch said clearly the ban on the twice-weekly newspaper had violated Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The article states: ³Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.²
Several media freedom organisations and pro-democracy movements have protested to the Tongan government, including the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers (WAN), World Editors Forum and Reporters Sans Frontières, Auckland-based Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) and the Human Rights and Democracy Movement in Tonga.
WAN, which represents 18,000 publications in 100 countries, called on the Tongan government to ensure that in future it "fully respects international standards of freedom of expression".
The Tongan government prohibited importation of the newspaper because it claimed that Taimi 'o Tonga was a "foreign" newspaper and "campaigned ruthlessly" to overthrow the government.
The paper is the main news publication in Tonga and has been published and distributed in the kingdom for 14 years. It sells about 9000 copies in Tonga with an estimated 40,000 readers, or almost half the nation's population.
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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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