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Tongan press crusader Kalafi Moala wins award

Tongan press crusader Kalafi Moala wins media freedom award

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AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): A New Zealand-based Tongan newspaper publisher who has crusaded for democracy in his island kingdom and been jailed for contempt of Parliament has been awarded the new Pacific Media Freedom Award.

He was presented with the inaugural award by the Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) at an Auckland dinner tonight after being earlier in the day re-elected chairman of the year-old group.

"This is a great honour for me - I have never won a media freedom award before," said Moala, whose recently published book, The Kingdom Strikes Back, exposed the political pressures on him and his biweekly newspaper, Taimi 'o Tonga.

Moala paid tribute to his staff and former deputy editor, now manager, Filokalafi 'Akau'ola, saying: "He could have won this. He has been jailed more often than me."

Associate Professor Barry King, head of Auckland University of Technology's school of communication studies, presented the award at the function ending PIMA's two-day conference.

Media commentators said Moala had deserved to win a media freedom award for several years.

In September 1996, Moala, 'Akau'ola and pro-democracy MP 'Akilisi Pohiva were jailed by Parliament for 30 days over a report about an impending impeachment of a minister.

The three men were set free after serving just 26 days of their sentence when Chief Justice Nigel Hampton ruled that they had been detained illegally in violation of the constitution.

Moala's book cites many incidents of victimisation of independent media and political dissidents, including himself and his staff.

The incidents involved the arrest in February 1996 of journalist 'Akau'ola and two writers of letters to the editor published in the Taimi 'o Tonga and defamation writs designed to gag and ruin the newspaper.

Long-time specialist Pacific affairs reporter Fraser Folster, now a publicist, won a Lifetime Achievement Award while a Special Achievement Award went to Tongan broadcaster Sefita Hao'uli who has played a key role in the establishment of the new national Pacific Islands radio network, Niu FM.

Television New Zealand's Tagata Pasifika chief reporter John Utanga won the TV award, New Zealand Herald columnist Tapu Misa won the print award and Radio New Zealand's Alma Ma'ua won the radio category.



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