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Tongan Media Activist Wins Pima Freedom Award


Tongan Media Activist Wins Pima Freedom Award

http://artsweb.aut.ac.nz/Journalism/pima2004/

AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): Tongan activist Alani Taione has been awarded the Pacific Islands Media Freedom Award for his role in defending the independent press in his island kingdom.

PIMA deputy chair Lito Vilisoni today announced the award at the end of the two-day conference at New Zealand's Auckland University of Technology.

Taione, 38, who in February had been arrested for distributing about 20 copies of the banned newspaper Taimi 'o Tonga in the Pacific kingdom, had his case cited in protests by the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières and other international media freedom groups.

"Tonga has long been in the spotlight over media freedom. In the first year of our awards, Taimi publisher Kalafi Moala won it and last year the Taimi newspaper staff were the winners," said Vilisoni.

"This year we decided to award it to Alan - as the Palagis know him - for what he has done."

The award citation was for his "contribution to raising public awareness in the campaign against the gagging of Tonga's independent press".

Television NZ last night reported that media freedom campaigners were celebrating a Supreme Court judgment that had found Tonga's controversial media law unconstitutional.

The court ruled that the law would prevent the public from having access to information and stop them from commenting freely.

Taione, Moala and other media freedom advocates in Tonga have hailed the legal victory.

"My case was won so I am really happy," Taoine told TVNZ's Tonight news bulletin.

"It is a big win for the people of Tonga on this issue."

Taione has lived in New Zealand since 1987.

Vilisoni said the PIMA executive committee had decided not to make awards in other categories this year as there were insufficient entries. Last year the awards judges, while awarding prizes in several categories, had appealed for more entries in future.

Vilisoni urged Pacific Islands news organisations in New Zealand to get behind the awards next year and send in entries earlier.

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