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IFJ Welcomes Tonga Leadership’s Endorsement Of Press Freedom

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) in welcoming comments which endorse the principle of a free press in Tonga made by a key political figure elected in the country’s first democratic elections.

In an interview with The New Zealand Herald on November 29, newly-elected Akilisi Pohiva said that press freedom is an important part of democracy and that the media should be encouraged to be part of the process of transparency and accountability of government.

The new Government must encourage freedom of the press, he said.

Historic elections in Tonga on November 25 – the first under a new constitution which allows an increased proportion of democratically-elected members of parliament and the first prime minister to be elected rather than appointed by the king – saw the Democratic Party emerge as the dominant political force in the country.

“IFJ Asia-Pacific joins the Pacific Freedom Forum in welcoming Akilisi Pohiva’s comments which send a firm signal to other Pacific leaders that emerging democracies are assisted by the accountability a free media system provides,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“Pohiva’s insights and perspectives as a journalist and media leader in Tonga bring a welcome dimension to his leadership, and the IFJ looks forward to the new government taking firm action to promote press freedom in Tonga and elsewhere in the Pacific.”

Pohiva is a former broadcaster and publisher, who was imprisoned in Tonga for contempt of Parliament and was also charged with sedition during his career. He later founded Tonga’s Human Rights and Democracy Movement and leads the Democratic Party which commanded a majority in last week’s polls.

In July, the IFJ was disturbed to hear the country’s Information and Communications Minister, ‘Eseta Fusitu'a,on TV Tonga referring to plans to legislate controls of Tonga’s print media to match a government-regulated broadcast environment.

ENDS

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