Amnesty International Report 2004 - Tonga
|Publication Date||26 May 2004|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2004 - Tonga , 26 May 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/40b5a2044.html [accessed 22 October 2016]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Covering events from January - December 2003
The government adopted measures to restrict media freedom and the powers of the courts to review government decisions.
Freedom of speech threatened
In February the authorities banned the Taimi 'o Tonga (Times of Tonga), a privately owned newspaper, on the grounds that it was a "foreign concern with a political agenda". The Supreme Court overturned the first ban and, when a second was issued, overturned it in May. Publisher Kalafi Moala had moved the newspaper's production to New Zealand after repeated government efforts to prevent its publication in Tonga. The ban followed awards of compensation by the Supreme Court in December 2002 to three journalists, including Kalafi Moala and Member of Parliament 'Akilisi Pohiva, for unlawful imprisonment in 1996. They were prisoners of conscience.
In May 'Akilisi Pohiva, his son Po'oi Pohiva, and Member of Parliament 'Iseleli Pulu were acquitted of sedition and forgery. The charges were brought after Kele'a, a magazine linked to the Tonga Human Rights and Democracy Movement, published an article about the King's offshore assets in January 2002.
In June the government announced plans to amend constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and to curb the power of the Supreme Court to review decisions made by Parliament and the Tonga Privy Council. Despite unprecedented public opposition, in October Parliament passed constitutional amendments allowing the media to be regulated and its freedoms restricted – including on grounds of national security and of cultural and religious concerns – and preventing claims for damages when publications were banned.
In July legislation was introduced prohibiting foreign nationals from owning media in Tonga, which was perceived as an attack on Kalafi Moala, who holds US citizenship. In October the Newspaper Act, which further regulated newspapers and controlled their content, was passed into law.