Freedom of the Press - Tonga (2007)
|Publication Date||2 May 2007|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press - Tonga (2007), 2 May 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/478cd550c.html [accessed 7 March 2015]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 11 (of 30)
Political Environment: 11 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 9 (of 30)
Total Score: 31 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Freedom of the press is guaranteed under the constitution and is generally respected in practice. Tonga's media environment has been improving steadily since a 2004 Supreme Court ruling reinstated a press freedom clause in the constitution and invalidated the controversial 2003 Media Operators and Newspaper Acts, which had been used to harass newspapers such as Taimi 'o Tonga.
There were no physical attacks on the press in 2006, but the Overseas Broadcasting Network (OBN), which allocated significant airtime to pro-democracy leaders and functions as one of only two private television stations in the country, was prevented from broadcasting only days before riots broke out in November. Opposition campaigners believe this action was taken in response to OBN's frequent criticism of the government. 'Akilisi Pohiva, the leading pro-democracy parliamentarian and publisher of Ko e Kele'a – a popular investigative newsletter - was arrested and charged with sedition for displaying banners that the government claimed criticized King Taufa'ahau. However, charges were subsequently dropped.
Tonga has a remarkably diverse range of media considering the nation's small population and economy. Besides Taimi 'o Tonga, which has the largest circulation of the country's private newspapers (as well as editions in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States), other publications include the weekly government newspaper Tonga Chronicle and the independent monthly magazine and news website Matangi Tonga. The state-owned Tongan Broadcasting Commission owns one AM and one FM station and the free-to-air Television Tonga station. There are also two privately owned television stations and three private radio stations. The internet is open and unrestricted, but only 3 percent of the population had access to this medium in 2006.