Freedom of the Press - Tonga (2006)
|Publication Date||27 April 2006|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press - Tonga (2006), 27 April 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/473451f268.html [accessed 30 May 2015]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 10
Political Influences: 11
Economic Pressures: 11
Total Score: 32
Life Expectancy: 71
Religious Groups: Christian (Free Wesleyan Church claims over 30,000 adherents)
Ethnic Groups: Polynesian, European (about 300)
Tonga's media freedom climate improved significantly during the year following a Nuku'alofa Supreme Court ruling late in 2004 that reinstated the press freedom clause of the constitution and invalidated the controversial 2003 media operators and newspaper acts. Two publications, Taimi 'o Tonga and Ko'e Kele'a, had faced persistent harassment under this legislation. A long-standing ban on the New Zealand'based Pacific affairs journalist and author, Michael Field, was lifted in May. The political demise of Clive Edwards, a former police minister who had frequent clashes with news media, contributed to a more liberal climate for the press. Also, an international media conference in November led to a more relaxed atmosphere for media and journalists. The government was reluctant to provoke negative publicity in the months before the conference, and there is a growing mood in favor of democracy in this authoritarian but constitutional Pacific monarchy.
However, in August there were allegations that a monopoly power company partially owned by the crown prince interfered with a planned broadcast covering a nationwide civil servants strike and made threats to the airing station if it continued to broadcast antigovernment views.
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, the United States, and New Zealand), 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. There are 3,000 reported internet users as of September 2005, and the internet is open and unrestricted.