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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Tonga

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Tonga, February 1997, available at: [accessed 22 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis 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.

Tonga has a fledgling media system, with a small number of weekly or monthly newspapers and newsletters, and one government-owned radio station. The Tongan government – a constitutional monarchy in which the king, the nobility, and a few prominent commoners dominate political life – has repeatedly shown its intolerance of any criticism of authority or suggestions of democratic reform by the media.

Filokalafi 'Akua'ola, the deputy editor of Taimi 'o Tonga, received an 18-month suspended prison sentence for publishing letters critical of Minister for Police Clive Edwards. And 'Akua'ola and Taimi 'o Tonga editor Kalafi Moala, along with 'Akilisi Pohiva, a member of Parliament and pro-democracy leader, were each sentenced to 30 days in prison for contempt of Parliament. Pohiva's publication of the bimonthly newsletter Kele'a has garnered a string of libel cases.

February 23
Filokalafi 'Akau'ola, Taimi 'o Tonga, IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

'Akau'ola, deputy editor of the weekly Taimi 'o Tonga, which is published in Auckland, New Zealand, and distributed in Tonga, was arrested after the newspaper published letters to the editor on Feb. 21 that were deemed insulting to Tongan Minister of Police Clive Edwards. 'Akau'ola was charged with inciting violence against an officer of the government under Section 57 of the Tongan Criminal Code. 'Akau'ola was released on bail after two days in custody. On April 17, he was convicted and given an 18-month suspended prison sentence.

July 16
Mike Field, Agence France Presse (AFP), CENSORED

Police Minister Clive Edwards, who is in charge of immigration matters, denied Field's written request to enter Tonga, claiming that Field, a New Zealand-based correspondent for AFP, had referred to the king of Tonga as a baboon. Edwards failed to substantiate his claim but warned Field that if he entered Tonga he would be charged with defamation, a criminal offense. Field had applied for permission to attend the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) convention from Aug. 6-9. Tonga normally permits journalists to enter freely without obtaining visas in advance. But after Field did a series of reports in 1993 on Tonga's pro-democracy movement and the sale of Tongan passports in Asia, then-police minister Noble 'Akau 'Ola informed him that he would have to apply in advance whenever he wished to visit Tonga.

September 20
Kalafi Moala, Taimi 'oTonga, IMPRISONED
Filokalafi 'Akau'ola, Taimi 'o Tonga, IMPRISONED

Moala, editor, and 'Akau'ola, deputy editor of the weekly Taimi 'o Tonga (Times of Tonga), published in Auckland, New Zealand, and distributed in Tonga, were sentenced to 30 days in prison for contempt of Parliament. The two were convicted of libeling the legislative assembly under Article 70 of the Tongan constitution. The charge stemmed from their Sept. 4 publication of the text of an impeachment motion against Justice Minister Tevita Tupor before it was tabled in Parliament. 'Akilisi Pohiva, the member of Parliament who had drafted the motion and provided a copy of it to Taimi 'o Tonga, was also found guilty of contempt of Parliament and sentenced to 30 days in prison. Moala, 'Akau'ola, and Pohiva were released from prison Oct. 14 after serving 24 days of their prison term. Nigel Hampton, chief justice of the Tongan Supreme Court, ruled that the legislative assembly had breached several constitutional provisions in convicting the three men of contempt of Parliament, and ordered their immediate release.

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