TONGA CONSIDERS REGULATING NEWS MEDIA

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, Mar. 3) - The Tongan government says it is considering legal restrictions on news media, including having to sign the Tonga Media Association’s Code of Ethics.

The Tongan government last week triggered a firestorm of criticism from press freedom advocates by banning the newspaper Taimi O Tonga. The government said last week the paper, produced in Auckland and distributed in Tonga and Hawaii, is a foreign publication.

Another reason given for Tonga’s banning of the newspaper is because it had not committed to the Association’s code.

The government’s spokesperson, Eseta Fusitua, rejected claims it was silencing a critic in banning the paper.

She says it was giving Tongans an unbalanced view, and she says this is evident in a comparison of the paper and the parliamentary record.

Fusitua says the government might introduce legal obligations concerning the media:

"That is, to require, perhaps, that members of the media become accountable to the code of ethics of their peers and the reason is the media must be accountable to something," she said. "Among .the things it must be accountable to is the ethics of its own peers, like the law of society, because without this you don't have adequate protection for the rights of the people to good journalism. That's one of the problems with the Taimi."

March 3, 2003

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com.

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