TONGA MARCHERS PETITION AGAINST NEWSPAPER BAN

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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Taumu‘a Lelei/PINA, Mar. 11) - The ‘Taimi ‘o Tonga (Times of Tonga) newspaper has begun court action in Nuku‘alofa to try to overturn a ban on its import from New Zealand imposed by the Tongan Government.

It followed a peaceful march in Nuku‘alofa organized by the pro-democracy movement, supporting the spirit of "freedom" to speak, write and publish one's opinion.

The march started from The Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua and went through the main street of Nuku‘alofa to the palace office.

There a letter of petition was presented to King Taufa‘ahau Tupou's secretary, the Honourable Ma‘afu Tuku‘i‘aulahi.

Honourable Ma‘afu received the petition and said: "The letter of petition will be presented to His Majesty, Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV as soon as possible. His Majesty's response will be in a form of writing."

The march was peaceful, and the police were helpful. Hundreds of people were standing at both sides of the road clapping as the marchers went past.

The march and court action came amidst reports on Radio New Zealand International that efforts to stop the twice-weekly newspaper being circulated in Tonga were intensifying.

The Tongan-language newspaper, which is published in Auckland, was declared a prohibited import by the Minister of Customs. The government claimed unbalanced reporting, called the newspaper "foreign" and said it was trying to overthrow Tonga's constitutional structure.

The paper's publisher, Kalafi Moala, was quoted by Radio New Zealand International today as saying efforts were now being made to stop people arriving in Tonga carrying in the newspaper.

He told Radio New Zealand International:

"There are Customs officers that are announcing at the airport that if there are those that are carrying the Taime O Tonga that they would take it out of their bags and throw it into the trash can in the same way that they announce for anybody bringing any forbidden fruits into the country."

March 12, 2003

Pacific Islands News Association: http://www.ifex.org/members/pina/ 

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