PACIFIC MEDIA GROUPS CONDEMN TONGAN PRESS CENSORSHIP

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SYDNEY, Australia (ABC Online, April 29) – Tonga’s banning
of the Times of Tonga newspaper has attracted condemnation from the
Press Councils of Australia and New Zealand, the Media Council of Fiji and the
Commonwealth Press Union (CPU).

In a joint statement released in Sydney, Wellington and Suva,
the media councils and the CPU say they have observed with growing apprehension
the reaction of the Tongan Government to the issues of free speech and the
rights of a free press.

The statement says the actions of the Tonga Privy Council have
been so hostile to the accepted standards governing free speech and the press in
the Pacific that the groups have, for the first time, united in a single voice
to condemn it.

It also says that to attempt to deal with opposition views by
way of censorship and legal prohibitions is wrong in principle.

Opposition, they contend, has a right to exist and be heard in
any democracy.

The Kingdom of Tonga, a constitutional monarchy, declared the Times
of Tonga, which is printed in Auckland, to be a prohibited import in
February.

When the publisher, Kalifi Moala, won a court ruling against
that, the Privy Council in Tonga reimposed the ban by declaring the newspaper to
be illegal.

April 30, 2003

ABC Online: www.abc.net.au 

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