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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 8) – Tonga's constrictive media laws enacted late last year have been struck down by Tonga’s Supreme Court following a judicial review sought by 173 plaintiffs.

In the Nuku'alofa Supreme Court this morning, Chief Justice R. M. Webster declared the Media Operators Act of 2003 and the Newspaper Act 2003 void and invalid.

Webster also declared that parts of the amendment to Clause 7 (2) of the Constitution – which guarantees freedom of speech in Tonga - were inconsistent and therefore also void and invalid.

Chief Justice Webster declared that Clause 7 (2) now should read: "(2) It shall be lawful, in addition to the exceptions set out in sub-clause (1), to enact such laws as are considered necessary in national security, public order, morality, privileges of the Legislative Assembly and to provide for contempt of court."

Chief Justice Webster also declared void and invalied the terms of Clause 103A, which read, "The remedy for breach of any provisions of the Constitution shall be declaratory relief and shall not affect any award of damages under any other law."

The long-awaited decision by the Supreme Court followed a four-day Judicial Review in early September when 173 plaintiffs challenged the amendment to Clauses 7 and 103 of the Constitution, and the two new media legislations.

The legal counsel for the plaintiffs was Dr Rodney Harrison and the Crown was represented by Paul Radich, Jessica Hodgson and 'Aminiasi Kefu.

October 11, 2004

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