TONGAN NEWSPAPER RETURNS TO HOMELAND

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HONOLULU (Pacific Islands Report, Oct. 22) – After a nine-month absence from the streets of Nukualofa, the controversial Tongan newspaper Taimi o Tonga is back.

Publisher Kalafi Moala yesterday said the twice-weekly paper has been selling "like hot cakes" since it was allowed back in the country by a Supreme Court ruling last week.

"People even came to the airport to await the arrival of the paper and bought copies there," said Moala.

The Taimi o Tonga, which ran afoul of the Tongan government for its critical reporting, was refused a license to distribute in the kingdom following passage of tough media restrictions late last year.

But Chief Justice R. M. Webster on Oct. 11 ruled the Media Operators Act of 2003 and the Newspaper Act 2003 invalid.

The Taimi, twice banned in Tonga and the target of a constitutional amendment restricting media freedom, has been championed by the country’s fledgling democracy movement.

The Tongan language newspaper is currently published in Auckland – home to a large community of Tongana – and distributed in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and the mainland United States.

An Auckland expatriate in February openly defied the government’s media restrictions by flaunting copies of the Taimi o Tonga at Tongatapu International Airport. He was later arrested and charged with distributing an unlicensed newspaper.

Moala yesterday said the newspaper has been reintroduced at a reduced price.

"It’s a way of saying thank you to the Tongan people," he said.

October 22, 2004

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