TONGAN MEDIA EXECUTIVE SAYS ‘BLACKOUT’ INTERNAL

News Release

Tonga Now Government of Tonga Nukualofa, Tonga June 20, 2007

The Tongan Government wishes to make clear that it did not order, "…a blackout on all political reporting or as alleged by Siaosi Lavaka in a news item broadcast via TBC radio on Friday 15 June 2007.

According to ‘Elenoa ‘Amanaki, TBC General Manager, "Some Cabinet Ministers raised their concern on a number of unbalanced and inaccurate news broadcast by the Tonga Broadcasting Commission. In view of their concern, and in view of the present political environment and Emergency Regulations, Management of the TBC thought it wise to withhold all parliamentary reporting until further notice." The TBC General Manager also stated clearly that, "There was no Cabinet decision or Prime Minister Directive to terminate all parliamentary reporting and political news."

At the meeting on Friday morning, the TBC General Manager told Government that unfortunately some of her staff had their own political agenda. As such, she apologized for this and said that she would deal with those first; in the meantime, a temporary stop would be put in place as far as parliamentary reporting was concerned.

She also went on to say that she had met with Siaosi Lavaka on Friday, 15th June and asked him to withhold all the Parliamentary reporting until further notice. The reasons she gave him for her directive were:

Despite the TBC General Manager’s very clear instructions to Siaosi Lavaka, he still went ahead and created an inaccurate and unbalanced news item with the unfounded allegation that Government had ordered a blackout on all political reporting and quoting only Pesi Fonua’s opinion which was broadcast on radio on 15 June.

According to Pesi Fonua, Siaosi Lavaka had raised the alleged blackout whilst they were pre-recording an "Editors" television programme on 15 June for broadcasting later that evening. Towards the end of the programme, Siaosi Lavaka made the statement that Government had ordered a blackout on political matters and he asked Pesi for his opinion. Pesi said he then made his comments based on what Siaosi had told him.

After the programme was recorded Pesi said he asked Siaosi whether there was a written directive from the Prime Minister’s Office or Cabinet confirming what he had told him and Siaosi said no there wasn’t. Pesi said he then told Siaosi that as a good journalist he must first get written confirmation of the directive and Siaosi said he would get that.

Pesi said that their programme was not broadcast on Friday evening as planned but Siaosi apparently lifted his quotation from the recording and turned it into a news item which was then broadcast as a news item that evening. This was done without his knowledge or approval.

Tonga Now is the website of the Reform Information Office, a unit within the Office of the Minister of Finance. The unit was established to assist the Minister of Finance in disseminating information to the public.

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