SENIOR REPORTER FIRED BY TONGA RADIO STATION

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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Aug. 30) – Radio Tonga's Senior News Editor, Siaosi Lavaka, who was dismissed last week by the Tonga Broadcasting Commission, wants to know why he was dismissed and to have a right of reply.

"I would like someone to tell me why I was dismissed because as far as I know, I do not know," said George yesterday, who received his marching orders from the general manager after running a news story about the Dr. Sam Wong-'Etuate Lavulavu controversy over the directorship of the 'Unuaki-'o-Tonga institute.

Siaosi said on August 29 that he was seeking legal advice because neither the general manager, 'Elenoa 'Amanaki, nor a TBC sub committee that dismissed him has given him a right of reply to their letter of dismissal.

He received his letter of dismissal at 4.30 pm on August 23 and said that the general manager did not answer her mobile when he rang her constantly on the same evening.

Siaosi is seeking his right of reply and he also wanted to be paid for overtime and outstanding leave hours.

Siaosi said he went to the General Manager's office yesterday, to follow up the matter but she informed him through her secretary that he was not entitled to be paid for his overtime and outstanding leave because he was dismissed from work.

"I told her that TBC owes me this, it is mine and I want it. I rang again in the afternoon but was told that 'Elenoa was busy, so I went to see my lawyer," said Siaosi. "Is it not logical that because I was dismissed I am then not entitled to what I have worked hard for. Where is justice and where is my right to defend my story and myself?" asked Siaosi.

Siaosi said that in his letter of dismissal from the General Manager the reasons given was that he had failed to follow TBC policies regarding news stories when he reported a story about a dispute between 'Etuate Lavulavu and Dr Wong.

"It specified that I did not give a balanced report, did not do proper research, did not seek other views in TBC including the General Manager's or Dr Sam Wong's or Wong's agent in Tonga.

"The first story I ran was on the bulletin at 1:00 pm on radio on August 22. It was based on a letter by Dr Sam Wong dated June 22, 2007 to 'Etuate Lavulavu, disassociating himself and stating that Dr Wong is neither a director, nor a shareholder or trustee for the institute," Siaosi said.

"I ran the letter again in that evening's bulletin and I sought 'Etuate Lavulavu's side of the story and added it, nothing was wrong with it because the letter was already self-contained as it had Dr Wong's signature and I reported the other side too.

George said when the station was threatened with a court action by a member of the public over the story, instead of supporting their news editor and standing behind him, they had dismissed him.

George's dismissal follows weeks of discontent at the TBC following a directive from management and the board for the TBC newsroom to stop political reporting, including parliamentary reporting.

When George, as the TBC's parliamentary reporter, on June 15 broke the news of the government-controlled board's clamp down on political reporting by the TBC, he was censured because it was claimed that he only got part of the story and he should have consulted with other senior staff before he ran it as a news item.

The General Manager of TBC, 'Elenoa 'Amanaki said today that Siaosi had been given the right of reply "a number of times on a number of cases in the past" and said that after his TBC working contract expired on June 30 it had not been renewed. "Since then Siaosi has been working on a daily basis, and as such when we dismissed him, we did not owe him anything."

She said regarding the story on the Dr Wong and 'Etuate Lavulavu letter, that when such a letter came to the management it was normally circulated among senior staff for their comment, but she said that Siaosi had not followed their normal working practice and when he got hold of the letter he ran it as a news story. 'Elenoa said that it was not the first time that Siaosi had made such a decision.

With regards to Siaosi's claim of unpaid overtime and outstanding leave, 'Elenoa said that since June 30, "Siaosi has been paid on a daily basis, just like any daily worker, and his service ends when he is dismissed."

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