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OBN Network says soldiers trashed studios after riots

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Dec. 30, 2008) – The management of Tonga’s OBN television network says it will launch legal action against the Government, possibly next week, over what it says was the destruction of their studios when they were occupied by soldiers.

OBN, which has been off air since the riots in November 2006, had been accused of helping to inspire the violence.

The manager, Sangster Saulala, was charged and later acquitted of sedition and other offences.

He says when their offices were returned to them at the end of November, much of their equipment had been destroyed.

Mr Saulala says OBN will be looking for compensation of ten million pa’anga, or about 4.6 million US dollars, as it seeks to find out who ordered the soldiers to wreck the premises.

"Like when we went to the soldiers the soldiers said they had a decision from above. And every time they do something they’ll never tell you who told them or commanded them to do it. They only thing they say it is from above, and nobody knows who that is above."

The Tongan Information Minister, Afu’alo Matoto, has denied any knowledge of the alleged destruction and he says he thought the soldiers had camped outside the studios.

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