Tongan Newspaper Publisher, Editor Fined For Contempt

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Kele’a staff ordered to pay 2,500 pa’anga apiece or face jail

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept. 30, 2013) – The publisher and editor of a weekly newspaper Kele’a was ordered by the Chief Justice to pay a total of TOP$5,000 [US$2,770] fines for contempt of court, at the Supreme Court in Nuku‘alofa on September 26.

Chief Justice Hon. Lord Michael Scott had initially found the respondents, the publisher Laucala Tapueluelu and editor Mateni Tapueluelu guilty of contempt of court in a judgment made in late August.

In his sentence he ordered they each pay a fine of $2,500 pa’anga [US$1,385] within two months or in default one-month imprisonment. They were also ordered to pay the costs of the applicant.

The Attorney General Neil Adsett filed the application that the publisher and editor were guilty of contempt of court in regard to an editorial published by the newspaper. The editorial related to a decision made by Magistrate Paula Tatafu in a defamation civil case held at the Magistrate’s Court, brought by Tonga’s Prime Minsiter Lord Tu‘ivakano and six Cabinet Ministers against a letter writer Solomone Palu, the Kele‘a publisher and editor.

The Attorney General stated the editorial had undermined public opinion of the court as it included allegation that the Magistrate was under the 'control' or 'owned' by the Minister of Justice Hon Clive Edwards who was a prosecutor in the case, and was not independent.

The newspaper had, after being found guilty of contempt, issued an apology in the newspaper to the court.

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