This statement was originally published on Pacific Freedom Forum’s Facebook page on 22 January 2020.
Pacific media watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum is calling for transparency and fairness in a suspension case involving three staff of the Tonga public broadcaster, including its manager.
Tonga Broadcasting Manager Setita Tu’ionetoa and staffers Salamo Fulivai, and Vilisoni Tu’iniua were suspended last week over a series of allegations including attempts to incite distrust against the Prime Minister and government, political bias, and breaches of the TBC constitution. The alleged offences are linked to complaints over comments from all three during some controversial episodes of their prime time Tonga Today current affairs program which aired late last year.
“Despite speculation on the circumstances around these reporters for some months, the fact is that sending any employee home over allegations is a heavy-handed warning to their colleagues that they need to ‘be careful’ or face the same,” says PFF chair Bernadette Carreon, of Palau.
“Journalists who ask the hard questions will often put elected leaders under a pressure that makes them uncomfortable – but that’s a key part of what being in politics is about,” she says.
PFF co-chair Ofani Eremae of the Solomon Islands says the suspension adds to the ongoing history of pressure faced by the Tongan national broadcaster.
“We remind Tonga and Pacific governments that public broadcasters, like the government of the day, must serve the public interest. Tonga Broadcasting must have a fair, transparent process for addressing all complaints, and must uphold the role of a national broadcaster – to provide a credible public space for all voices, on all issues.”
Calling for transparency and fairness for the suspended journalists, PFF Polynesia co-chair Monica Miller says it’s important the rules and protocols of public broadcasting also support media ethics and independence.
“For our part, Pacific journalists must promote public feedback and welcome complaints as an opportunity to educate on media standards and freedom. We urge the TBC board to ensure their rules also reflect the principles of public interest.”
“At the end of the day, the right to be informed by a free media is a sham when elected leaders continue to show they have not moved on from blaming the messenger – and when media leaders fail their own standards of editorial independence,” she says.
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Source: MEDIA FEED