This statement was originally published on Pacific Freedom Forum’s Facebook page on 19 August 2020.
News of the quietly issued media regulations by the government of Tonga in May and much later confirmed by Tongan Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’ionetoa, is cause for concern, says the Pacific Freedom Forum.
The eight regulations issued by Tonga’s Ministry of Communications in an infringement notice via the Ministry of Information and Communications have media operators and journalists in Tonga noting some sections would clearly infringe on the provisions of Clause 7 of the Constitution, which guarantees media freedom.
Veteran Tongan Journalist, Kalafi Moala, explains that “what is also most concerning to journalists is that laws often drafted to protect the rights of people from “an abusive media” are really aimed at protecting those in power (not the people) from transparency about their public lives and performance.”
In a radio interview the Prime Minister defended the new regulations, attacking what he calls “false media”.
“The launch of these regulations will leave many in no doubt that these are real threats to real media and they pose a real threat to the public’s right to know,” says PFF Chair Bernadette Carreon, of Palau.
PFF Melanesia co-chair Ofani Eremae says Tonga’s journalists and media workers “provide the public with critical information, especially now when the world is faced with a global pandemic — this strategic move by the government is an excuse to clamp down on independent reporting while flying the fake news flag.”
From American Samoa, PFF Polynesia co-chair Monica Miller says it’s disappointing to hear that the government, “whose duty it is to protect the people, are the ones to undermine their rights.”
We urge governments to continue guaranteeing the freedom and independence of media and to refrain from imposing undue restrictions on media professionals.
The Pacific Freedom Forum, PFF was founded in August 2008 as an online regional networking and article 19 Pacific monitoring group of newsroom journalists and media practitioners. The leadership of the PFF rests with senior Pacific journalists, its co-chairs, who rotate the role of Chair sub-regionally.
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Source: MEDIA FEED