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Regional media groups calls for independent review of Tonga’s national broadcaster

The Pacific Freedom Forum is calling on the Government in the Kingdom of Tonga to seek independent review before privatising or shutting down the national broadcaster.

“Threatening to shut down the Tonga Broadcasting Commission sends the wrong message”, says PFF Chair and veteran journalist Monica Miller.

“As a former pro-democracy reform movement, the current government should remember its roots.”

PFF says it is calling for Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva to seek an independent review from regional and international media, into allegations that commission staff are biased against his administration.

“Mr Pohiva could very well be right to allege there are old royalists in the TBC who act unethically in their reporting,” says Miller.

“But shutting down or privatising the commission is no way to prove those allegations.”

An independent review could establish what codes of ethic and conduct are in place to prevent unethical reporting – and what mechanisms are in place to protect the tax-funded broadcasting commission, says Miller.

“It is not the job of any news media to support the government of the day, but to represent the public - and they must be ethical when reporting criticism.”

Fair or not, criticism is essential to a free flow of debate in any democracy, and is guaranteed under the constitution of Tonga, as well as the country’s membership of the United Nations.

“At a time when Australia has abandoned its responsibilities to the region by cutting shortwave, it sends the wrong message for Pacific leaders to be threatening their own information services.”

Miller says the Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva was famous in opposition for asserting his right to freedom of expression despite legal threats, imprisonment and censorship.

Pohiva needs to rediscover that spirit of free speech, and a free press, guaranteed under the constitution, she says, and not let criticism affect proper governance.

It was reported earlier this week that PM Pohiva is considering legislation that would close down or sell off TBC.

Pohiva claims the national broadcaster is not being supportive of the government. LoopTonga
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