24 June 1998


Agence France-Presse correspondent cannot enter Tonga

Incident details

Mike Field



(PINA/IFEX) - As reported in the IFEX alert of 24 June 1998, Mike Field, the
Agence France-Presse bureau chief based in New Zealand, continues to have
difficulty entering the Pacific Islands kingdom of Tonga. Field, a New
Zealander, applied for permission to visit the kingdom for major
celebrations marking the 80th birthday of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV on 4
July. Nevertheless, his application was declined by Police Minister Clive
Edwards, who also handles immigration matters.

**Further information to IFEX alert dated 24 June 1998**

Tonga normally allows foreign journalists to enter the kingdom freely and
issues them visas on arrival at either of the kingdom's two international
airports. However, in 1993, Field, who specialises in Pacific Islands
coverage, was told by the previous Police Minister, the Honourable
'Akau'ola, that he must apply in advance for permission to visit Tonga.
Airlines flying to the Tongan islands were also warned not to carry Field to
Tonga unless he had permission to enter the kingdom.

The Tongan action followed a series of articles Field wrote, including about
the sale of Tongan passports to foreigners and questions about the use of
proceeds from the sales. The Tongans accused Field of insulting their king.
In 1996, Field applied to enter Tonga to attend the Pacific Islands News
Association (PINA) convention and was denied permission. According to the
Tonga News Association secretary, 'Ahongalu Fusimalohi, the Tongan
authorities were on the verge of reversing their decision and allowing Field
to enter Tonga following requests from Tonga News Association and PINA. But
they changed their mind because of publicity Field gave the issue and
international protests which followed. It would have looked as if Tonga was
bowing to foreign pressure, Fusimalohi said, pointing out that Tonga is the
only Pacific Islands nation that was never colonised. Edwards later accepted
an invitation for a question and answer session with PINA delegates and
again alleged Field had insulted the king, although delegates generally
agreed he failed to substantiate the allegations. Edwards said if he allowed
Field into Tonga he would have to charge Field with criminal libel when he


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