28 May 2003


"Taimi 'o Tonga" newspaper still banned despite Supreme Court ruling

Incident details

Kalafi Moala


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(RSF/IFEX) - On 28 May 2003, RSF protested what it called the "illegal" refusal of the Tongan government to allow copies of the newspaper "Taimi 'o Tonga" into the country, despite a 26 May Supreme Court order lifting a three-month-old ban.

RSF called on the prime minister, Prince 'Ulukalala Lavaka Ata, to respect the court's verdict that the ban was unconstitutional and to allow the paper, which is printed in New Zealand, to go on sale again. The organisation also deplored the extensive harassment of the newspaper in the past. "Taimi 'o Tonga" is Tonga's only independent media outlet and supports the local pro-democracy movement.

The day after the court ruling, some 2,000 copies of the newspaper were flown to the island state. However, customs officials at the airport in the capital, Nuku'Alofa, confiscated them, saying they had not received government orders to allow them in.

The newspaper's publisher, Kalafi Moala, who is in exile in New Zealand, said he feared the government was planning a new legal move to get around the court order and keep "Taimi 'o Tonga" out of the country. The court also suspended the government's cancellation of the newspaper's publishing licence. The newspaper's lawyer has filed a complaint for contempt of court following the airport seizure.

Moala, a Tonga-born U.S. citizen, was banned from the country in 1996 after fiercely criticising the government. He moved the newspaper's offices to Auckland, New Zealand, but continued to distribute the newspaper in the neighbouring archipelago of Tonga.


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