20 October 2004

PINA HAILS COURT RULING AS VICTORY FOR PRESS FREEDOM


Tonga's highest court has ruled that controversial amendments to media laws passed by the government in 2003 are unconstitutional, a decision hailed by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA).

On 8 October 2004, Supreme Court Justice Robin Webster ruled that the Media Operators Act and the Newspapers Act, amended in 2003, were inconsistent with Clause 7 of the Constitution of Tonga. He said the Media Operators Act, which requires all media to obtain annual licences from the government, prevented journalists from exercising freedom of the press and prevented the public from commenting freely and enjoying access to information.

On the Newspapers Act, Justice Webster ruled that it gave the government overly broad powers to determine content standards for newspapers.

Justice Webster also issued a note of warning to the media, saying that newspapers cannot publish whatever they wish since press freedom under the Constitution is not limitless. He said a newspaper "must face the consequences if it publishes material that is improper, mischievous or illegal."

PINA says the ruling is a victory for press freedom, which will allow independent publications to resume publishing in Tonga. The publisher of "Matangi Tonga," an independent monthly magazine, had stopped printing earlier this year after it was denied a licence and lost advertising revenue as a result. It now plans to resume publishing in 2005.

Read:

- Background on the Media Operators Act and Newspapers Act: http://www.cpj.org/protests/04ltrs/Tonga17feb04pl.html- Matangi Tonga: http://www.matangitonga.to/article/press/tongamedia/Comment151004.shtml- Reports on Tonga: http://www.cpj.org/attacks03/asia03/tonga.htmlhttp://www.freemedia.at/wpfr/Australasia/tonga.htm http://www.rsf.org/country-50.php3?id_mot=789&Valider=OKFor daily news on the Pacific Islands, contact PINA NIUS ONLINE: pinacd@connect.com.fj



Tonga
 
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