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A newspaper editor charged with sedition and criminal defamation by the royal Tongan regime has been honoured with the 2007 Pacific Media Freedom Award.

Tavake Fusimalohi, the embattled editor of pro-democracy newspaper "Kele'a", won the award, offered by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), for his fight to ensure "the people of Tonga know what is really happening despite all the efforts by the government to try to silence him," said John Lamani, president of the Media Association of Solomon Islands (MASI.)

Fusimalohi is one of three Tongan pro-democracy journalists facing sedition charges and jail terms amid a crackdown on the media following a deadly protest last year, which led the government to declare a state of emergency. Rioting broke out on 16 November 2006 in the capital Nuku'alofa after the Legislative Assembly, due to adjourn for the year, had made no progress on its pledges to advance democracy in the government.

"We were being targeted because since the events of 16 November, we are still the only outspoken paper against the government," Fusimalohi told Radio Zealand International.

Fusimalohi is a founder and former executive director of PINA and was a long-time general manager of the government-owned Tonga Broadcasting Commission before becoming editor of "Kele'a".

The award was presented during a PINA convention in the Solomon Islands. Fusimalohi was invited to speak at the conference but because of the charges against him he is not permitted to leave Tonga.

See: for the full story.

(29 May 2007)

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