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Daily "Times of Tonga" banned for criticising government


(RSF/IFEX) - On 27 February 2003, RSF protested the Tongan government's ban on the privately-owned twice-weekly newspaper "Taimi 'o Tonga" ("Times of Tonga"), which recently denounced corruption in the country and a decision by King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV to build a cigarette factory.


"The government's ban earlier this week on importing the paper from New Zealand, where it is published, threatens the right of Tongans to receive independent news," the organisation said, while calling on the prime minister, Prince 'Ulukalala Lavaka Ata, to reverse the decision and allow the paper into the country.

According to the Associated Press, Kalafi Moala, the paper's publisher, who was deported to New Zealand in 1995, learned of the ban in a letter from Tongan Customs Chief Siosiua 'Utoikamanu. He said he would appeal the decision, which has forced the publisher to lay off six of the paper's eight Tonga-based journalists.

Supporters of the king circulated a petition in January 2002 calling for a ban on the "Times of Tonga". In March, the paper's editor was charged with defaming the king (see IFEX alert of 5 March 2002).

"They've been trying to shut us down for 14 years and this ban definitely puts the paper under threat of closure," said Moala, who set up the paper's headquarters in Auckland, New Zealand.


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