Law to control internet access does not breach freedom of speech and right to privacy, says Attorney General

In picture: Acting Attorney General ʻAminiasi Kefu (left) and Deputy Prime Minister Hon Siaosi Sovaleni.


Tonga’s Attorney General Office has denied accusations that the new Communications Law breaches citizens’ rights to free speech and privacy.

The new law will give the Ministry of Communication the right to tell communication companies in Tonga to filter their customers’ internet to prevent children from accessing sexual images.

Customers could tell communication companies to remove the filter if they felt their house was safe and contained no children, Deputy Prime Minister Hon Siaosi Sovaleni told the House.

However the Attorney General’s Office was responding this week  to allegations raised in the media that the new law would breach Tongan citizen’s legal rights to freedom of expression and the right to privacy.

The Office said freedom of expression and the rights to protect privacy were protected under existing communication laws and clause seven of the kingdom’s 1875 constitution.

It said these rights could only be removed if the courts so decide after considering an application from a legal authority.

The Attorney General has stressed that the Communication Law (2015) and the existing communication acts do not affect their freedom of speech and right to privacy.

The Attorney General’s office said it was collating information for the new laws which was recently passed by Parliament before being presented to the king for His signature.

After the king signs the law the government will announce when the new communication law will be made effective.

The new communication law

The Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni, who is also the Minister of Communication told the House the new communication law was an updated version of the Communication Law (2000).

He said the new law only proposed giving the power to block websites that might threaten children and adults.

Sections 100-103 of the new Communication Law deals with educational content, national security and political and controversial content.

They deal with how the king and the government can grant applications to access material for educational use. These sections are in the current communication regulations as sections 82-84.

Hon. Sovaleni said the new law gave the Ministry the power to order communication companies to install filters which block websites containing sexual images. This is being done to protect children from pornography.

Hon. Sovaleni said if Tongan Telecommunications and Digicel had this authority they would install mandatory filtering on their customers’ internet, but with certain terms and conditions.

He said the new law stipulated the ages of customers to whom communication companies can give internet access.

Hon. Sovaleni told the House the new law would give power to the Ministry and communication companies the right to take down websites if people complained they were a threat to security.

The main points

  • Tonga’s Attorney General Office has denied accusations that the new Communications Law breaches citizens’ rights to free speech and privacy.
  • The new law will give the Ministry of Communication the right to tell communication companies in Tonga to filter their customers’ internet to prevent children from accessing sexual images.
  • The Attorney General’s Office was responding to allegations raised in the media that the new law would breach Tongan citizen’s rights to freedom of expression and right to privacy.
  • The Office said freedom of expression and the rights to protect privacy were protected under existing communication laws and clause seven of the kingdom’s 1875 constitution.

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