Government trying to intimidate state broadcaster, Edwards claims

The lawyer for sacked Tonga Broadcasting Commission General Manager Nanisē Fifita claims the government is trying to intimidate Tongan Broadcasting Commission staff.

“The message is quite clear,” lawyer Clive Edwards said.

“If you don’t do what we tell and you publish the news that we don’t want you to publish, we are going to sack you.”

Fifita’s contract was recently renewed by the TBC board, but the Minister of Public Enterprises, Hon. Poasi Tei , revoked the decision, saying he had the final say on the matter.

Fifita was forced out of her position amidst claims by Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva that the TBC was hostile to his government.

However, Edwards said Fifita had a right of renewal clause in her contract and if the board carried out the sacking then legal action could follow.

Edwards said the government could not ignore employment contracts.

As Kaniva News reported last night, Fifita’s case is one of only three disputes involving senior media figures and the government.

Concern is mounting about the future of the media in Tonga.

Veteran journalist and vice-president of the Tongan media council Pesi Fonua told radio New Zealand the governments’ moves endangered the future of the state broadcaster.

“Look at the position of Tonga Broadcasting Commission during the past few years which is it has been struggling to keep the service going and this is what is like a final blow,” he said.

“I think it’s becoming clear that the prime minister is trying to control the Tonga Broadcasting Commission.”

Pita Moala, a director of Tonga Broadcasting Commission’s Board, told Radio Tonga News it was crucial that laws were enforced to uphold freedom and independence of the media and journalists.

Moala said the media in the kingdom was free, but there were factors that hindered their role.

The main points

  • The lawyer for sacked Tonga Broadcasting Commission General Manager Nanisē Fifita claims the government is trying to intimidate Tonga Broadcasting Commission staff.
  • “The message is quite clear,” lawyer Clive Edwards said.
  • “If you don’t do what we tell and you publish the news that we don’t want you to publish, we are going to sack you.”
  • Fifita’s contract was recently renewed by the TBC board, but the Minister of Public Enterprises, Hon. Poasi Tei, revoked the decision, saying he had the final say on the matter.

For more information

Turmoil in media industry as three senior leaders dismissed 

Lawyer says Tonga govt intimidating broadcaster

Tonga PM’s overhaul of TBC triggers media concerns

Journalists should dismiss fear from their practice in order to pursue the principles of freedom and ethics of the media

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