Nanisē Fifita’s dismissal was legal; government does not persecute media, TBC chair says

The government dismissed former Tonga Broadcasting Commission CEO Nanisē Fifita on legal grounds and not as an attempt to persecute media, the new chairman of TBC said.

‘Ahongalu Fusimalohi said the government has the right to terminate Fifita’s job according to the law governing the selection and appointments of its chief executive officers.

He said the law was updated in 2015 to require that all government chief executive officer posts must be publicly advertised and as many applicants as possible attracted before the selection of the successful candidate.

The government had fired Fifita based on good reasons and not because the government was trying to obstruct media freedom, Fusimalohi said.

In Tongan he said: “Koe mo’oni kuo tuku ‘ehe poate ‘a Nanise ki tu’a meihe ngaue ka ‘ i he ‘uhinga kehe ia meihe pehee tokua ‘oku feinga e pule’anga ke fakafaingata’a’iai e tau’ataina e ongoongo.”

Fusimalohi vehemently denied reports on local media quoting him as saying the decision by the government to dismiss Fifita was illegal. He said he did not say that.

He said the Public Enterprise Act stipulated the Minister of Public Enterprise must agree in principle to the person who had been chosen to take up the job before formalising their appointment.

Fusimalohi said the TBC board disregarded this part of the law and went ahead and renewed Fifita’s contract without seeking the Minster’s consent.

It is understood the renewal of Fifitaʻs contract by the former TBC Board chairman relied on a clause on her contract that said it would automatically be renewed once it expired.

Fusimalohi said his Board had no choice but to terminate Fifita’s contract as it would not be “legally binding” to keep her while at the same time the government disagreed with her appointment.

The government and sacked TBC boss saga has attracted international interest.

The president of the Public Media Alliance, Paul Thompson, said his organisation had been following the moves in Tonga.

Thompson reportedly said he wrote to the Prime Minister and the King of Tonga asking them to protect the integrity of the TBC.

The main points

  • The government dismissed former Tonga Broadcasting Commission CEO Nanisē Fifita on legal grounds and not as an attempt to persecute media, the new chairman of TBC said.
  • ‘Ahongalu Fusimalohi said the government has the right to terminate Fifita’s job according to the law governing the selection and appointments of its chief executive officers.
  • He said the law was updated in 2015 to require that all government chief executive officer posts must be publicly advertised.
  • The government and sacked TBC boss saga has attracted international interest.

For more information

Bringing fairness to Tonga’s state broadcaster

Pohiva declares war on TBC, declares it an obstacle and constraint on gov’t

Government trying to intimidate state broadcaster, Edwards claims

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