Former TBC boss defends claim interview was example of “highly unfair and partial” news

Former Tonga Broadcasting Commission (TBC) general manager Nanisē Fifita has denied claims that an interview she conducted while she was at the broadcaster was a classic example of unfair and partial news.

Fifita did not deny claims the interview was one-sided and that she failed to seek responses from those who were being attacked during the interview she hosted.

Instead she invited Kaniva News to “look at the one-sided coverage on the same (and other issues) by other media.”

“Are you looking into that as well or just picking on TBC?” she asked.

The interview in Tongan was recorded and uploaded online in 2014, but it recently became a point of heated debate and discussion among social media users, with many criticizing it for what they saw as its partiality and imbalance.

In the 42-minute Youtube clip Fifita interviewed former Prime Minister Lord Sevele regarding a Parliamentary report on how the TP$119 million loan from China was spent.

The report grew out of inquiry by a Parliamentary committee led by Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva while he was leader of the Opposition and Dr Sitīveni Halapua.

The report infuriated Lord Sevele and this showed in the way he attacked Hon. Pōhiva and Dr. Halapua during the TBC interview.

Lord Sevele believed he was being accused in the report without giving him a chance to reply.

Unfair

‘Ahongalu Fusimālohi, the former chair of the TBC board, said if he had  been chairman at the time of the interview the piece would not have been aired without the other side being given the opportunity to respond.

“If we’re talking about fair and impartial reporting then the article is neither fair nor impartial,” Fusimālohi said.

“Therefore it is a bad example of what I would call fair and impartial reporting. It is highly unfair and partial.

“Had I been Chairman at the time, I would have intervened and prevent it from being broadcast.

There are also certain parts of the interview that contains derogatory remarks about ‘Akilisi and Dr. Halapua that borders on slander and libel.”

The interview

During the interview Lord Sevele strongly criticised the Parliamentary committee.

Lord Sevele criticized the report as unjust.

At one stage in the interview Fifita interrupted and accused Pōhiva and Dr. Halapua of having a conflict of interest because they previously questioned how the Chinese loan was spent and at the same time they were also given the task of investigating it.

Hon. Pōhiva and Dr. Halapua were not featured in the interview.

Lord Sevele told Fifita Dr Halapua and Hon. Pōhiva had “lied” when they said in their report he had been to China.

“’Akilisi and Sitīveni, where did you get this lie from”, Lord Sevele asked in Tongan.

“They lied in their report.

“It is a blatant lie.”

In the interview he called on Hon. Pōhiva and Dr. Halapua to get out of Parliament and stop hiding in the House and use taxpayers’ money to create a report to intoxicate (“fakakonahi”) and defame (“fakaongoongo kovi’i”)

Sevele repeatedly referred to the duo during the interview as liars.

He downplayed the role of committee members, saying they did not understand the tender process

Lord Sevele said they were confused and lacked understanding.

Lord Sevele told Fifita the report abused and falsified Parliament and it was unfair that it came from two MPs who wanted to lead the nation.

“Get outside if you know there was work that had been done wrongly. Do not hide under the nation’s money,” the noble said in Tongan.

“These people misled the people of the nation.”

Responses

Fifita told Kaniva News: “If you toe the line that the TBC has been attacking Mr Pōhiva through news and programmes from the past, I wish to put on record how TBC had to knock back or edit many programmes sponsored by a number of individuals and groups that were very damaging to Mr Pōhiva.

“As TBC solely relies on such commercial income to finance its entire operation, it was a decision that had to be made and to refuse broadcasting of such content.

“As for the debates on social media, people have a right to express their views and I respect that.

I hope this is not a witch-hunt on TBC in effort to justify some one-sided and unsubstantiated claims!”

Fusimālohi also said: “My role as Chairman was to bring back public trust by making sure that TBC is the main medium where people keep up with current affairs and that TBC can be highly trusted and relied upon for providing accuracy, reliability and impartiality of our news coverage.

“TBC must be a public service that is associated with a broad array of public attitudes and behavior that underpin democratic principles, reflecting a communal identity at all times.

“This is what we have been lacking for quite some time because of the changing nature of Tongan politics and social behaviour.”

The main points

  • Former Tonga Broadcasting Commission (TBC) general manager Nanise Fifita has denied claims that an interview she conducted while she was at the broadcaster was a classic example of unfair and partial news.
  • Fifita did not deny claims the interview was one-sided and that she failed to seek responses from those who were being attacked during the interview she hosted.
  • Instead she invited Kaniva News to “look at the one-sided coverage on the same (and other issues) by other media.”
  • “Are you looking into that as well or just picking on TBC?” she asked.

For more information 

The interview of Lord Sevele by Nanisē Fifita

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