PM Tu‘i‘onetoa ‘recommends’ three TBC journalists be suspended pending investigation

Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa has advised Tonga Broadcasting Commission chair Piveni Piukala to investigate three journalists after he received complaints from the public against them.

The Commission’s Studio Manager Setita Tu’i’onetoa, television anchors Vilisoni Tu’iniua and Salamo Fulivai are the subject of the investigation.

Hon. Pōhiva said the part of the investigation process which was taken by his office against one of the trio had been nearly completed.

The Prime Minister said he believed the process could take longer than expected, but he did not explain why.

He said it was the duty of Piukala to process the complaints after they were lodged with the government, the main shareholder of TBC.

“If he did not do that than that’s another issue to be addressed,” Hon Pōhiva told Kaniva news in Tongan.

Piukala said he will update us when he returns to Tonga this morning.

The complaints included one which was lodged by ousted cabinet minister ‘Etuate Lavulavu.

As we reported last month, Lavulavu wrote to TBC General Manager Solomone Finau demanding he suspends his news room staff and station manager.

Lavulavu wanted to investigate information he described in Tongan as falsified, incomplete, untruthful and invalid.

He accused the national radio and television service of not giving him a chance to respond to accusations against him. He said the rules of natural justice had not been followed.

Lavulavu claimed an incriminating audio recording of him, parts of which were broadcast on Television Tonga’s news, was doctored and twisted to discredit him.

The TBC news story, which was also carried by Setita on her Facebook page, alleged that  Lavulavu manipulated members of parliament before  the People’s Party won the premiership election and formed the government.

It also alleged that Lavulavu had requested the government to reward him, for his part in establishing the People’s Party and to approve an application to lease the plot of land on which the government flat he is renting is situated.

Lavulavu vehemently denied the allegations and said he did not make any requests to the government for rewards for the advice he gave the coalition parties before they won the premiership election and formed the new government.

As Kaniva news has also reported, Setita has described Lavulavu’s complaint using the Tongan word “fakanāfala”- a word coined from cricket for the hit made by a batsman who has not made sure of his target.

She told us TBC has consulted two lawyers before she released the news.

“We are not prepared to agree to the terms of Lavulavu’s offer and if Lavulavu files proceedings, we will defend ourselves,” she said.

“The news was clear of breaking any laws of the government of Tonga and the news did not breach any of TBC’s policies and regulations.”

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