Journalist’s suspension not an attack on media freedom, PM Pohiva’s office says

    Apparently stung by media criticism of his part in the suspension of Tonga Broadcasting Commission journalist Viola Ulakai, Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s office said today his action was not an attack on media freedom.

    In a statement released this afternoon, the Prime Minister’s office said media operators inside the kingdom and abroad had levelled ill-informed criticism at Hon. Pohiva for expressing his disappointment at Mrs Ulakai’s claim that she was asking for a press conference on behalf of the Tonga Media Council.

    “The TMC has denied Mrs Ulakai’s claims, noting serious misconduct and breach of the ethical code of basic journalism,” the Prime Minister’s office said.

    It said the Media Council had confirmed that the Tonga Broadcasting Commission was not a financial member of the TMC, and therefore Mrs Ulakai’s claim that she was a Director of the TMC is false.

    “It is a universally accepted principle that journalists must not obtain or seek to obtain information through misrepresentation or subterfuge,” the statement from the office said.

    “Deception in journalism is unprofessional and morally wrong.”

    It is believed Mrs Ulakai’s suspension followed a recommendation to the board by the Minister of Public Enterprises, Hon. Poasi Tei, who in turn was acting on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

    Earlier this month Hon. Pohiva said he suspected Ulakai of acting as a mouthpiece for his political opponents.

    It is understood the government believes Ulakai’s style of interview and requests for press conferences were aimed at discrediting the government and not producing fair and impartial news reports.

    However, yesterday Mrs Ulakai told Radio New Zealand International that she had not been suspended and that she remained a Radio Tonga and Television manager.

    She continued to claim that she was acting as a member of the Media Council.

    “I haven’t done anything wrong. Everything that I did was in the law and also according to our policy,” she told RNZI.

    Criticism of the Prime Minister has come from across the Pacific.

    The Samoan Observer quoted veteran local journalist Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia as saying Hon. Pohiva’s actions were surprising given that the Prime Minister had once been jailed for leaking information to the media.

    Tongan publisher Kalafi Moala took the same line, declaring that Hon. Pohiva had breached media freedom.

    However, not all Tongan media have been so critical of Hon. Pohiva’s actions.

    Kaniva News has argued that many people will see the TBC and Mrs Ulakai as having politicised their jobs and these are serious matters that need to be dealt with.  We have argued that the TBC needs to recognise and deal with the often very negative public perceptions of bias in its news and current affairs reporting.

    The Nuku’alofa Times said the Tongan media needs to shape up and be on par with the rest of the media in the region and the world at large.

    “What transpired between the Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva and long-time Tonga Broadcasting Commission journalist Viola Ulakai must be a lesson for everyone in the media industry in Tonga,” an opinion piece written by Ileisi Tora said.

    “The Tongan media needs to shape up and practise to be fair, factual and balanced.”

    The main points

    • Apparently stung by media criticism of his part in the suspension of Tonga Broadcasting Commission journalist Viola Ulakai, Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s office said today his action was not an attack on media freedom.
    • The Prime Minister’s office said media operators inside the kingdom and abroad had levelled ill-informed criticism at Hon. Pohiva for expressing his disappointment at Mrs Ulakai’s claim that she was asking for a press conference on behalf of the Tonga Media Council.
    • “The TMC has denied Mrs Ulakai’s claims, noting serious misconduct and breach of the ethical code of basic journalism,” the Prime Minister’s office said.
    • “It is a universally accepted principle that journalists must not obtain or seek to obtain information through misrepresentation or subterfuge,” the statement from the office said.

    For more information

    Viola Ulakai suspended from Radio and TV Tonga the day after PM questions her integrity (Kaniva News)

    Tonga TV programme manager upsets government (RNZI)

    Radio Tonga manager rebuts PMs gripe (RNZI)

    Media needs to shape up (Nuku’alofa Times)

    Tongan Government Suspends Journalist Over ‘Hard Questions’ (Samoan Observer)

    Prime minister violates media freedom over questions (Pacific Media Watch)

    Clarifications for queries raised in the media (Ministry of Information and Communication)

    READ MORE

    Bringing fairness to Tonga’s state broadcaster

    1 COMMENT

    1. Koe’uhi ko e ngaahi fakaanga mei he mītiá ʻi heʻene fekauʻaki mo hono tuli fakataimi ʻo e faiongoongo ʻa e Fakamafolalea Tongá kuo pehē ai ʻe he ʻŌfisi ʻo e Palēmiá ʻAkilisi Pōhiva naʻe ʻikai ko haʻane ʻohofi e tauʻatāina ʻo e mītiá.

      Pehē ʻe he ʻŌfisi ʻo e Palēmiá kuo hanga ʻe he ngaahi tufakiʻanga ongoongo ʻi he puleʻanga fakatuʻí mo muli ʻo fakaangaʻi hala ʻa Pōhiva ʻi heʻene fakahā ʻene mamahi kia Ulakaí tuʻunga heʻene kole ki ha konifelenisi fakafaiongoongo maʻa e Tonga Media Council.

      Kuo fakaʻikaiʻi ʻe he TMC e lau ʻa Ulakaí, mo fakamahino ʻene ʻulungāanga taʻe taau mo maumauʻi ʻa e ngaahi tuʻutuʻuni tefito ʻo e faiongoongó, ko e lau ia mei he ʻŌfisi ʻo e Palēmiá.

      Ko e moʻoni ia kuo tali fakamāmani lahi kuopau ke ʻoua naʻa maʻu pe kumi fakamatala ʻa e kau faiongoongó ʻaki hano talahala’i pe toi ʻo ʻikai ke ne tala ko hai ʻa e mītia ʻokú ne fakafofongaʻí.

      Neongo foki ʻeni kuo fakahā ʻe Ulakai ʻoku kei ngāue pe ia pea ʻoku ʻikai ha lao mo ha tuʻutuʻuni ia ke makatuʻunga ai hano tuli ia hangē ko e faleʻi ko ia kuo fai ki he poate fakamafolaleá.

    LEAVE A REPLY

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here