Senior Tonga Broadcasting Commission staffer Laumanu Petelō repeatedly clashed with Prime Minister ‘Akiliksi Pohiva during a press conference on Friday.
Petelō told the Prime Minister: “We are not your enemy.”
The Prime Minister told her to move on from that but Petelo responded instantly: “I need to state it clearly.”
The Prime Minister talked again, but Petelō interrupted and told him “we are the scapegoat” and said the TBC did not hold an ill feeling towards him.
Petelō said the Prime Minister did not want the TBC to report anything bad about him.
During a lengthy and fractious exchange, Hon. Pōhiva repeatedly asked Petelō to return to the agenda, but she kept interrupting him after he confirmed the government would review the state broadcaster’s operations.
Hon. Pōhiva said the government was in the process of reassessing the state broadcaster’s “function and roles” and they would meet to pass a resolution for the review soon.
“Radio A3Z’s history as it came to me personally was not good,” he told the conference.
“They cannot provide, support and facilitate government’s operations as it is a government’s property.”
He said there was proof the A3Z ran at a loss and there was a huge debt it might not be able to pay it back.
He said the way they reported and broadcast showed they were not independent or impartial and there was evidence of malice and hatred.
The broadcaster should support the government and facilitate government’s work, he said.
“This does not mean we have to scrutinise them, but they have to do it in the proper way,” Hon. Pōhiva said.
“If you ask me to tell you how I came up with this conclusion I have been in contact with the broadcaster for a long time.
“Every intelligent person could tell. There is nothing there to hide.”
The Prime Minister said the radio station did not need to compete with private sector media.
“We just want them to make enough profit to cover their expenses that’s it,” he said.
When Petelō was given a chance to respond during the press conference she asked the Prime Minister to give examples to support his accusations against them.
She said that at the last press conference Hon. Pōhiva identified her as a malevolent person.
“It was because you did not like the way we asked hard questions about you and asked things we thought that were important for the public to know,” Petelō said.
“I was not angry,” the Prime Minister responded; but Petelō replied: “But you said I was malevolent.”
“We are talking about facts”, Hon. Pōhiva replied, but Petelō interrupted and said she and Hon. Pōhiva had been on this for a long time and he knew the way she questioned him especially asking probing questions.
The Prime Minister stopped her and asked to not talk about it as they were talking about something which was abstract.
“Nobody knows, but I can easily tell from your face and the way you presented your questions there was anger. That’s how I looked at it. I may be wrong,” Hon. Pohiva said.
The Prime Minister invited the conference to return to the agenda and talked about something else.
Hon. Pōhiva cited a recent report by the TBC accusing him of sacking two excavator operators.
But he was cut off by Petelō, who asked: “So you did not want us to report anything that you were accused of?”
The Prime Minister instantly responded and asked her to wait until he had finished his explanation.
But when Hon. Pōhiva continued, Petelō continued speaking and said the duo did not complaint to her.
The Prime Minister again asked her to move on and leave the topic.
“It’s a trivial thing,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the radio reported the result of the Vote of No Confidence against him last month.
The station reported the result saying Hon. Pōhiva won, but at the end of the story the broadcaster aired the views of some of the people who did not like the result.
Hon. Pōhiva said that was an example of an attempt by the radio to belittle the result of a significant vote.
Petelō again interrupted, asking: “Was that bad? That’s how it supposed to be. We have to bring other people’s views.”
She said TBC journalists had a duty and were objective in their work.
The Prime Minister said the government trusted the other radio station, FM 87.5, and warned Petelo that other private businesses advertised with the station.
This was a clear indicator the TBC was not doing their job properly, he said.
Petelō said the government did not allocate a budget for the state broadcaster and the people were free to choose which broadcaster they wanted to use.
The Prime Minister again asked her to leave the topic as it should not be discussed in the conference, but Petelō instantly responded and said: “I believe it should be discussed in this meeting”.
The Prime Minister told Petelō this was an issue that should be discussed with the Manager and the board and not with her.
She eventually apologised to the Prime Minster and asked him to pardon her if she became an obstruction to him.
The Prime Minister said it was all right, but he wanted the TBC to call on the government and clarify things that were of concerns to them.
The main points
- Senior Tonga Broadcasting Commission staffer Laumanu Petelō repeatedly clashed with Prime Minister ‘Akiliksi Pōhiva during a press conference yesterday.
- Petelō told the Prime Minister: “We are not your enemy.”
- During a lengthy and fractious exchange, Hon. Pōhiva repeatedly asked Petelō to return to the agenda, but she kept interrupting him after he confirmed the government would review the state broadcaster’s operations.
- Pōhiva said the government was in the process of reassessing the state broadcaster’s “function and roles” and they would meet to pass a resolution for the review soon.
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