Tonga has risen six places in the 2019 Reporters Sans frontiers press freedom rankings.
Tonga now ranks 45th out of 180 countries, up from 51st place last year.
The kingdom’s lowest score was 66th in 2013.
Its highest was 33rd in 2016.
Last year Tonga dropped two places on the RSF list.
RSF said the re-election of the Democrats in 2017 was accompanied by growing tension between the government and journalists.
This year the international journalists’ body repeated claims about politicians suing media outlets and journalists censoring their work.
Last year Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva told the fifth Pacific Media summit in Nuku’alofa that his government was committed to freedom of the media.
“It is very important that we are all empowered, the media and government alike,” Hon. Pōhiva said.
However, he said freedom came with responsibilities and the law should not be violated.
The latest report on levels of freedom around the world from the US-based Freedom House lists Tonga as free, with a score of 79/100, with subsidiary rankings of 2/7 for political rights and civil liberties. These traditionally include freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In its last report specifically on press freedom in Tonga, the kingdom was ranked 30/100, with 100 being the least free.
RSF Pacific rankings
Elsewhere in the Pacific, there have been some improvements in this year’s RSF rankings, but critical problems remain for journalists.
Samoa has remained at 22nd place, but RSF warned that the country was in danger of losing its status as a regional press freedom model. RSF cited criticisms by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of social media and local journalists. Last year he threatened to ban social media.
Despite continued concerns about the country’ draconian media laws, Fiji rose five places to 52nd in this year’ rankings. RSF said journalists faced a hostile legal environment. It described the independence of the Media Industry Development Authority as questionable.
Papua New Guinea rose 15 places to 38th, but serious problems remained. RSF said journalists were exposed to intimidation, direct threats, censorship, prosecution and bribery attempts. The situation was all the more precarious because the media groups they worked for rarely defended them when they were under attack.
The main points
- Tonga has risen six places in the 2019 Reporters Sans frontiers press freedom rankings.
- Tonga now ranks 45th out of 180 countries, up from 51st place last year.
- The kingdom’s lowest score was 66th in 2013.
For more information
Reporters Sans frontiers
Tongan PM reaffirms commitment to media freedom