Three Tonga Broadcasting Commission journalists suspended, reports say

    Reports said the Tonga Broadcasting Commission’s Station Manager Sētita Tu’i’onetoa, television anchors Vilisoni Tu’iniua and Salamo Fulivai have been suspended this morning.

    Tu’iniua reported their suspension in a Facebook chat group, seen by Kaniva news, but he did not respond to our request for confirmation.

    He told the group they were looking for a lawyer.

    He alleged a new PTOA (Democrats) party special TV programme launched on Television Tonga yesterday may have contributed to the reasons for their suspension. The programme was hosted by Mrs Sētita, Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa’s sister-in-law.

    During the more than 20 minutes show Mrs Sētita mentioned to former Acting Prime Minister Sēmisi Sika, the chair of the party, a status he posted on Facebook against the government’s multi-million New Road Project Policy.

    They discussed the status during the show.

    The status on January 12 read: ” The two CEOs , Infrastructure and Finance, must step up and advise baldly. Ringo [and] Balwyn […..] take action. We are at a crossroads in this community road project. A crucial decision must be made before this turns into a national crisis. We fully support upgrading roads and to move and act quickly on it but it must be delivered wisely.”

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    Former Police Minister Māteni Tapueluelu told the host the party was challenged by the Prime Minister to hold a debate on why Hon Tu’i’onetoa defected the party and joined the nobility.

    MP Tapueluelu said he had contacted the Prime Minister after the party assigned him for the debate but had yet to receive a response.

    When asked for comment this afternoon, the Chief Secretary Edgar Cocker told us to contact TBC general manager Solomone Finau.

    Attempts to contact TBC authorities were unsuccessful. The details of the journalists’ suspension are still unknown.

    As Kaniva news reported last year, the Prime Minister has advised TBC former chair Piveni Piukala to investigate the journalists after he received complaints from the public against them.

    At the time, Hon. Tu’i’onetoa 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.

    The government finally terminated Piukala’s contract in November last year.

    An official statement sent to media outlets read: “The grounds for the termination are incompetence; failure to assist the Public Enterprises to act accordingly with its principal objective; acting in bad faith, and failure to follow the due process in appointing of CEO for Tonga Broadcasting Commission.”

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