Locke protests ban on independent Tongan paper

Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke has sent a message of protest to the Tongan Prime Minister over the banning of the Taimi ‘o Tonga newspaper.

“Outlawing the only independent newspaper in the country is a huge blow to the emergence of democracy in Tonga,” said Mr Locke.

“For 14 years the paper has been a thorn in the side of the government, exposing official corruption and providing space to dissenting views.

“The public have lapped it up. Taimi ‘o Tonga has a larger readership than any of the state-run papers.

“Yet the government claims its ‘standard of journalism’ is unacceptable. The Minister of Customs also argued it is a “foreign” paper — even though its editor, journalists and contributors are all Tongan.

“The real reason for the ban is the growing strength of the Tongan democracy movement. In the last elections most Tongan voted for pro-democracy candidates, although the King still rules because there are only nine elected seats in the 30-member parliament.

“I hope our government also makes a strong protest to the Tongan government over the banning of this newspaper,” said Keith Locke. “The banning of Taimi ‘o Tonga is a big setback not only to the people in Tonga but also to Tongans in New Zealand.”