Tonga | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Tonga

Tonga

Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

44

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

17

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

11

Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, the government has pushed heavily this year to limit press freedom. The government attempted to ban the import and distribution of the independent Taimi o' Tonga newspaper several times in 2003, alleging that the paper aims to overthrow the government. The newspaper is owned by Kaliafi Moala, a Tongan with American citizenship, and is produced in New Zealand. In February, officials banned the newspaper after it reported on corruption allegations involving the government and royal family. After the Supreme Court ruled in May that prior bans directed toward the newspaper were unconstitutional, King Taufaahau Tupou IV in December signed constitutional amendments to tighten press laws that had been approved by the parliament in October. The Newspaper Act requires all publications in Tonga to be licensed by the government, while the Media Operators' Act restricts foreign ownership of media to 20 percent. Since then, the independent quarterly news magazine Matangi Tonga and Kele'a, a newspaper owned by a pro-democracy member of parliament, have also been denied licenses. In October, 6,000 people marched on the legislative assembly to protest against the constitutional changes that would limit media freedom and give more powers to the king. Protest marches are rare in this kingdom of 104,000 citizens; the last was in 1991. Despite the recent closures and denial of licenses, other public and private media continue to operate, though the state broadcast media practice self-censorship.