Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Independent review for public broadcaster – PFF

“ It is not the job of any news media to support the government of the day, but to represent the public - and they must be ethical when reporting criticism - PFF”

Biased? Tonga Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva says the public broadcaster is overly critical and not supportive of his government. Photo / Radio New Zealand

Government in the Kingdom of Tonga should seek independent review before privatising or shutting down the national broadcaster, says PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum.
“Threatening to shut down the Tonga Broadcasting Commission sends the wrong message”, says PFF Chair Monica Miller.
“As a former pro-democracy reform movement, the current government should remember it’s roots.”
Review bias
PFF is calling for Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva to seek an independent review from regional and international media, into allegations that commission staff are biased against his administration.
“Mr Pohiva could very well be right to allege there are old royalists in the TBC who act unethically in their reporting,” says Miller.
“But shutting down or privatising the commission is no way to prove those allegations.”
Ethics and independence
An independent review could establish what codes of ethic and conduct are in place to prevent unethical reporting – and what mechanisms are in place to protect the tax-funded broadcasting commission, says Miller.
“It is not the job of any news media to support the government of the day, but to represent the public - and they must be ethical when reporting criticism.”
Fair or not, criticism is essential to a free flow of debate in any democracy, and is guaranteed under the constitution of Tonga, as well as the country’s membership of the United Nations.

From royalist to disloyal? Pictured here during a disaster communications workshop supported by Japan, the Tonga state broadcaster used to suffer censorship, but now reports on issues such as corruption claims. Photo / Facebook / TBC

Wrong message
“At a time when Australia has abandoned its responsibilities to the region by cutting shortwave, it sends the wrong message for Pacific leaders to be threatening their own information services.”
Miller says the Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva was famous in opposition for asserting his right to freedom of expression despite legal threats, imprisonment and censorship.
Pohiva needs to rediscover that spirit of free speech, and a free press, guaranteed under the constitution, she says, and not let criticism affect proper governance.
Oldest constitution
Tonga has the oldest constitution in Oceania, and is one of the ten oldest constitutions in the world. Clause 7 of the Tonga constitution states:
“Freedom of the press - It shall be lawful for all people to speak write and print their opinions and no law shall ever be enacted to restrict this liberty. There shall be freedom of speech and of the press for ever but nothing in this clause shall be held to outweigh the law of slander or the laws for the protection of the King and the Royal Family.”
Under UN membership, Tonga has also pledged guarantees under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
E fa’u ha lao ke tamate’i ‘a e Letiō Tonga – Palēmia ‘Akilisi Pohiva http://nepituno.to/index.php/opinions/item/1947-e-fa-u-ha-lao-ke-tamate-i-a-e-letio-tonga-palemia-akilisi-pohiva
Monica Miller PFF Chair News Director South Seas Broadcasting American Samoa monica@southseasbroadcasting.com +6842584197
Alexander Rheeney PFF Co-Chair President Media Council PNG Papua New Guinea alexander.rheeney@outlook.com +67578045266
Bernadette H. Carreon PFF Co-Chair Palau Correspondent Guam Business carreon.bernadette@gmail.com +680779430
Netani Rika PFF Coordinator Communications Director Pacific Council of Churches Fiji netrika66@gmail.com
The Pacific Freedom Forum is a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media. We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance. In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.
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