Posted: 24-Aug-2020 11:41 AM


The idea of regulating the media is one of the most controversial issues in modern day democracies, and much of it is alluded to the expansion of mass communication especially the internet. There is a contradiction upon the notion of regulating something that is meant to be free, hence why?

Since the 15th century the transformation of text into the printing press and book production served a wide range of information including research, studies, innovations, technologies, and ideologies available to the public. People began to be informed of current events, new ideas, new technologies, and new developments around the world. Eventually, in Western Europe the church and state became increasingly interested in the content of what was being published and shared to the public. Thus they began to regulate the press by introducing licenses for all printers, requirements for church authorities advance approval of text and materials, export and imports of books were controlled, and in some countries books were banned. Yet, the greatest enemy of the church and the state was not the press, instead it was the view of dissent and the deviation from the norms created by the church and state. The church and state feared that the public’s access to information would diminish their power and influence over the people. Media regulations were initiated out of fear rather than reason.

In the early 1600s in Italy Galileo conducted experiments that would later be known as the Copernican Theory. In his book Copernicus it set out to prove that the earth and all other planets revolves around the sun and that the earth is not the center of the universe. This would go against everything the Catholic Church had claimed that the earth was the center of the universe. Fearing that this assertion threatened the Catholic Church’s primacy the Pope had Galileo tried before they even examined whether his research was true or not. He was imprisoned and forced to revoke his statement and discredit all his studies. But Galileo knew that the truth of the matter could not be suppressed forever.

Tonga is no stranger to these events in fact certain accords of press reprisal by the state were evident in our country’s modern government. In the infancy of our constitution the King Tupou I entrusted the government to his friend Rev. Shirley Baker. A monthly newsletter Niu Vakai published by Robert Hanslip provided public information that criticised Baker’s ambitions and conduct of the affairs of the Tongan government. In response Baker set out laws to punish Hanslip and so brought about the Libel Act and the Sedition Act in 1882.

In recent years coupled by the development of mass communication the people of Tonga had access to more information through the radio, newspapers, magazines, television, and internet. But with every communications improvement in the country the government’s regulations became tighter. In 1982 the Late Prime Minister Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva began a weekly radio program on Radio Tonga called the Matalafo Laukai. The program invited well known Tongan scholars, academia, and church leaders to discuss issues concerning the welfare of the country. The program set out to inform people about the economic situation, the taxation system, the social injustice, and the distribution of wealth in the country. By 1984 Matalafo Laukai was banned by Cabinet and Akilisi was dismissed from the public service. He took legal actions against the government for unlawful dismissal and won. In part of the ruling of Chief Justice Geoffrey Martin stated that Akilisi was dismissed because he was a thorn in the side of government alluded to the views expressed on his radio program, it was a decision done with malice and in bad faith.

In 1996 Kalafi Moala and Filokalafi ‘Aka’ola of the Taimi ‘o Tonga newspaper together with ‘Akilisi Pohiva were imprisoned for an article that informed the public of a proposal to Parliament to impeach the Minister of Justice. They were sentenced to 30 days of imprisonment for contempt of the Legislative Assembly. But after 27 days they applied for Habeas Corpus based on constitutional grounds in which the Chief Justice ordered their immediate release and that the allegations held against them fell outside the terms of the constitution and where the requirements of a fair trial was not met.

During the period of 1990 to 2000 more and more court case appeared which involved the government and many journalists and media publications. Thus, in 2003 the government set out more and more strict laws and regulations on the media. The government introduced the Newspaper Act 2003, the Media Operators Act 2003, and the Constitution Amendment Act 2003.

Prior to the Constitution Amendment Act 2003, Clause 7, stated:

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 defamation, official secrets, or the laws for the protection of the King and the Royal Family.

The Constitution Amendment Act 2003 added the following provisions:

(2) It shall be lawful, in addition to the exceptions set out in sub-clause (1), to enact such laws as are considered necessary or expedient in the public interest, national security, public order, morality, cultural traditions of the Kingdom, privileges of the Legislative Assembly and to provide for contempt of Court and the commission of any offence.

(3) It shall be lawful to enact laws to regulate the operation of any media.

Again these legislations and regulations were challenged by the media. At most the results became more unfavourable for the government while incurring greater tensions in the public. Whenever the government moves to put more control on what people write, say, or think the more it backfires.

Today the government has announced the COMMUNICATIONS (INFRINGEMENT NOTICE REGIME) DECLARATION 2020 which indicates penalties for infringements under the Communications Act 2015. The most concerning part of this regulation lies in section 24 Publication – Unlawful publication of Sensitive Information. It is a dangerous regulation whereby there is no clear definition of what is sensitive, how do we determine what is sensitive, and who determines whether a piece of information is sensitive or not? Any information could be sensitive to any person at any particular time. This would be a serious challenge on the rights to free press as guaranteed by the constitution. 

Although, every media publication are self-regulated with journalistic standards and ethics they are bound to protect their credibility, integrity, and the quality of information they produce in a competitive media industry. The purpose of regulating the media is to: 1) manage all forms of communication for effective quality communications 2) protection of public order and justice 3) protection of individual and sectional rights that may be harmed by unregulated media 4) promote development of communication and innovation 5) promote access, freedom to communicate, diversity and culture as chosen by the people themselves 6) Maintain conditions for effective operation of free markets in media services, especially competition and access, protection of consumers, stimulating innovation and expansion.

It is very often that regulating the media conceals other underlying purposes especially the interests of the state. Therefore, it is important to understand that there is nothing more important to a democracy than a well- informed electorate.



Ko e fakakaukau ko ia ki hono pule’i ‘o e mitia ko e taha ia ha ngaahi fakakaukau ‘oku talanga’i lahi ‘i he ngaahi fa’unga fakatemokalati ‘o e ‘aho ni, pea ‘oku kaunga tonu ki he fakalakalaka ‘i he fetu’utaki mo e ma’u fakamatala kae tautau tefito ki he ‘initaneti. ‘Oku ‘i he tu’unga fehangahangai ‘a e fakakaukau ke tau pule’i ha me’a ‘oku totonu ke tau’ataina, pea ‘oku fehu’ia leva ko e ha nai hano ‘uhinga?

‘I he senituli 15 ne nga’unu ai ‘a e fa’u tohi ki hono paaki pea mo tufaki ‘o e ngaahi tohi ‘o kau ai hono tufaki ki he kakai ‘a e ngaahi fakatotolo fakaako, fakatotolo fakasaienisi, ngaahi ‘ilo fo’ou, ngaahi tekinolosia fo’ou, mo e ngaahi fakakaukau fo’ou. Na’e malava ai ‘a e kakai ke nau ma’u fakamatala ‘o fekau’aki mo ha ngaahi me’a ‘oku hoko, ngaahi fakakaukau ‘oku fo’ou, ngaahi tekinolosia fo’ou, pea mo e ngaahi fakalakalaka fo’ou ‘oku hoko ‘i mamani. Ne a’u ki ha tu’unga ‘i ‘Iulope ne hu mai ai ‘a e siasi mo e pule’anga ke nau tokanga ki he ngaahi fakamatala ‘oku pulusi pea tufaki kihe kakai. Koia na’e fokotu’u ai ha ngaahi tu’utu’uni ke pule’i ‘aki ‘ae fakamatala pea moe fetu’utaki ‘aki hono tu’utu’uni ke laiseni ‘a e ngaahi me’a paaki kotoa ki he pule’anga, kuo pau ke sivisivi’i foki ‘e he siasi ‘a e ngaahi fakamatala ‘oku paaki kimu’a pea toki tufaki, pea ko e hu atu mo e hu mai ko ia ‘o e ngaahi tohi ki he fonua na’e pule’i mo ia, ‘o a’u pe ki he ngaahi fonua ‘e ni’ihi na’e tapui ‘aupito pe hu mai ‘a e tohi ki ai. Ka ko e fili lahi taha na’e fehangahangai mo e siasi mo e pule’anga ne ‘ikai ko e fa’u tohi mo e tufaki ‘o e fakamatala, ka ko e fakakaukau ko ia ‘e mavahe kakai mei he fatunga motu’a mo e tukufakaholo ‘a ia na’e ohi ‘e he siasi mo e pule’anga ki ha akenga fo’ou. Na’e ‘i ai ‘a e taailiili ‘i he siasi mo e pule’anga ko e lahi ange ‘ilo fo’ou ‘oku tufaki ki he kakai te ne uesia ai hona mafai ke pule’i ‘a e kakai. Ko e fakakaukau ki hono pule’i ‘o e mitia na’e makatu’unga ia ‘i he taailiili ‘a e siasi mo e pule’anga, na’e ‘ikai ke makatu’unga ia ha ‘uhinga lelei.

‘I he ngaahi ta’u 1600 ‘i Itali ne ‘i ai ‘ae ngaahi fakatotolo ‘a Kalileo ne ‘iloa ko e Copernican Theory. ‘I he tohi na’a ne fa’u koe Copernicus na’a ne fakaha ai ‘ene fakatotolo ‘o ‘ilo ko e fo’i mamani pea mo e ngaahi palanite ‘oku nau vilo takai he la’aa, pea ko mamani ‘oku ‘ikai ko e senita ia ‘o e ‘univeesi. Na’e fepaki ‘a e ‘ilo fo’ou ko ‘eni pea mo e me’a na’e tui ki ai ‘a e siasi Katolika ‘o taku ko e fo’i mamani ‘oku senita he ‘univeesi. Na’e manavahe ‘a e siasi telia na’a uesia ‘e he fakamatala ko ‘eni ‘a e tu’unga falala’anga ‘o e siasi ‘i he sosaieti pea ne fekau ai ‘e he Tu’i Tapu ke fakamaau’i ‘a Kalileo neongo ‘oku te’eki ke nau fekumi pe ko e mo’oni nai pe ko e loi ‘ene fakamatala. Ne tauhi pilisone ai ‘a e tangata ni pea na’e fekau ke ne fakafoki ‘ene fakamatala na’e fai pea fakata’e’aonga’i ‘ene ngaahi fakatotolo. Ka na’e ‘osi mahino pe ia kia Kalileo ko e mo’oni he ‘ikai lava ia ke tanu ‘o ta’engata. ‘Aho ni kuo tau ako pea fakamo’oni ki he ngaue na’e fai ‘e Kalileo.

‘Oku ‘ikai ke sola ‘a Tonga ni ia ki he ngaahi me’a ni pea na’e ‘osi fou mo Tonga ni ‘i he halanga tatau, ‘o e feinga ko ia ‘a e pule’anga ke ne pule’i ‘a e fetu’utaki mo e tufaki ‘o e fakamatala. ‘I he kamakamata mai ‘o e Konisitutone ‘o Tonga ne fakafalala ‘a e Tama Tu’i Tupou I ki hono kaungame’a fafale ko Faifekau Shirley Baker ke ne tokanga’i ‘a e Pule’anga. Na’e ‘i ai ‘a e nusipepa fakamahina na’e ‘iloa ko e Niu Vakai ko e pepa ‘a Robert Hanslip ‘a ia na’a ne fakaanga’i lahi ‘a e ngaue ‘a Baker pea mo ‘ene ngaahi nga’unu fakapolitikale na’e fai ‘i he Pule’anga ‘o Tonga. Na’e fatu leva ‘e Baker ‘a e Lao kihe Angatu’u pea mo e Lao ki he Lau’ikovi ‘i he 1882 ke fakafe’atunga’i ‘aki ‘a e paaki mo e tufaki fakamatala ‘a Robert Hanslip mo e Niu Vakai.

Ka ‘i he ngaahi ta’u kimui ni mai ‘i he fakalakalaka ‘a e fetu’utaki ‘i Tonga ni ‘o fakafou ‘i he letio, nusipepa, makasini, televisone, pea mo e ‘initaneti na’e toe faingofua ange ma’u fakamatala ‘a e kakai Tonga. Ka ko e ngaahi fakalakalaka kotoa ‘i he sekitoa fakamatala na’e to e ‘asili ange mamafa ‘o e ngaahi tu’utu’uni ‘a e pule’anga ki he mitia. ‘I he ta’u 1982 ne fokotu’u ai ‘e he ‘Eiki Palemia Malolo kuo ne pekia Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva ‘a e polokalama letio fakauike na’e ‘iloa ko e Matalafo Laukai. Ne fakaafe’i ‘a e kakai mataotao faka’akatemika ‘o e fonua pea mo e kau taki lotu ke nau talanga’i ‘a e ngaahi ‘isiu lalahi ‘o e fonua. Ko e konga ‘o e ngaahi ‘isiu na’e fakaha ‘e he polokalama ki he kakai ‘o e fonua na’e kau ai ‘a e tu’unga faka’ekonomika, ko e ‘uhinga ‘o e tukuhau, ko e fakamaau totonu, pea moe vahevahe ‘o e koloa ‘a e fonua. ‘I he ta’u 1984 na’e tu’utu’uni ai ‘a e Kapineti ke tamate’i ‘a e polokalama letio pea tuli mo ‘Akilisi mei he ngaue fakapule’anga. Na’e faka’ilo ‘e ‘Akilisi ‘a e Pule’anga ki hono tuli ta’efakalao ia pea na’a ne ikuna ‘a e hopo ko ia. ‘I he konga ‘o e tu’utu’uni ‘a e Tu’i Fakamaau Lahi ‘o e ‘aho koia Geoffrey Martin na’a ne pehe ai na’e tuli ‘a ‘Akilisi ko e ‘uhi ko e ‘ikai ke sai’ia ‘a e pule’anga ki he ngaahi fakamatala na’e fakaha ‘i he polokalama letio, na’e fai ‘a e tu’utu’uni koi a ‘aki ‘a e loto taaufehi’a mo angakovi.

‘I he 1996 na’e puke foki ai ‘a Kalafi Moala mo Filokalafi ‘Akau’ola fakataha pea mo ‘Akilisi Pohiva ‘o fakahu pilisone ko ‘enau fakaha ki he kakai ‘i he nusipepa Taimi ‘o Tonga ‘a e fokotu’u ke faka’ilo Faka-Fale Alea ‘a e Minisita Lao. Na’e tu’utu’uni ai ke fakahu pilisone kinautolu he ‘aho ‘e 30 ko ‘enau maumau’i ‘a e ngeia ‘o e Fale Alea. Hili ha ‘aho ‘e 27 ‘enau ‘i pilisone na’a nau fakahu ‘a e tohi Hepease Koapuse (Habeas Corpus) ki he Fakamaau’anga Lahi pea tu’utu’uni ai ‘a e Fakamaau’anga ke tukuanga kinautolu makatu’unga ‘i ha ngaahi ‘uhinga fakakonisitutone ko e ‘uhi he ko e ngaahi me’a ne tukuaki’i kinautolu ki ai ‘oku ‘ikai ke kaunga ia ki he Kupu 70 ‘o e Konisitutone ‘i he Anga Ta’etaau ‘i he ‘ao ‘o e Fale Alea ‘oku Tautea pea ko e ngaahi fiema’u ki he fakamaau totonu ne ‘ikai te nau ma’u ia.

Ko e ngaahi ta’u mei he 1990 ki he 2000 na’e hokohoko ai ‘o lahi ‘a e ngaahi hopo ‘i he vaha’a ‘o e pule’anga pea mo e kau faiongoongo mo e ngaahi kautaha ongoongo. Pea ko e ta’u 2003 na’e toe fakafefeka ai ‘e he pule’anga ‘a e ngaahi lao mo e tu’utu’uni ki hono pule’I ‘o e mitia. Na’e fa’u leva ‘e he Pule’anga ‘a e Lao kihe Nusipepa 2003, Lao ki hono Fakalele Mitia 2003, pea mo e Lao Fakatonutonu ki he Konisitutone 2003.

Kimu’a he ta’u 2003 na’e ha ‘i he Konisitutone Kupu 7 ‘E ‘ataa ‘a e Nusipepa ‘o anga pehe ni:

‘Oku ngofua ki he kakai kotoa pe ke lea ‘aki mo tohi mo pulusi ‘a e anga ‘o honau loto mo ‘enau fakakaukau pea ‘e ‘ikai fokotu‘u ha lao ke tapu ia ‘o lauikuonga. ‘E ‘atā ‘o ta‘engata ‘a e lea mo e nusipepa ka ‘oku ‘ikai ta‘ofi ‘i he tohi ni ‘a e ngaahi lao ‘oku kau ki he lau‘ikovi, ngaahi fakapulipuli fakapule‘anga mo e ngaahi lao ‘oku malu‘i ‘a ‘Ene ‘Afio mo hono Fale ‘Alo.

Koe Lao Fakatonutonu leva kihe Konisitutone 2003 na’e tanaki mai ki ai ‘ae ongo kupu ko ‘eni:

(2) ‘E ngofua, ‘o tanaki atu ki he ngaahi fakangatangata ‘a ia ‘oku tu‘utu‘uni ‘i he kupu si‘i (1) ke fa‘u ha ngaahi Lao ‘oku pehe ‘oku fiema‘u pe taau ki he lelei ‘a e kakai, malu fakafonua, ma‘uma‘uluta fakalukufua, lelei fakalaumalie, ngaahi anga fakafonua ‘o e Pule‘anga, ngaahi monū‘ia ‘o e Fale Alea pea ke tu‘utu‘uni ki he anga ta‘etaau ki he Fakamaau‘anga mo e fai ‘o ha hia.

(3) ‘E ngofua ke fa‘u ha ngaahi Lao ki hono fakalele ‘o ha fakahoko ongoongo.

Na’e fakafepaki’i lahi ‘e he ngaahi kautaha ongoongo ‘a e ngaahi lao mo e tu’utu’uni ko ‘eni. Na’e ‘ikai ola lelei ‘a nga’unu ko ‘eni ki he pule’anga pea ‘i he taimi tatau na’e to e ‘asili ‘a e feke’ike’i he fonua. Ko e nga’unu kotoa ko ia ‘a e pule’anga ke ne pule’i ‘a e me’a kotoa ‘oku tohi, lea, pe fakakaukau ki ai ‘a e kakai ‘oku ola tamaki ma’u pe ia ki he pule’anga.

Kaekehe ko e ‘aho ni foki kuo fakaha mai ai ‘e he Pule’anga ‘a e TU'UTU'UNI (FOUNGA NGAUE KI HE NGAAHI FAKAHA 'O HA MAUMAU) KI HE NGAAHI FETU'UTAKI 2020. ‘Oku fakaha mai ‘e he tu’utu’uni ko ‘eni ‘i he kupu 24 ‘a e tautea ki he maumau te  ke fakahoko ‘i hono fakahoko ha fakamatala ‘oku pelepelengesi. ‘Oku fakatu’utamaki ‘a e tu’utu’uni ko ‘eni ko e ‘uhi he ‘oku ‘ikai ke ‘i ai ha faka’uhinga totonu ki he pelepelengesi, te tau ‘ilo fefe ha fakamatala ‘oku pelepelengesi, ko hai leva ‘oku mafai ke tala ‘oku pelepelengesi ha me’a pe ‘oku ‘ikai ke pelepelengesi? ‘E malava pe ke pelepelengesi ha fa’ahinga fakamatala pe ia ki ha fa’ahinga taha ‘I ha fa’ahinga taimi pe. Ka ko e tu’utu’uni ko ‘eni te ne ala uesia ‘a e tau’ataina ko ia ‘oku foaki ‘e he kupu 7 ‘o e Konisitutone.

Neongo ko e ngaahi kautaha ongoongo fakalao kotoa ‘oku ‘osi ‘i ai pe ‘enau ngaahi tu’utu’uni ngaue ki he tu’unga faka’efika faka-faiongoongo ma’olunga taha ‘o e fakahoko ongoongo ke pukepuke ‘a e tu’unga falala’anga ‘o ‘enau ongoongo, malu’i ‘a e fakamatala ‘oku nau fakahoko, pea mo e fakamatala lelei taha ‘oku nau tufaki ki he kakai. Ko e tu’unga pe ‘oku totonu ke nofo ki ai ‘a e ngaahi tu’utu’uni ke pule’i ‘a e mitia ko e 1) Ke tokangaekina ‘a e founga fetu’utaki ki he lelei taha ‘e ala lava 2) Ke malu’i ‘a e ma’uma’uluta mo e fakamaau totonu 3) Ke malu’i ‘a e ngaahi totonu fakafo’ituitui ‘a e kakai pe fakalukufua 4) Ke faka’ai’ai ‘a e fakalakalaka ‘o e fetu’utaki mo e ngaahi ‘ilo fo’ou 5) Ke fakapapau’i ‘oku ma’u faingamalie taha kotoa ke ma’u fakamatala, fetu’utaki tau’ataina, mo ‘ikai ke filifili manako ‘a e fakamatala 6) Ke tauhi ‘a e tu’unga fe’au’auhi ‘a maketi tufaki fakamatala, konisiuma, mo fakalahi ‘a e ma’u’anga fakamatala.

Kaekehe foki ko e ngaahi tu’utu’uni kotoa pe ki hono pule’i ‘o e mitia ‘oku toitoi mai ai ‘a e ngaahi fiema’u ia ‘a e pule’anga ‘o ‘ikai ko e kakai. Ko ia ai ‘oku mahu’inga ke tau mahino’i ‘oku ‘ikai ha me’a ‘e to e mahu’inga ange ki ha fonua temokalati ka ko ha kakai ‘oku lahi ‘enau ‘ilo.

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