IFJ Protests Shutdown of Print Media Without Licences in Tonga

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, is deeply concerned over the shutdown of all print media in Tonga as a result of the Media Act, which banned the publication of all newspapers whose publishers, distributors and importers did not possess licences.


The IFJ has called for the Government of Tonga to cease all police raids against small shops and confiscation of both newspapers and revenue.


In addition, the IFJ condemns licensing of publishers and distributors of newspapers, as a clear breach of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


“The licensing of publishers and distributors of newspapers is being successfully used as a tool to curb the freedom of the press in Tonga,” said Christopher Warren, President of the IFJ in a letter to the Government of Tonga.


“It is vital for democracy that the media is allowed to work freely and independently without attempts at Government intervention and control,“ said Warren.


In 2003, the Tongan Government banned the imported privately owned biweekly paper Taimi O’Tonga for three months due to publishing accusations of Government corruption. A Supreme Court hearing on 26 May, ordered that the ban be lifted allowing the paper to be sold in Tonga.


Subsequently the Government of Tonga has introduced the Media Act, in order to gain a greater control over the Tongan media.



The IFJ has protested to the Government of Tonga in the following letter:


6 February 2004

Prince Lavaka Ata Ulukalala

Palace Office

Nukualofa, Tonga

Fax: +676 24102


Your Excellency,


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, is deeply concerned over the shutdown of all print media in Tonga as a consequence of the Media Act, banning the publication of all newspapers whose publishers, distributors and importers are unlicensed.


According to our information, on 7 January Government forces made it known that under no circumstances were newspapers allowed to be distributed without a license under the Media Act. Police raided a number of small shops where the Taimi ‘O Tonga newspaper was confiscated along with newspaper takings for that day.


The Newspaper Act was only made public on 24 December, with the application deadline for licences closing on 31 December, giving publishers only seven days to apply. The Registrar of Newspapers extended the deadline until 31 January to allow publishers time to prepare and lodge application forms, however all applications continue to await to be approved, consequently classifying all newspapers as unlicensed and therefore illegal.


Newspaper publishers and distributors have taken all newspapers off the shelves in Tonga in fear of penalties for unlicensed publishers and police raids on shops. Penalties for an unlicensed publisher include a $10,000 fine and up to one year imprisonment.


The IFJ is deeply concerned over the complete shutdown of the Tongan print media due to the Media Act, such harsh and repressive actions are in clear breach of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


The IFJ calls on the Government of Tonga to immediately cease all police raids and acts of violence against newspapers publishers and distributors.


In addition, the IFJ condemns the licensing of publishers and distributors of newspapers, as a blatant instrument used to curb the freedom of the press in Tonga. It is vital for democracy that the media is allowed to work freely and independently in Tonga.


Yours sincerely,



Christopher Warren

IFJ, President


Recommended action:


Send appeals:


  • Expressing concern over the shutdown of all print media in Tonga

  • Demanding the Government of Tonga discontinue all police raids immediately

  • Condemning the 2003 Newspaper Act

  • Calling for press freedom and safety of all journalists in Tonga.



    Appeals:


    Prince Lavaka Ata Ulukalala

    Palace Office

    Nukualofa, Tonga

    Fax: +676 24102


    For more information please contact IFJ Asia at ifj@ifj-asia.org


    Please copy appeals: ifj@ifj-asia.org