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By Tevita Siliva
One of the Kingdom’s senior journalists has called on members of the Tonga Media to boycott any further Press Conferences called by Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva.
Kalafi Moala, Publisher and Editor of the Taimi ‘o Tonga newspaper and General Manager of the Le’o ‘o Tonga Radio Station in Kolomotu’a, says the PM’s action against staff of the Tonga Broadcasting Commission (TBC) should be cause for concern and the local media fraternity should react in unity.
“This is such a waste of time. When are we going to learn to stop being the propaganda machine for this guy who has now become the worse persecutor of media in recent years, and who is out to control information? Moala said in an email reply to Lilika Mafi of the Prime Minister’s Press Unit.
This was in response to an emailed invitation sent by the PM’s Media Unit to the local media for a press conference that PM Pohiva had called.
“We have just seen one of our journalists, the General Manager of Tonga Broadcasting Commission (Nanise Fifita) dismissed without any wrong doing, and two of TBC’s top journalists (put) on notice for discipline,” Moala said.
“This PM has openly expressed his dislike for any media who does not tow his line. Yet, we keep going to his Press conferences.
“He calls those at will and at short notice, because he does not really care, as long as we are there to listen to his crazy diatribe.
“I say we boycott this craziness. We have allowed this power-hungry dictator to jerk us around, yet we keep running to him whenever he calls a Press Conference.
“He does not respect the questions we send him, yet he expects us to tell his egotistical crazy stories. He is able to get away with it because we let him do so.”
The call was also supported by two other Publishers in ‘Ulu’alo Po’uhila of the Kakalu ‘o Tonga in Auckland, New Zealand and Sione Tupouniua of the Niuvakai Newspaper in Kolomotu’a.
“Whenever he wants to preach to the country he calls us to cover, but whenever we want him or the government to answer any questions they duck (hide),”’Alo said.
“I see Lavulavu as one of the contractors at the new golf course! Interesting but I am not going to be there to ask! Come on people ask the questions that needed to be asked! That’s our job!”
Tupouniua said that the PM’s media team have been selective in what they show on television.
“Is this Press Conference going to be broadcast LIVE today?” Tupouniua asked.
“Our last Press Conference was a huge disappointment and a waste of time because it was not broadcast live and a lot of people were expecting to hear it LIVE.
“More importantly is the fact that what the people got from the Press Conference was only the "edited version of what transpired on the day ". You only record and then pick the footage that you and the PM wants us to hear and only broadcast those edited version.”
Meanwhile, Moala, in an interview with Nuku’alofa Times says the Prime Minister’s action should be a worry for the local media.
Here are Moala’s answers to questions asked:
NT: How do you see these developments?
Kalafi: We are all sad by the way this PM has treated media. It does not matter whether the media belongs to Government or not, but his attitude is twisted, that because Government owns TBC, therefore it gives him the right to bully and abuse the national broadcaster. It’s just not right and he needs to be opposed on this.
NT: What does the PM's action mean for the media in general here in Tonga?
Kalafi: Whenever one media group is persecuted or one journalist is abused, all media and all journalists are affected. Injustice applied to one affects all.
NT: Are you happy with what the PM is doing?
Kalafi: I am extremely distressed with what the PM is doing to media. It reflects his real perception of media, that indpendent media which cannot be controlled by those in power, is “biased media.” Being a founder of the Kele’a brings home the fact that the only media practice he knows is “propaganda media."
NT: Why do you think he has taken an about-turn -- when he was in the Opposition he was pro-media and pro-democracy BUT now in Government he seems to be anti-media?
Kalafi: Power in the hands of a self-centred leader corrupts that leader in a way that he himself is blinded by it, and he views any opposition to him as “the enemy”. This attitude is rife among countries ruled by dictators. Pohiva’s brand of democracy is not democratic at all. It is poor governance at best.
Moala has been associated with Pohiva for years and had fall-outs with the PM now and then.
He was recently communication adviser to the Prime Minister following the General Elections of 2014 but did not extend his contract after that.
SOURCE: NUKU'ALOFA TIMES ONLINE/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
Media Helping Media