Pohiva runs foul of free press

TONGA’S veteran democracy campaigner now Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has run foul of a key cornerstone of democracy which is freedom of the press over the suspension of the editor of the kingdom’s state radio and television. Pohiva last month denied ordering the suspension with full pay of Viola Ulakai, manager programmes and news of Radio and Television Tonga, although correspondence he released on the matter showed that he recommended the immediate suspension of Ulakai to his Minister for Public Enterprises, Poasi Tei whose portfolio includes oversight of the public broadcaster.

In his strongly worded letter to his minister, Pohiva denounced the list of questions sent by Ulakai over the involvement of the prime minister’s son in changes to the exam and grading systems in Tonga’s Ministry of Education. Pohiva is also the education minister. “I wish to raise my concerns as Minister of Education and Training regarding the actions of Mrs Viola Ulakai of Tonga Broadcasting Commission that in my view are intended to demean and bring disrepute to the Ministry of Education and Training and myself as Minister,” Pohiva wrote in his letter to Minister Tei.

He went onto to label as shameful and appalling the line of questions the senior news editor used in questions she sent to education officials in Tonga as well as at the Examination Quality and Assessment Programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

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