letter: is it news or not?


to the editor, Matangi Tonga
22 Jun 2007, 10:11
Suva, Fiji:


I am annoyed at your rebuttle to Ngalu Fusimalohi and Peter Lomas' letter without actually answering the question.

Ngalu simply points out whether or not his father's award merits news. You have gone to a lengthy explanation on what took place at the PINA Congress and the cross firing of the Board members. Peter Lomas with hindsight furnishes you with the missing pieces and how the Board came about making its decision. I can only assume that you did not agree with the decision to award to Tavake Fusimalohi the PINA Media Freedom Award. Tavake Fusimalohi is a pioneer broadcaster and was once labelled by Islands Business as the region's Radio King. His reputation speaks for itself. However, as Ngalu puts it, the media can agree to disagree on any issues, but the media is still obligated to report what is news. The only fact that prevents you from reporting what is news is if the news itself is false. I cannot agree that this news piece is false as it was widely covered here in Fiji by Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, Islands Business, Pacnews and Sky TV. In the region, this item was covered by Radio New Zealand, Radio Australia, Solomon Star, PNG Post Courier, Samoa Observer and Media Watch. As a Tongan I am proud to read and to listen to news of Tongan people's achievements, hence I too am skeptical at your decision not to cover this item in your news service. I hope the current political situation in Tonga is not affecting your better judgement as a journalist.

Piveni Piukala


Editor's note:
We believe that the news of the controversial Honiara award was the fact that it was NOT awarded by the 2006-07 PINA Board. The presentation was out of order, as I explained in my note to Peter Lomas's letter.

It was because Tavake was an innocent bystander, as I repeat, caught in the crossfire between the PINA Board and the people who decided to give him an award, that we did not seek to embarrass him by publishing the news story that the award was NOT presented by the PINA Board who had carefully considered and made the awards decisions in April, appropriately, before the conference.

The fact that many of the board members were unable to attend the Honiara conference should not have made any difference to the decisions that had already been made. The people who decided not to respect those decisions should have considered the effect their actions would have on Tavake.

News is not a public relations exercise to flatter people, but we had let the public relations people from Honiara have their say in the region, unchallenged, until Ngalu insisted that we reveal the fact that his father's award was out of order.

The threats of physical violence and threats of punishment that we have received from people who are insisting that we publish the public relations version of the story, simply reflects the sad state of journalism in Tonga, where denunciation of individuals by certain media has become commonplace. These threats have become so blatant that they have been reported to the police. - Editor, Matangi Tonga Online.

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PINA controversy: the honiara award

The Honiara Award

15 Jun 2007, 12:15

Honiara, Solomon Islands:


Your response to Ngalu Fusimalohi's letter about his father Tavake Fusimalohi getting the 2007 PINA Pacific Media Freedom Award tells only part of the story. This is probably because, unfortunately, you were not able to be in Honiara for the biennial Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) convention.

The reality is:
Five of the six members of the 2005-2007 PINA board did not attend the convention and biennial general meeting. Members were not happy about this. An almost entirely new board was then elected for 2007-2009. The decision to award the 2007 PINA Pacific Media Freedom Award was made after discussions at the Honiara convention.

This was then unanimously awarded to Tavake after consultation between:
a. the new PINA president, Joseph Ealedona, managing director of Papua New Guinea's National Broadcasting Corporation.
b. the only member of the 2005-2007 PINA board reelected, Matai Akauola, editor of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation;
c. the president of the convention hosts and organisers, Media Association of Solomon (MASI), John Lamani. John, as you know, is publisher of the Solomon Star, and like you a previous winner of the PINA Pacific Media Freedom Award. He is also a former PINA vice president and one of those who built PINA.

There was also disappointment in Honiara during the planned special convention session on the media freedom situation in Tonga. The Tongan news media were conspicuous by their absence. Steven Vete was the only Tongan to be found in the convention hall when this session took place.
Those from Tonga who stayed away from the Solomons missed an outstanding convention, and warm non-stop MASI hospitality. MASI, in organising the convention, set a new high standard for future hosts to aim for.

The next PINA convention is in Port Vila, Vanuatu, in July 2009. Hopefully, you and others from the Tongan news media will be able to rejoin your colleagues from around the region at this.

It would be good to see you all there.

With best regards,

Peter Lomas

Editor's note:
The presentation was out of order, and the new Board should wait for their turn at the 2009 Vanuatu PINA Convention, when they can present awards.

PINA controversy: editor response

My father:

Editor's note: I sympathize with your sentiment about your father's Media Freedom Award, but Tavake is an innocent bystander who has been caught in a cross fire between the PINA Board and the organising committee of the 2007 PINA convention in Honiara.

I was a member of the PINA Board, representing the national media organisations in the board when we finalised the program and all the media awards for this year at the end of April. It was agreed upon by the PINA Board that there would be no Media Freedom Award this year. Unfortunately, the decision of the board was changed by some people in Honiara who decided to award a Media Freedom Award to Tavake. Following the awards night, which was the last night of the convention, our Board expressed our disappointment over the presentation of the award without the consent of the Board, and its implications for Tavake who is currently awaiting trial charged with defamation and sedition.

So there is nothing personal between me, you and your father and his award. Our position is that it is unfortunate that Tavake was caught in a cross fire between our Board and the people in Honiara who decided to give Tavake a Media Freedom Award."

PINA controversy: my father

12 Jun 2007, 10:01

Nuku'alofa, Tonga:


I was surprised to return home in the weekend to learn that Matangi Tonga and other major media operators in the Kingdom (including Radio Tonga) failed to cover the story of my father (Tavake Fusimalohi) being awarded with the Media Freedom Award by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA). This item was widely covered last week in Auckland by Radio New Zealand International, Radio Australia, Islands Business, Solomon Star and PINA Online. The PINA Media Freedom Award is probably the highest award for an island journalist in recognition of their outstanding contribution towards media freedom in their respective countries. I am somewhat skeptical that you have jettison my father's award in your news coverage for personal reasons. I am further surprised that even Radio Tonga failed to cover news concerning a former colleague and a founding member. The media today in Tonga can agree to disagree on issues whether political, social, or economics. But the fact that PINA has decided to bestow upon my father the most prestigious award in the region is without prejudice - news. As a former recipient of the award, you are well aware of the pride Tongans enjoyed in congratulating you in 2005 and which was well covered by Matangi Tonga. While this is no doubt a personal matter, I can only wonder how many success stories in Tonga that have suffered news sanctions for reasons other than news.

'Ahongalu Fusimalohi