Pacific Media Watch

11 October 2017

TONGA: Journalists who had run-ins with PM out of newsroom in TBC restructure

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Viola Ulakai and Laumanu Petelō out of TBC newsroom in 'shake-up'... critical of PM 'Akilisi Pōhiva. Image: Kalino Latu/Kaniva Tonga

By Kalino Latu
AUCKLAND (Kaniva Tonga/Pacific Media Watch): The restructure of the Tonga Broadcasting Commission (TBC) has seen two top senior journalists leave the newsroom for new roles at the state broadcaster.

Laumanu Petelō, the editor of TBC’s television and radio, and Viola Ulakai, the news manager, have moved into a new department under the Commission’s marketing and sales management.

The shake-up had been made under the direction of TBC’s new board chairman Dr Tu’i Uata who replaced ‘Ahongalu Fusimālohi last month.

Kaniva Tonga reports Petelō, Ulakai and Uata did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

However, Kakalu ‘o Tonga editor ‘Ulu’alo Po’uhila told Kaniva News they interviewed Petelō regarding the reshuffle.

Po’uhila alleged Petelō and Ulakai were not happy with the shake-up and were seeking help from the ombudsman’s office and legal advisors.

The restructure comes after Ulakai was advised to be suspended in April 2016 after Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva was disappointed to learn she had falsely claimed a request for a press conference to answer questions regarding his son were made on the behalf of the Tonga Media Council.

Run-ins with Pōhiva
In March, Petelō repeatedly clashed with Pōhiva during a press conference in Nuku’alofa after the prime minister accused TBC for reporting negatively against his government.

Kaniva Tonga reports the rows between the government and TBC staffers reached boiling point after the Minister of Public Enterprises warned the automatic renewal of its former general manager Nanisē Fifita’s contract with the broadcaster in May was void.

The minister wanted the post to be advertised. Fifita took the minister to court but the judge ruled in favour of the government.

Kalino Latu is the editor and publisher of Kaniva News.

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