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PM’s ‘innocent until proven guilty’ argument deters TBC journalists’ suspension, Chairman Piukala says
8:49 pm GMT+12, 19/11/2019, Tonga

Three journalists at Tonga Broadcasting Commission (TBC) who Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa recommended be suspended are still working full time.
 
The PM wanted the TBC’s Station Manager Setita Tu’i’onetoa, television anchors Vilisoni Tu’iniua and Salamo Fulivai suspended pending an investigation.
 
Hon Pōhiva made the recommendation after complaints from the public including one lodged by ousted Cabinet Minister ‘Etuate Lavulavu, who was stripped of his parliamentary seat after the Supreme Court found him guilty of bribery and overspending during the 2014 election.
 
‘Etuate and his wife ‘Akosita Lavulavu were also arrested last year and charged with three counts for obtaining by false pretences and three counts of knowingly dealing with forged documents.
 
‘Akosita refused to resign as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the former government and as a result she was dismissed.
 
The Tu’i’onetoa government appointed her as Minister of Infrastructure and Tourism last month.
 
This has raised a few eyebrows, but the Prime Minister defended the appointment, saying she was still innocent until proven guilty.
 
TBC chairman Pīveni Piukala echoed the Prime Minister’s argument in the case of the TBC journalists.
 
Piukala asked why PM Tu’i’onetoa appeared to take a different view when it came to the journalists’ case.
 
In an interview with Kaniva news, Piukala believed the Prime Minister should have recommended keeping them in their jobs and wait for the outcome of the investigation just as he did with ‘Akosita.
 
TBC released a statement on the situation saying it had come from Piukala.
 
It said Piukala had received the complaints and recommendations from the Prime Minister to suspend the trio last month.
 
The statement, which was also carried by Setita on her Facebook page, said that given the severity of the complaints Piukala had queried the prime minster’s office and asked for further information.
 
It said Piukala wanted more concrete evidence and supporting information to facilitate the investigation process.
 
It said Piukala wanted to give the journalists an opportunity to respond if the complaints were legitimate.
 
PM Tu’i’onetoa said the part of the investigation process which was taken by his office against one of the trio had been nearly completed.
 
Last month, ‘Etuate wrote to TBC General Manager Solomone Finau demanding the suspension of the news room staff and station manager.
 
‘Etuate wanted to investigate reports after part of an audio recording of him was broadcast on the TBC television news. He described the recording as falsified, incomplete and invalid and claimed it had been doctored and twisted to discredit him.
 
Setita said: “We are not prepared to agree to the terms of Lavulavu’s offer and if Lavulavu files proceedings, we will defend ourselves,” she said.
 
“The news was clear of breaking any laws of the government of Tonga and the news did not breach any of TBC’s policies and regulations,” She said

SOURCE: KANIVA TONGA NEWS/PACNEWS


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