Mapu'a 'a Vaca Blowholes at Tongatapu.

Mapu’a ‘a Vaca Blowholes at Tongatapu.

The Kingdom of Tonga comprises 170 islands, of which some are volcanic and others, coral atolls.  Tonga is the only Pacific nation never to have been colonised. Dating back to approximately 875AD, Tonga was controlled by chiefly rulers.

From 1799 to 1853, the country went through a period of war and disorder which ended by Taufa’ahau converting to Christianity in 1831 by the Methodist missionaries.  He became Tu ‘i Kanokupolu.  Then in 1845, King George Tupou I. During his reign, from 1845 – 1893, Tonga was unified and independent with a modern constitution.

Tonga is a constitutional monarchy.  King Tupou VI is the Head of State.  Under the reformed constitution that was agreed by the Legislative Assembly in 2009 and implemented through legislation passed in 2010, the powers of the King were considerably reduced and devolved to the Cabinet.  He, however, retains the right to veto legislation.

The Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister and Ministers, whom are appointed by the King, and the Governor of Ha’apai and the Governor of Vava’u .

Tonga’s economy is heavily reliant on remittances from the Tongans working overseas, and foreign aid. Agriculture is the main productive sector, and exports of agricultural produce to New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, the United States and Japan.
Tonga has a rich and complex media environment that has been shaped through its governance by a monarchy, and the relationships between Tongans within and beyond the island nation.

Media and Communication Landscape

Tonga has a rich and complex media environment that has been shaped through its governance by a monarchy, and the relationships between Tongans within and beyond the island nation. Find out more in the PACMAS State of Media and Communication Report 2013: Tonga.

Policy and Legislation
• Freedom of the Press is guaranteed in Clause 7 of the constitution.
• Amendments to the constitution in 2003 enabled the government to restrict media freedom.
• The Communication Act 2000 allows the government to restrict or prohibit content or particular types of content, and regulates the ways in which Tongan culture and identity are represented in the media.
• The Newspaper Act and Media Operators Act 2003 licenses newspapers as well as broadcasters, and includes a restriction on the importation and sale of foreign media.

Media Systems
• Technicians typically rely on bilateral assistance programs for donated (but usually old) equipment.
• Technicians purchase equipment online from companies primarily based in New Zealand.
• Engineers are keen to work together to pool resources and training from abroad.
• Tongan technicians are sent overseas for up-skilling, and special trainers are occasionally brought in from overseas; they also maintain their own relationships and seek advice from other technicians overseas.
• The National Plan for Emergency Information was formulated in 2007 and is undergoing revision.
• The National Emergency Management Office works with the Red Cross for disaster preparedness.
• Digicel works closely with the Disaster Management Committee to broadcast information immediately via mobile (SMS) and television; Radio Tonga is also a significant player.
• In the most recent events where early warning messages were delayed, TBC did not relay them for almost 25 minutes, and people were already on their way to work and school.

Capacity Building
• The Tonga Institute of Higher Education has Certificate and Diploma courses in journalism; all of the students in 2011 were women.
• TVET training is perceived as inadequate, with students who have undertaken media internships lacking practical or technical skills.
• TBC is currently the only active member of PINA in Tonga, and PasiMA has emerged as a player for members of private media.
• Local politics and competition between different individuals and organisations play a significant role in the success or failure of media associations and organisations in Tonga.
• The balance and quality of international content as compared with locally produced content represents a key concern for members of the media industry.
• Tonga has a formal communications plan as part of the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change program (PACC) which focuses on delivery of climate change messages.
• Many of the messages about climate change need to be simplified, made relevant or translated into Tongan language and concepts.
• Media experts go to Tonga Family Health or the Government Centre for Women & Children – Ma’a Fafine mo e Famili – for information about NCDs.
• Tonga Health Promotion Foundation does not undertake any media training and has had little training on how to engage with the media or how media campaigns should work.
• Telecommunication companies (e.g., Broadcom and Digicel) have been particularly active in NCD awareness activities.

Any opinions represented in the PACMAS State of Media and Communication Report 2013: Tonga are those of the authors and research participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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