Tongan journalists who clashed with PM reshuffled out of TBC newsroom

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Viola Ulakai (left) and Laumanu Petelō out after TBC newsroom in “shake-up” … critical of PM ‘Akilisi Pōhiva. Image: Kalino Latu/Kaniva Tonga

By Kalino Latu, editor of Kaniva News

Two senior journalists have been ousted from the newsroom for new roles in a shake-up at the state broadcaster,

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

The restructuring has 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 Petelō had been interviewed about 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 advisers.

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The restructure comes after advice that Ulakai should 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 had been 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 a crisis after the Minister of Public Enterprises warned that 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.

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