Viola Ulakai suspended from Radio and TV Tonga the day after PM questions her integrity

The manager of the Radio and Television Tonga programmes, Viola Ulakai, has been  suspended by the Tonga Broadcasting Commission board.

It is believed her suspension follows a recommendation to the board by the Minister of Public Enterprises, Hon. Poasi Tei, whose portfolio includes the state broadcaster.

Ulakai’s suspension comes a day after Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva questioned her integrity by saying he was “disappointed” to learn that she had falsely claimed that a request for a press conference to answer questions regarding his son were made on behalf of the Tongan Media Council.

Earlier this month Hon. Pōhiva said he suspected Ulakai of acting as a mouthpiece for his political opponents.

When Kaniva News asked Hon. Tei whether it was true Ulakai has been suspended on his recommendation the Minister did not deny it, but told us to contact Tapu Pānuve the chair of the Board or the Radio and Television Tongaʻs CEO Nanisē Fifita.

The duo could not be reached for comments at the time this story was written.

This evening the Nepituno news page claimed the decision to suspend Ulakai was based on a letter by Hon Tei on April 15 to the board.

Nepituno claimed Hon. Tei’s decision was based on a recommendation from Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva.

According to their report the Prime Minister advised Hon.Tei  to suspend Ulakai with pay pending an investigation into her conduct.

It is understood the government believes Ulakai’s style of interview and requests for press conferences were aimed at discrediting the government and not producing fair and impartial news reports.

While Kaniva News has been unable to verify the letter on which Nepituno based its story, we reported yesterday that Hon. Pōhiva said Ulakai had misled him after she requested a press conference.

She claimed her request was made on behalf of the Tonga Media Council, but in fact she was making the request  on her own behalf.

The request asked questions about whether the Prime Minister’s son, Siaosi, was qualified to hold his position as head of the  Fiji-based Educational Quality and Assessment Programme.

Yesterday the Tonga Media Council denied Ulakai’s claim she was endorsed by the national body to request a press conference with the Prime Minister.

“I was not aware of Mrs. Viola Ulakai using the Tonga Media Council name for any reason. I was not engaged nor were my employers (FM 87.5) involved in any communication in her request for interviews for media coverage,” The President of the Tonga Media Council Lady Luseane Luani said in a press release.

She said: “The name Tonga Media Council is as it says, implying that the body represents all media practitioners in Tonga”.

“This does not in any way state that it should be used by individuals”, Lady Luani said.

The main points

  • The manager of the Radio and Television Tonga programmes, Viola Ulakai, has been suspended by the Tonga Broadcasting Commission board.
  • It is believed her suspension follows a recommendation to the board by the Minister of Public Enterprises, Hon. Poasi Tei, whose portfolio includes the state broadcaster.
  • Ulakai’s suspension comes a day after Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva questioned her integrity by saying he was “disappointed” to learn that she had falsely claimed that a request for a press conference to answer questions regarding his son were made on behalf of the Tongan Media Council.
  • Earlier this month Hon. Pohiva said he suspected Ulakai of acting as a mouthpiece for his political opponents.

Read More: 

Senior journalist remains silent on PM’s charge she wrote e-mail attributed to Media Council

TMC denies Ulakai’s claim she requested press conference with PM on behalf of Media Council

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