Tongan pro-democracy newspaper editor Tavake Fusimalohi has been honoured with the 2007 Pacific Media Freedom Award.The award to Fusimalohi was revealed in a ceremony at the Honiara Hotel during the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) convention organised by Media Association of Solomon Islands (MASI).
MASI president John Lamani announced the award, the most prestigious in the Pacific islands, and said:
"Tavake stands for everything that this award symbolizes - he is fighting to bring the people of Tonga freedom of information and expression and he is not giving into pressure. "He is making sure the people know what is really happening despite all the efforts by the government to try to silence him. He faces going to jail for this."
Fusimalohi, the editor of the newspaper Kele'a, has been charged with sedition and criminal defamation by the royal Tongan regime ruling under emergency powers.
He is amongst three Tongan pro-democracy journalists and media executives facing sedition charges, and jail terms. It comes amidst a crackdown on the media since the deadly riot on 16 November last year after delays in reforms in the kingdom.
MASI planned to have Fusimalohi as one of the main speakers in the media freedom section of the PINA convention programme. But he is not allowed to leave Tonga.
Fusimalohi is one of the Pacific's most experienced media executives. He is a founder and former executive director of PINA and was a longtime general manager of the Tonga Broadcasting Commission.
After retiring from the Government-owned broadcaster he went into independent news papering, as editor of Kele'a. Kele'a is regarded as the kingdom's main pro-democracy publication. It faces regular pressure from the authorities.