By: Netani Rika
LAST minute unification talks between rival Tongan media groups saw the election of Katalina Tohi as vice president of the Pacific Islands News Association today.
Papua New Guinea broadcaster Kora Nou was voted PINA President on the back of a strong Melanesian lobby led by the Solomon Islands.
But the focus of attention was on the creation of the Media Association of Tonga.
The association combines two rival groups split on political and ethical lines by the actions of Tonga's Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva.
A long time human rights advocate, Pohiva has been under pressure from the local media over what have been seen as questionable appointments to several key government positions.
Media scrutiny of his decisions led to the dismissal of senior Tonga Broadcasting Corporation officials.
This led to a split in media practitioners into Pohiva supporters and those who opposed the dismissals.
There was also anger among senior Tongan media personnel over Linda's refusal to speak up on the infringement of media rights by the Fijian government.
Talks earlier this week saw Tongan journalists agree to set aside differences in an effort to seek better conditions and protection for the media.
The new MAT (Media Association of Tonga) is expected to defend journalists attacked by Pohiva.
On Tuesday Pohiva accused journalists of being behind a petition seeking his removal.
While Pohiva claimed to recognise their rights to hold his government accountable, the prime minister's actions is suppressing dissidents have been viewed as worrying.
Publisher Kalafi Moala, previously an adviser to Pohiva, said he hoped the association would lead to a United and free media.