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The heads of New Zealand's press watchdog and newspaper industry body will visit Tonga next week to help with media training and complaints resolution.

NZ Press Council chairman Sir John Jeffries and Newspaper Publishers Association chief executive Lincoln Gould have been invited by Tongan Media Council chairman Pesi Fonua.

The newly formed council is setting up a complaints committee to cover all media in Tonga and another committee to organise a training programme.

Sir John said the Tongan council was keen to learn from the Press Council's experience in complaints resolution.

Both the Press Council and the association - through its offshoot, the Commonwealth Press Union press freedom committee - have in the past criticised the Tongan Government's attacks on press freedom.

Neither Sir John nor Mr Gould would comment yesterday on that issue, but it is understood that Tonga's press freedom is not part of their brief for the NZAid-funded visit.

King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV has banned the Auckland-based Taimi 'o Tonga (Times of Tonga) newspaper several times, but each bid to outlaw the paper has been overruled by Chief Justice Gordon Ward.

Parliament has passed the Media Operators Bill, under which 80 per cent of newspaper shareholders must be Tongans living in Tonga.

Taimi 'o Tonga publisher Kalafi Moala, who is Tongan but a US citizen, said the bill awaited the King's signature to become law.

- NZPA

Herald Feature: Tonga

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