pina backtracks from award

NEWS | COMMENT Executive members of the Pacific Islands News Association are backtracking from their election night award to a controversial Tonga publisher. Announcement of the previously prestigous Freedom of Information Award for Tavake Fusimalohi saw criticism at the way the former long-time broadcaster was chosen. Matangi Tonga chose not report the announcement at the time, dismissing it as "not news." MASI NOT PINA Now the website reports that an award has been given to Fusimalohi - just not the PINA Freedom of Information award. Instead, he has been handed an award from PINA 2007 hosts MASI, the Media Association of the Solomon Islands. Matai 'Akau'ola, a broadcaster with Radio Fiji who was in Nuku'alofa for the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum Meeting said that MASI asked him to deliver the award to Tavake while he was in Tonga, reports Matangi Tonga. "CLARIFY" Matai, a member of the former board of PINA, and the only one re-elected to the current board of PINA, was quoted as saying he wanted to clarify that "while it was publicised that a PINA media freedom award was awarded to Tavake during the PINA convention - it was not actually the PINA Media Freedom Award, but was, in fact, the MASI media award that he delivered to Tavake last week. " Fusimalohi is a long time broadcaster in the region, famed for his spirited attacks against critics of the kingdom's monarchial government. Less well known is criticism over his handling of media aid projects and state broadcasting resources. More recently, the MASI awardee appears to have swapped sides, joining pro-democracy forces by starting his own anti-government outlet, Kele'a, a newspaper, to some industry scepticism.