13 April 1999

Alert

French Polynesian president ends restrictions on journalists


Incident details

other


(PINA/IFEX) - On 31 March 1999, French Polynesian President Gaston Flosse
said he would open his news conferences to all journalists for the first
time since 1994, the news magazine "Tahiti-Pacifique" reports. The April
edition of "Tahiti-Pacifique" called it a major success for the
pro-independence station "Radio Te Reo O Tefana" and a "quite noticeable
breakthrough in the democratic process." "Radio Tefana" had gone to a local
administrative tribunal to challenge a ban President Flosse had imposed on
their attending his news conferences. "Tahiti-Pacifique" publisher-editor
Alex du Prel had also been banned from the president's news conferences for
eighteen months but had been invited back in 1998.




President Flosse was strongly questioned over his continuing ban on "Radio
Tefana" by delegates attending the 1998 PINA convention held in Papeete, the
capital of French Polynesia. During a news conference he held for visiting
PINA delegates, President Flosse vigorously defended the ban. He said "Radio
Tefana" broadcasts had called for violence during 1995 riots on Tahiti, the
main island of this French territory of 220,000 people. He also said that
the fact pro-independence and anti-independence radio stations were able to
operate freely in French Polynesia showed that media freedom was respected
there.


"Tahiti-Pacifique" said on 10 December 1998 that the administrative tribunal
ruled that in the name of media freedom, President Flosse must admit
journalists from all media to his news conferences and those of his
ministers. But it reported that the President said he was appealing, and
"Radio Tefana" journalists were still not invited. "Tahiti-Pacifique" said
on 5 February that the tribunal wrote to Flosse asking him to "specify to
the court what sort of action he intended to take to ensure the court's
ruling was observed." On 17 February, President Flosse replied saying he was
"considering" whether to "resort to the accreditation practice as used by
public authority in metropolitan France" and that he would henceforth invite
"a journalist from the Radio Te Reo O Tefana." On 22 March, President Flosse
sent all local newsrooms a letter asking them to submit a list of
journalists to be approved for accreditation. "Tahiti-Pacifique" said that
at a news conference on 29 March, for the first time since June 1994, no
media were banned from the President's residence and "Radio Tefana" was
represented.


However, "Tahiti-Pacifique" also reported that President Flosse's "selective
accreditation" triggered a protest movement at RFO-Polynesie, the local
radio and TV stations of the broadcasting service for French overseas
territories. It said 24 of the 29 journalists there signed a petition to
refuse the accreditation system. President Flosse then invited them to lunch
on 31 March where a lively discussion took place. During this meeting, the
President agreed that the accreditation system "was a mistake" and that from
that point on, all journalists would be allowed to attend his news
conferences.


"Tahiti-Pacifique" publisher Alex du Prel said journalists from RFO and the
daily newspapers "Les Nouvelles de Tahiti" and "La Depeche de Tahiti" are
still given preferential treatment in areas like travelling with President
Flosse. But he added: "Let's not be grouchy, it might be more appropriate to
congratulate all parties involved, including the tribunal, the Presidency
and Radio Tefana for a quite noticeable breakthrough in the democratic
process."




Source

Pacific Islands News Association
Level 2, 46 Gordon Street, Damodar Centre
Private Mail Bag, Suva
Fiji Islands
pina (@) connect.com.fj
Phone: +679 3303623
Fax: +679 3317055
 
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