14 September 1999


French council rules New Caledonia TV programme must be shown

Incident details


(PINA/IFEX) - French Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisual (Audiovisual
Council) President Hervé Bourges said that the council ruled that a
television programme in New Caledonia should be shown despite efforts by
unionists to stop it, the newspaper "Les
Nouvelles Calédoniennes" reported on 11 September 1999. It quoted Bourges as
saying that the current affairs programme should go on air in its planned
format "within the best convenient time frame." The show is to host
Fédération des petites et moyennes entreprises (Federation of Small and
Medium-Sized Businesses) leader Claude Descombels, who was to have expressed
views about a spate of industrial actions in the French Pacific territory.
But on 2 September, minutes before going on air live, the
programme was shut down by Union of Exploited Kanak Workers (USTKE)
supporters among the Réseau France-Outremer (RFO) TV station cameramen and
sound engineers.

**Updates IFEX alerts of 9 September, 8 September and 26 August 1999**

In a letter sent to New Caledonia's president, Jean Lèques, Bourges noted
that the programme "couldn't be aired...in spite of efforts made by the RFO
regional director." Bourges said that the council ruled that the broadcast
would have to occur "within the best convenient timeframe" and in its
original format to allow Descombels "to express himself." The council had
received an official complaint from President Lèques after the 2 September

Background Information

RFO is the network of national TV and radio stations in French overseas
territories. On 7 September, "Les Nouvelles" quoted RFO New Caledonia
Station Director Alain Le Garrec as saying that USTKE technician members who
blacked out the programme, "Palabres", had been suspended, and the show
would be rescheduled. But the newspaper also quoted a union leader as saying
there could be a strike if sanctions against the
unionists continue and efforts continue to broadcast the programme.

On 26 August, RFO New Caledonia Editor-In-Chief Francis Orny urged all
business, trade union and political leaders in the territory to "keep their
troops under controls" after an RFO cameraperson was injured during a
confrontation between unionists and members of the public. The incident came
one week after another RFO-TV journalist was close to being shot as she
interviewed a union leader in Canala, north of Noumea. The union leader, who
was giving an interview at the time, sustained a bullet wound in the upper
thigh, fired by a sniper at a roadblock on a nickel-mining site.

Orny said: "Our daily mission is to inform you (the public) ... We believe
that every attempt to prevent, now and in future, journalists to do their
job is a breach of this fundamental right, the right we have to tell the
truth, even if it sometimes annoys some. This is and always will remain our
sole aim."


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Fiji Islands
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