8 October 1999


Unionists put New Caledonian TV and radio services off the air

Incident details


(PINA/IFEX) - The French Pacific territory of New Caledonia's national radio
and television services remained off the air on 7 October 1999, three days
after unionists forced a shutdown of services. The union members were
protesting against sanctions imposed on technicians who prevented the 2
September broadcast of a current affairs programme featuring the leader of
an association of business organisations. He was to have given his views on
a series of strikes by unionists in New Caledonia, and their impact on the

**Updates IFEX alerts of 14 September, 9 September, 8 September and 26
August 1999**

USTKE (Union Syndicale des Travailleurs Kanak Exploités) started the strike
in protest against the suspension of staff who took part in the action to
prevent the live talk-show from being aired. But Réseau France-Outremer
(RFO), with the support of its Paris headquarters, maintained the
disciplinary sanctions. USTKE leaders are demanding to speak to the Paris

RFO-New Caledonia director Alain le Garrec was quoted by local media as
saying: "This was serious misconduct and it breached principles of freedom
of expression and movement. And normally, for this kind of misconduct, the
sanction is termination without severance pay. So our decision was made to
appease, not to provoke. But we won't change our position, whatsoever. One
cannot defend the indefendable without jeopardising the very balance of our

RFO administrator Hélène Kopylov estimates: "This strike is costing us eight
million CFP (US$80,000) each day in missed advertising, sponsorship,
salaries, equipment." RFO management says ninety percent of the RFO staff
are opposed to the strike. They are being prevented from broadcasting by the
strike and pickets preventing people from entering RFO's Noumea
headquarters. However, they are starting to get more organised: some TV news
teams have started going out on reports again, using old cameras from RFO's
offices in the North of New Caledonia, RFO executives told PINA Nius Online.

Background Information

French Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisual (Audiovisual Council) President
Hervé Bourges said that the council ruled that the television programme
should be shown despite efforts by unionists to stop it, the newspaper "Les
Nouvelles Calédoniennes" reported on 11 September. 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. But minutes before going
live on air, the programme was shut down by USTKE supporters among the RFO
cameramen and sound engineers.

RFO is the network of national TV and radio stations in French overseas
territories. 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 control" 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.


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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