21 March 2002


Newspaper shut down

Incident details


(PINA/IFEX) - On 21 March 2002, an e-mail from "Te Fenua Fo'ou", a newspaper in the French Pacific territory of Wallis and Futuna, said it was shut down by the king of Wallis Island's traditional law enforcers. The move came amidst tension between the traditional ruler, called the "Lavelua", and the French publisher and editor of the newspaper, the news service PINA Nius Online reported.

"Te Fenua Fo'ou" is published weekly from Wallis, home of the territorial capital, Mata Utu. It circulates in Wallis and Futuna and New Caledonia, another French Pacific territory, where many people from Wallis and Futuna have migrated to work.

In the e-mail to PINA, Laurent Gourlez, editor-in-chief of "Te Fenua Fo'ou", said the head of the king's customary police came to the newspaper's office on 21 March. He reportedly told publisher Michel Bodineau that he was no longer allowed to publish. He also reminded Bodineau that the king had ordered the newspaper not to mention the so-called "Make Pilioko" case. Later, keys to the newspaper's office and computer equipment were seized, preventing publication of the newspaper's 22 March issue.

"Te Fenua Fo'ou" and the traditional leadership of Wallis Island, called "Uvea" by the islanders, have been in dispute over the newspaper's coverage of a court decision. The court ruled that a woman candidate who was earlier taken off the electoral roll for allegedly misusing public funds, Make Pilioko, was entitled to contest local elections. The traditional leadership was reported to have protested against coverage and a photo characterisation in "Te Fenua Fo'ou."

"Te Fenua Fo'ou" had said in an earlier editorial that it "would not make concessions to the principle of freedom of expression, as guaranteed under the laws of the French Republic. Though it is not a newspaper's role to make comments on court decisions, it is its duty to report the way it is enforced."

The e-mail message said publisher Bodineau has filed a case in the local court over the forced closure and reported the incident to local French police. The traditional leadership is reported to have said that France has guaranteed to respect the customs and traditions of the islanders.

Wallis and Futuna is a French overseas territory north-east of Fiji. It consists of two main islands, Wallis and Futuna, more than 200 kilometres apart, and smaller surrounding islands.


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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