13 January 1998


Vanuatu radio and tv forced off air, reporter assaulted, photographers flee

Incident details


(PINA/IFEX) - Vanuatu's national radio and television stations were forced
off the air on 12 January by rioters who warned staff not to send out
news about rioting in the capital Port Vila. A journalist trying to cover
the riot was assaulted and a photographer's equipment was smashed.

The riot erupted following growing tension over the disclosure by the
country's Ombudswoman that leading politicians improperly took loans from
the Vanuatu National Provident Fund. This is a national scheme in which
workers and their employers contribute to a retirement fund for the
workers. More than 300 rioters attacked, smashed and looted buildings of
those linked with the scandal.

A group attacked "Vanuatu Weekly" newspaper reporter Gratien Tiona, who was
trying to cover the troubles. He received facial injuries. Others grabbed
the camera gear of "Vanuatu Weekly" photographer Mark Atnelow and smashed
it. Atnelow and Television bilong Vanuatu cameraman Hadye Ligo were
forced to flee. The rioters then stormed the nearby government-owned
Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation building and threatened
staff, warning them not to send out news. The corporation operates
Vanuatu's only radio and television services. Its two radio stations and
Television bilong Vanuatu were forced off the air. Staff were forced to
abandon their building and all stations went off the air about 3pm. Only
the quick arrival of the paramilitary Vanuatu Mobile Force police prevented
equipment from being damaged. The stations were off the air for more than six
hours. Finally, under heavy police guard, they went back on air at 9.30pm
so the prime minister could broadcast an appeal for calm and promise
action on the provident fund scandal.

By the morning of 13 January all stations had returned to normal. But the
Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation building and staff were
being protected by police.


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