10 March 2014

French interference in 'free press' in New Caledonia

Pacific Scoop

Nouvelles Calédoniennes editor influenced by Paris: Association

By Anna Majavu

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, March 4, 2014) – Journalists from the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes have accused their editorial board of buckling under political pressure from the French High Commissioner, who they claim had interfered with editorial independence.

A statement by Nouvelles Calédoniennes Journalists’ Association said that journalists were "at the end of their tether and their energy" after High Commissioner Jean-Jacques Brot had allegedly insisted that the newspaper’s editorial board publish an article he wrote attacking the newspaper’s journalists.

Translated from the French, the association statement said the newspaper directors were "buckling under repeated pressure from Brot".

It also lashed out at the company director, Philippe Demazel, for failing to explain the incident to journalists when asked.

The journalists have gone on strike regularly over the past eight months over instability on the newspaper which allegedly began after the newspaper’s former editor, Xavier Serre, left in July 2013.

According to the association, Serre was replaced by two people who resigned in rapid succession.

The association claimed the first replacement editor, Veronique Palomar, had more business than journalism experience while the second, Fabrice Rouard, was more qualified as a "clairvoyant" than a journalist.

Rouard had only stayed in the job for two months, during which time he took a position against printing the flag of the indigenous Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste on the front page of the newspaper, even though it is one of the territory’s two official flags.
This restriction was very unpopular with the journalists who believed that equitable political coverage should be given to all sides in New Caledonia.

Although Rouard had left on 14 February 2014, journalists had not been officially informed of this.

The paper had been without an editor for the past three weeks and journalists were taking it in turns to do the job, the association said.

Almost half of the paper’s journalists – 19 out of 44 – had quit during this period of uncertainty.
Virginie Grizon, a former journalist on the newspaper who resigned along with 18 others after a 15 day strike, told Pacific Media Watch that there were just two journalists left to cover all the news in the capital city.

Bureau chiefs had not been replaced when they resigned and there was no proper plan to cover the election.

"We don’t understand the choice of the shareholders and they didn’t answer our questions. This daily newspaper is the only one here, so this is very disturbing for the country," said Grizon.
"One month out from the municipal elections and less than three months from the provincials – major days of reckoning for the country – the only daily newspaper in New Caledonia now finds itself without an editor in chief, soon without an assistant editor in chief, and without a Noumea bureau head.

"Journalists are finding it necessary to work with these constraints, having to sacrifice quality, something which they deplore" said the association.

Although they had asked the directors of the newspaper to explain the situation, they had maintained a "stony silence", the association said.

New Zealand filmmaker Jim Marbrook has been working in New Caledonia for the last six years shooting a feature documentary project.

He said he was "shocked that journalists at the local daily now seem to be bound by the political will of the major shareholders of the paper".

Marbrook said this would impact on balanced coverage of politics.

"There are moves to reframe the terms of the Noumea Accord, expanding an electorate and diminishing the Kanak vote. With shareholders in the company directly linked to major mining concerns these debates risk being glossed over or forgotten altogether," Marbrook said.

The Noumea Accord was supposed to give New Caledonia and the indigenous people there, the Kanaks, political power in the lead up to this year’s referendum, when citizens of New Caledonia will decide whether to become independent or remain a territory of France.

But indigenous Kanak people have voiced concern that their votes will be "drowned out" by French citizens who have moved to New Caledonia in large numbers in recent years.

Niue as freely associated state ratifies treaty banning nuclear weapons

Press Release
Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO)


Vienna, 5 March 2014

Niue ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), becoming the 162th country to do so. Niue’s ratification follows the country’s signature on 9 April 2012. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), said: “I welcome Niue’s ratification of the CTBT. This consolidates the anti-testing norm in a region that has suffered so much from nuclear testing and sets an example for other States in the region and beyond.”
The long-term effects from nuclear testing such as the Castle Bravo h-bomb test in the Marshall Islands 60 years ago continues to haunt the lives of our fellow islanders. All forms of nuclear testing need to be outlawed to protect future generations in the Pacific and elsewhere.
Toke Tufukia Talagi, Prime Minister of Niue
The island nation of Niue is located in the South Pacific, where France, the United States and the United Kingdom conducted a total of 263 mostly atmospheric nuclear tests. Commemorations for islanders affected by the 15 megatonCastle Bravo test 60 years ago, on 1 March 1954, were held this week at the Marshall Islands.

The region has shown a strong commitment to banning nuclear weapons and their testing by creating a nuclear-free zone for the South Pacific. This was established through the Treaty of Rarotonga, which was signed in 1985 and entered into force in 1986.

Amongst the 16 Members of the Pacific Islands Forum (Australia, Cook Islands, Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu), now only two have yet to ratify the CTBT: Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, while two others have yet to sign and ratify: Tonga and Tuvalu.

Although the CTBT has been signed by 183 countries of which now 162 have also ratified, it can only enter into force after it has been ratified by the eight remaining nuclear capable countries: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States. Click here for an interactive map of the Treaty’s status.

The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions. The CTBTO is building a verification regime to monitor the planet for compliance with the Treaty. Over 85% of the global network of 337 facilities to monitor underground, the oceans and the atmosphere for nuclear explosions have already been established. Around 25 stations are located in the South Pacific Ocean, most of which are fully operational. The stations closest to Niue are located in Samoa, the Cook Islands and Fiji. Verification data from the stations can also be used for disaster mitigation such as tsunami warning. The island of Niue has been struck repeatedly by tsunamis and cyclones in the past.

For further information, please see www.ctbto.org your resource on ending nuclear testing, or contact

Thomas Mützelburg, CTBTO Public Information
T    +43 1 26030 6421  
M    +43 699 1459 6421