RARATONGA (11 March 2014) -- The Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF), the regional media rights and monitoring network, is concerned about the state of editorial independence in New Caledonia’s only daily newspaper, Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, and stands in solidarity with the dwindling number of journalists that remain at the paper.
According to Pacific Media Watch, a statement by the Nouvelles Calédoniennes Journalists’ Association accuses the French High Commissioner of putting pressure on their editorial board, which they say has given in to his demands to publish an article he authored attacking the newspaper’s journalists.
The association’s statement, translated from the French, says journalists were “at the end of their tether and their energy” after High Commissioner Jean-Jacques Brot brought repeated pressure on the newspaper’s board to print his article.
This latest incident comes on the heel of a turbulent eight months at the newspaper, which in the past month has seen almost half of its 44 journalists resigning.
“We are extremely concerned about our colleagues in New Caledonia, especially since it is only a month away from the municipal election and three months away from the major provincial poll,” said Titi Gabi of PNG, the chair of PFF.
“A newspaper should be able to function independently at all times, and even more so in the lead-up to elections. Journalists must be able to freely report news and opinions to give as many voices as possible equitable coverage.
“If the political leanings of the newspaper’s major shareholders are allowed to affect New Caledonia’s only daily paper, it is questionable whether political coverage will remain balanced,” says Gabi.
PFF co-chair Monica Miller, who is based in American Samoa, called on political actors in the French territory to allow the media to operate without undue influence.
“We must condemn the actions of the French High Commissioner in putting further pressure on a newspaper that is without an editor-in-chief and Noumea bureau head, and could also soon be without an assistant editor-in-chief,” Miller said.
“We also call on Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes’ shareholders and directors to respect their journalists as professionals and be transparent with them about the developments at the newspaper,” Miller said.
Pacific Media Watch says in the past eight months, the journalists at the newspaper have regularly gone on strike because of instability, which allegedly began after the newspaper’s former editor, Xavier Serre, left in July 2013.
“With reportedly only two journalists left to cover news in Noumea, the quality of the newspaper’s journalism during this important period will no doubt suffer. It is crucial not only for the newspaper, but for New Caledonia as a whole, that the acrimony between journalists, their bosses and political actors is resolved and not become the professional downfall of the newspaper.”
PFF CHAIR | Titi Gabi | PNGEdge.com | Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea | PO Box 7776, Boroko, NCD, PNG | Mob: +675 706 86875 | email@example.com
PFF CO-CHAIR | Monica Miller | KHJ Radio | Pago Pago, America Samoa | Mob: +684 258 4197 | Office: +684 633 7793 | firstname.lastname@example.org
COORDINATOR | Ricardo Morris | Republika Media | Suva, Fiji | Mob: +679 904 1215 | email@example.com
The Pacific Freedom Forum is a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media. We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance. In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.