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France / New Caledonia10 November 2006

Return to normal after eight months of turmoil for French public broadcaster in Noumea

Reporters Without Borders today hailed the signing of an accord yesterday in Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, between the pro-independence Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers (USTKE) and the management of the French public radio and TV broadcaster RFO. The accord should end eight months of turmoil for RFO’s staff in Noumea.

The situation led the press freedom organisation to issue a press release on 5 May condemning the threats and intimidation against RFO journalists, who - like the rest of the station’s staff - were for the most part opposed to the protest movement that was triggered by the dismissal of a Kanak staff member affiliated to the USTKE.

Kanak is a term used by indigenous Melanesians to refer to themselves. They represent about 45 per cent of the population of New Caledonia, which is a semi-autonomous French territory in the Pacific.

Aside from protests that repeatedly paralysed RFO’s operations, the dispute led to incidents that disrupted the entire news media in New Caledonia in the course of the year, including journalists being barred from news conferences and prevented from filming, the blocking of the printing of the weekly Les Infos, and then the blocking of the printing of the daily Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes.

Reporters Without Borders said it particularly welcomed the fact that, in the preamble of yesterday’s accord, both parties reaffirmed “their joint commitment to media pluralism and freedom of expression in New Caledonia” and their recognition of the role RFO should play in the democratic debate and the expression of views by the various components of New Caledonian society.

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