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New Caledonia14 February 2002

Fresh attack on editor of satirical monthly

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed its indignation to political leaders in New Caledonia about a 13 February attack on Étienne Dutailly, founder and editor of the Nouméa satirical monthly Le Chien bleu, and its concern at the upsurge of intimidation of the media in the French overseas territory.

"Dutailly has now been violently attacked for the second time in a few months, very probably because he is editor of a satirical publication," said RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to them. "This is serious and the only attacks on satirical journalists we know of in recent years have occurred under authoritarian regimes. The increase in acts of intimidation against publications in New Caledonia in recent months is worrying. We ask you to condemn this behaviour and to personally take steps to prevent any new challenge to the freedom to inform in New Caledonia."

The letter was sent to the three members of the French parliament from New Caledonia - Pierre Frogier, a deputy and head of the territory’s local government, Jacques Lafleur, also a deputy and president of the southern provincial assembly, and Simon Loueckotte, a senator and president of the territory’s congress.

RSF learns that Dutailly was violently attacked on 13 February by two strangers who entered his office pretending they wanted to speak to him about some news. They punched him and kicked him in the head, bruising him and breaking a tooth. He had reported in the February issue of Le Chien bleu that he had been frequently threatened in previous weeks. RSF notes he had been attacked by a stranger on 11 July last year. He had filed a complaint and said the attack was probably linked to his journalistic work.

Since March 2001, Bruno Franceschi, managing editor of the Nouméa daily Les Nouvelles calédoniennes, and Marc Spisser, the paper’s editor-in-chief, have been regular targets of intimidation.

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