REGION: Economic issues put strain on media freedom – PJR Report

French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru with New Caledonia’s President Harold Martin and French Polynesia Assembly member Tea Hirshon.

While few Pacific nations and territories experience a regime of media restriction such as Fiji, many find themselves in a situation where funding for public broadcasting is a long way down the governments’ wishlists.

The publication of the Pacific Journalism Review report tomorrow coincides with a recent announcement by the Territorial Assembly of French Polynesia, or Tahiti, of the planned closure of the online bilingual (English and French) news service, Tahitipresse.

Editor Thibault Marais spoke to Radio New Zealand International about the assembly’s plans to wind it up at the end of the year.

“The alternative plans could be maybe merging with the Tahiti Nui Television service. The other plan could be private companies which might be interested in continuing this service,” he said.

“At least two companies told us that they were interested and maybe we could talk about that as well.”

In June, RNZI reported pro-independence Assembly member Tea Hirshon was not hopeful for the future of Tahitipresse and blamed previous governments for failing to take measures to reduce costs.

Little choice
Despite Hirshon’s view at that time that the assembly would not fully comply with the report, as it wasn’t a “bible to be followed”, it seems the territory has had little choice as it struggles to scale back the extravagant spending that France has made clear it will no longer support.

She said assembly ministers did not rate the importance of online news in English particularly highly.

The report says French Polynesia has felt intense pressure from France to enact reforms for the past 12 months.

“The Bouillet Report has encouraged major cuts to a myriad of ‘surplus’ public bodies and departments as France puts increased pressure to curb the overspending and reduce its costs in the territory,” it says.

“The public broadcaster Tahiti Nui TV may well be at risk as the Territorial Assembly is looking to convert it to a web-based service.”

With more direct and violent infringements on freedom of the press, the Pacific Media Freedom Report lists West Papua as the most dangerous place for journalists and media personnel.

In another timely and tragic event, reporter Duma Tato Sanda, of Cahaya Papua, was last week beaten and had his camera and motorbike stolen by workers at the controversial Freeport mine in Timika, Papua.

(cc) Creative Commons

Pacific media freedom 2011: A status report


Tahiti Nui TV


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