Saturday, 14 January 2017

Why France must rethink Polynesia radio shutdown - PFF


Image may contain: 1 person
“It is criminal” – Te Tia Ara (French Polynesian Consumer Association) President Makalio Folituu has slammed the closure of AM radio, saying it endangers outer islanders. Photo / Te Tia Ara


14th January 2017

France must rethink its shutdown of AM radio broadcasting in Polynesia, says PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum.

“People in the outer islands of French Polynesia are rightly complaining against the closure,” says PFF Chair Monica Miller.

“France must rethink its decision if it values the lives of all its citizens.”

Miller says that France is ignoring the safety of outer islanders who rely on a strong AM signal from Radio Polynésie Première for emergencies, especially during frequent cyclones.

French Polynesia has been hit by as many as five major cyclones in one season, back in the early 1980s.

“What excuse has France got, really, for shutting down the main source of information for the region’s second largest territory?” asks Miller.

“Surely the third largest economy in Europe can afford a few thousand for keeping all its citizens informed”, she says.

PFF is welcoming calls from the government of French Polynesia to reconsider the closure, and joins criticism from consumer association, Te Tia Ara:

"These decision makers - have they thought about these people living in harsh conditions, traveling by speed boat from island to island? Have they thought about our small scale fishermen going to sea, our workers in the transport sector? What about those who cultivate copra and who need to be reassured [of safe travel], have they thought of those people who do not want to be deprived of a bond [to the capital], to suffer in silence? Is it forgotten where isolation leads to? This decision is all the more serious because many of these inhabitants are only able to keep themselves informed with a small battery AM radio, with which authorities have invited these inhabitants to stay informed, to listen to the weather and take the necessary measures to avoid going to sea in case of a weather depression or cyclone and also to take care of themselves, to seek refuge when necessary. It is criminal to deprive them of the only means of staying informed. This relationship is vital, and so is the cohesion of our society and the security of these inhabitants." - Makalio Folituu, President Te Tia Ara

AM signals were shut down in December, with the state broadcaster adding five stations to a territorial network of 48 other FM stations.

“FM is vulnerable to disruption even in mild weather,” says Miller.

“By shutting down its AM signal, France is also betraying constitutional guarantees for press plurality,” she says.

French Polynesia joins a growing list of Pacific nations without long range radio broadcast capacity.

The Cook Islands next door turned down its AM signal after the state broadcaster was privatised in the early 1990s.

For years after, Cook Islanders outside the capital Rarotonga tuned into Samoa radio, 2AP.

But then a decade later Samoa almost privatised state radio, eventually deciding to cut back signal strength and staff numbers.

Australia is set to shut down shortwave broadcasting to the region on 17th January this month.

Since 2008, PFF has also raised alerts over political interference in news media, including assaults, arrests, legal threats, censorship, suspension and sacking of staff in West Papua, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Vanuatu, Fiji, the Cook Islands and French Polynesia.

"Governments need to stop seeing news media as their enemy", says Miller.

Instead, she says, they should see the Fourth Estate as partners - frontline first responders to disasters, and the most effective and efficient protection for citizens and economies against corruption, waste and mismanagement.

Radio Polynésie Première started broacasting as Radio Tahiti, for three hours a day, in 1949.


Loss of AM radio irks French Polynesia

Call to restore AM radio in French Polynesia

Suppression de la radio AM : État et Pays montent au créneau (French)

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Sunday, 1 January 2017

PFF starts 2017 with a new home

PFF new website
New year – new site: PFF starts 2017 with a website to rebuild, and a new focus on action as well as scrutiny. Image / PFF


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“Having highlighted freedom and ethics problems facing news media since 2008, PFF hopes to lead into its tenth anniversary next year by suggesting actions and implementing solutions.”


1st January 2017

Mataora mataiti ou – happy new year !

Pacific Freedom Forum starts 2017 with a new online platform.

See – which we’re rebuilding from the interim PFF Facebook home.

The new site will act as a focus point for media freedom and ethics as we take action heading into a brand new year.


PIMA 2016 executive
Helping out : PFF Editor Jason Brown, assisting PIMA, the Pacific Islands Media Association, at their AGM last month. From left, PIMA Chair Will ‘Ilolahia, adviser Manu Fotu, vice Chair Judy Bataillard, and board member George Vea.


Having highlighted freedom and ethics problems facing news media since 2008, PFF hopes to lead into its tenth anniversary next year by suggesting actions and implementing solutions.

“We are currently looking at our founding structures, and what we can do to ensure that our advocacy reaches the widest possible audiences,” says PFF Chair Monica Miller.

“That means building on existing partnerships, with IFEX, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, and closer to home, PINA, the Pacific Islands News Association, and PIMA, the Pacific Islands Media Association.

“We will also be forging new partnerships to build our capacity, including moving on from our volunteer-only status towards an established secretariat.”


PFF west papua
Merdeka: Indonesia hosts 2017 World Press Freedom Day – but will it allow free access to West Papua?

A leading concern remaining from 2016 is continued attacks on freedom of expression in West Papua. 

Indonesia’s Tempo magazine quotes a human rights organisation recording that :

“declining indexes were apparent from restrictions of freedom of expression, for instance criminalization of human rights activists, Papua residents and journalists. Setara Institute recorded that the highest number of human rights violations occurred in Papua, where 29 people were criminalized, 2,397 people were arrested during protests, 13 people were killed, 68 were shot and [there were] two murder attempts in 2016.”

PFF has called on Indonesia to stop attacks on media freedom in West Papua, calling for foreign media to be given full and free access to provinces ahead of Jakarta hosting World Press Freedom Day in May this year. 


PFF nauru
Local media: Nauru blocked opposition access to state news – but election observers still declared the elections ‘fair’.

There were also attacks on media and freedom of expression in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa.

Other media challenges arose in Samoa, Fiji and the Cook Islands.

Three new elements of PFF scrutiny emerged this last year – an assault against a social network user in Vanuatu, and the arrest of a 12 year old girl in Papua New Guinea over a Facebook post; a failure by Commonwealth and Pacific Islands Forum officials to fully scrutinise censorship of local news media in the lead up to elections in Nauru, and the long neglected issue of bullying in newsrooms, especially against women, usually by male bosses.


PFF press ombudsman
Funding: PFF is looking for support to help establish a Pacific media ombudsman.

PFF is actively seeking funding this year to go towards its scrutiny of media freedom and ethics issues.

Funding sought will support operations of the secretariat, and establishment of a Pacific media ombudsman, first mooted at a PFF conference in the Solomon Islands in 2013.

Another significant development from 2016 was new levels of cooperation between the various Pacific media groups.

PFF joint statement


A notable event was the first ever joint statement between the Pacific Freedom Forum, PINA Pacific Islands News Association based in Fiji and PIMA Pacific Islands Media Association, based in New Zealand.

PFF also played a pivotal role assisting PIMA, proposing radical new levels of transparency and accountability, with members agreeing at their annual general meeting two weeks ago.

PFF says that the three groups have had professional disagreements in the past, especially over ethics, and accountability.

PFF bullying
Weakness: Newsrooms are often subject to bullying from management.


“But there seems to be an agreement evolving to focus on building media strengths, as well as exposing weaknesses and suggesting potential solutions,” says Miller.

Debate over professional standards should, for example, be seen as a strength, not a weakness, she says.

Greater scrutiny improves news transparency, and media accountability adds to the credibility of the Fourth Estate, says Miller.



29 October 2016
Free access call for Fiji - PFF

2 October 2016
Fiji action against gag letter shows leadership - PFF

22 September 2016
Regional journalists push job safety for PNG media

29 August 2016
Death of Samoa media pioneer unites media

19 August 2016
Abandon 'overkill' case against Fiji Times – PFF

28 July 2016
PNG police should protect press, people - PFF

24 July 2016
Free and fair access to all media - PFF

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