TAHITI RADIO BAN 'LIFTED' BUT RESTRICTIONS REMAIN

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By Jilda Shem

PAPE‘ETE, Tahiti (June 15, 1999 - Pacific Media Watch/Wansolwara/ Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse recently "lifted" a ban on the pro-independence Radio Tefana, but News Director Vito Maamaatua says it still is under a partial gag.

He said the ban had not really been lifted because President Flosse still chooses the journalists who attended his press conferences and tells them what to cover and what not to cover.

"President Flosse makes the choices of my journalists. He says, 'I want this journalist at my press conference - not this one,'" Mr. Maamaatua said.

Radio Te Reo o Tefana was supposedly allowed by President Flosse -- for the first time since 1996 -- to be represented at all press conferences held by him and his cabinet ministers.

But, in practice, the ban was lifted only to allow Radio Tefana to attend all government press conferences. And the journalists are not given the freedom to write on what they want.

According to Mr. Maamaatua, the ban was suddenly lifted as a result of the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) regional conference in Papeete last December.

However, Mr. Maamaatua said the ban had not been a problem for Radio Tefana.

"It's not a problem to be or not to be at the press conferences - we still gather the news.

"To be or not be at the press conferences is the same. We still have press releases," he said.

Mr. Maamaatua added that there is no real press freedom in Tahiti.

As an example, he said many journalists from the state-run RFO complain about how they want to cover important issues but were not allowed to.

Also, they are given angles for their news stories.

"In Tahiti, we have a special situation; we have four kinds of media -colonial media, government media, opposition media and commercial media.

"You will have to learn to read between the lines because [the media] will never write the truth; it is very rare," he said.

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organization comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.

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Date -- 10 June 1999 Byline -- Jilda Shem Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- Wansolwara, University of the South Pacific, 9/6/99 Copyright -- USP Journalism Status -- Unabridged

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