EDITOR ISSUES PUBLIC PLEA

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ALERT INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION (IFEX) Toronto, Canada Website: http://www.ifex.org/

August 26, 1999

AFTER JOURNALIST INJURED COVERING
NEW CALEDONIA UNION BLOCKADE

SOURCE: Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), Suva

On 26 August 1999, Réseau France-Outremer (RFO) New Caledonia editor-in-chief Francis Orny urged all business, trade union and political leaders in the French Pacific territory to "keep their troops under control" after an RFO cameraperson was injured during a confrontation between unionists and members of the public.

RFO-television cameraperson Philippe Grenier was hit by a stone on his temple on 25 August as he was filming a tense confrontation between union supporters and the general public at union-erected roadblocks on the outskirts of the capital, Noumea.

In a special editorial comment on RFO-radio, Orny reacted to the incident, which comes one week after another RFO-TV journalist, Isabelle Hennequin, was close to being shot as she interviewed a union leader in Canala, north of Noumea. The union leader, who was at the time giving an interview to Hennequin, sustained a bullet wound in the upper thigh fired by a sniper at roadblock on the village nickel mining site.

Orny said: "Our daily mission is to inform you (the public). We're trying to do this to our best (ability). Of course, we love our job and we're getting paid for doing it. We're accepting the risks. But the degradation of the social climate in New Caledonia is getting out of hand. We wouldn't like to see journalists, (in) this instance from RFO, becoming victims of the situation. This act, and the shooting the other day in Canala, are imbecilic and inadmissible actions. More generally, they are infringements of the freedom to inform and to democracy at large.

"We take our responsibilities, but RFO journalists are now officially urging all trade union, economic and political leaders to take theirs by keeping their troops under control.

"Our only tools are a camera, a microphone and a pen. Of course, we're easy targets. We believe that every attempt to prevent, now and in future, journalists to do their job is a breach of this fundamental right, the right we have to tell the truth, even if it sometimes annoys some. This is and always will remain our sole aim."

RFO New Caledonia's management has filed a court action over the incident.

For further information, contact: Nina Ratulele, Coordinator PINA Pacific Freedom of Information Network Pacific Islands News Association Mailing Address: Pacific Islands News Association Private Mail Bag, Suva Fiji Islands Street Address: Level 2, Damodar Centre 46 Gordon Street Suva, Fiji Islands Tel: +679 303623 Fax: +679 303943 E-mail: pina@is.com.fj Internet site: http://www.pressasia.org/PFA/

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of PINA. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit PINA.

DISTRIBUTED BY THE INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION EXCHANGE (IFEX) CLEARING HOUSE 489 College Street Toronto (ON) M6G 1A5 CANADA Tel: +1 416 515 9622 Fax: +1 416 515 7879 Alerts e-mail: alerts@ifex.org General e-mail: ifex@ifex.org Internet site: http://www.ifex.org/

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