APIA, Samoa (Pacific Media Watch): One of the Pacific’s oldest newspapers is no more. Les Nouvelles de Tahiti, the older of two daily newspapers in French Polynesia, published its last edition on Friday.
The front page consisted of the banner, a completely black background, and its starting and finishing publication dates.
Those dates were from 26 April 1957 to 23 May 2014, publishing a total of 16,602 editions, according to a report from Polynesia 1st, a public radio station.
News of the closure was confirmed a day before, on Thursday, following an extraordinary general meeting of the shareholders of Polynesian Media Group.
In the absence of Albert Moux, the other shareholders have officially recorded the voluntary liquidation of SELN, the company that publishes Les Nouvelles and Tiki Mag. The newspaper was losing too much money under its management: 18 million French Pacific francs a month (about US$205,000).
The 16 journalists will all be reassigned, according to Polynesia 1st.
Meanwhile, Louis Bresson, director of publication at rival daily, La Depeche de Tahiti, praised the paper for a “successful career”. He said “the disappearance of a newspaper is never a happy time ... even for a competitor".
As has been extensively discussed in other media, economic imperatives imposed sacrifice, said Bresson.
"The deficit discovered by the new team leading the Polynesia Media Group in recent weeks was such that to continue publishing the newspaper, which lost more money for years, would have had the effect of jeopardising the entire press group, even its 'flagship' publication La Depeche de Tahiti.”
The paper blamed a changing media landscape, particularly competition from the web, and an economic crisis in the territory, with “inevitable repercussions on the press”, hastening the end of Les Nouvelles de Tahiti.
Bresson made a comparison with traditional canoes, saying that when the crew of one canoe had to abandon ship, they could always rely on an accompanying canoe to take them on. “There will be no ‘man overboard’, said Mr Bresson, stating that journalists from Les Nouvelles would join their newsroom on Monday.
He also saw a silver lining in the dark media clouds. “To be honest, it will not harm the greatest canoe, when the race was slowed by difficulties of the lowest. With a combined editorial news team, other media groups will experience “a new boom.” This would enable La Depeche to strengthen editorial content, develop its website, enrich the information on its radio station NRJ, and offer a new weekly edition.
“The last day of publication of the Nouvelles de Tahiti is a sad day for its current editorial team and its former colleagues, including myself, but also for the many readers who have remained faithful against all odds.”
Bresson also addressed accusations that Les Nouvelles had been shut down because of its recent outspoken criticism of political parties now in government.
He said that everyone should know that even though Les Nouvelles was disappearing, the talents which it expressed in recent times will continue to do so freely in the columns of La Depeche de Tahiti.
“The cost-saving measure that led to the closure of the oldest daily newspaper in Tahiti does not constitute censorship,” he insisted.
“Freedom of the press, it is above all the freedom of journalists and those of Les Nouvelles will speak in the same way in the writing of La Depeche, where they will be welcomed by their colleagues on Monday.”
Online, Les Nouvelles declared the "end of an era" and published testimonies by journalists, politicians and civic leaders for its contribution to Tahitian journalism and democracy.
Jason Brown is deputy editor of the Samoa Observer, a media freedom campaigner and a contributor to Pacific Media Watch.
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