reprinted with permission from
Poison Fire, Sacred Earth,


pages 214-215


Claude Marere

Claude Marere, Tahiti, Polynesia. Journalist, works with Radio Te Reo o Tefana.
(This speech was held originally in French)

Hello, my name is Claude Marere, and I have been working as a journalist in Tahiti since 1968. I would like to talk here about a subject that I know well, which is the reaction of the Tahitian press towards the bomb and the independency movement.

           In 1966, when the first bomb exploded in Moruroa, there were three newspapers written in French in Tahiti. At that time, 60,000 people were living on the island, people that spoke French hardly or not at all. The reporters were French, most of them had just arrived, so I had been the only Tahitian journalist for a long time. Since then, things have not changed much. There still are no Tahitian journalists working in Tahitian newspapers and if they are, they do not treat delicate subjects.

           When newspapers started writing about the bomb, the pages were entirely covered with pictures about the arrival of a new warship, a change of leaders or the visit of a minister to assist a start. Through all these common topics, the bomb has become sort of innocent, just something trivial, as if the French atomic experiments were not dangerous at all, as if the bomb were a gift, an extraordinary chance given to us by France. Each Greenpeace-campaign -- whom we should thank so much -- and each protest movement coming from New Zealand caused extremely violent reactions in the local press. Independents and people who are against the nuclear program are treated as traitors or ingrates in their own country. Anyone who does not accept the bomb and the French culture is ignored and disregarded. It has become as simple as that: If it is true, the newspapers will write about it and if they don't, nothing of that exists.

           In 1981, the government became socialist and radio stations were liberalized. And those municipalities interested in the union with France were the first to create their own radio stations. In the Pacific, Tahitian is the language of oral tradition and of radio stations. From now on, the brain storming is in both languages, French in the press and Tahitian on the radio. The basic idea is that Polynesia could not survive by itself and that only the bomb could lead to a kind of life that other little nations in the Pacific would dream of. At the same time, the protest movements from the population, their dreams of emancipation, the regions with poor people filled to the top, the problems of Polynesians at school and at work, the always growing French community (the French represent nowadays 15 percent of the population of the island, this immigration being of high quality with a dominant influence in economy and the society). The Polynesians are losing their homeland, but the indifference about this fact is now general.

           In the middle of the seventies, Oscar Temarou takes the place in the independent movement. This is a political party with no financial resources. The militants are very poor people. Oscar Temarou will become sort of a pilgrim, crossing valleys, going from village to village, from house to house. His audience becoming larger and larger on Tahiti and the confining islands, he will travel even to further archipels. Distances are long and the travels dangerous, you have to take many different ships, small fishermen's ships that sometimes break down or even could sink out in the middle of the sea. It is hard work. They needed a media to break with this silence of conspiracy at a time when the pressure was getting bigger and bigger. The two surviving newspapers of Tahiti were bought in the eighties by the Erson Group, the biggest one of the French press. Fortunately, the State had to start some necessary procedures in order to create a radio station which was supported by pro-French municipalities. Oscar Temarou, at that time mayor of the municipality of Faa, will take the chance and create his own radio station in 1988, the "Te Reo o Tefana". This station calls itself "Anti-Atomic Radio" and broadcasts news in both languages. I have been working in that station since then. But after four years, the station realizes that its part is quite limited and that the slogan "If it is not in the newspapers, it doesn't exist" still goes around and that words can be forgotten, but the cry stays and can pass from hand to hand. That's why we decided to create a newspaper. We started working on this project and bought the necessary material. With a bit of luck, it should be edited at the end of the year or at least at the beginning of the next year.

           I would like to say something about the media of the French State, as for instance RFO. RFO is a radio and T.V.-station, I can't remember what these letters stand for, but in Tahitian they call it "Radio faofao-uré", which means "the radio that's good for nothing". In fact, it still is helpful, reaching the deepest points of the islands and the farest valleys and it has very important means. During the last four years, the territory and the State created a program for satellite-T.V. in order to reach very far islands. This means that they have to put other new stations on the spot for a price of one million dollars each. The result of all this is that a community of 300, sometimes 500 or 800 people can watch T.V. This is crazy. For the independents, this money would be more helpful if used for development or didactical programs.

           That's all, I thank you for your attention.

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