By Lucile Guichet-Tirao in Pape’ete
La Dépêche de Tahiti, the oldest and last major daily newspaper in French Polynesia, has finally closed after publishing for almost six decades.
The last edition — a weekender — was published today with a front page editorial declaring “Merci” — “Thank you” — to its readers and supporters.
The 40 employees — journalists, administrative employees and technicians — have all been sacked with no guarantee of any redundancy pay.
La Dépêche, once owned by the French Robert Hersant publishing group, was taken over in 2014 by a consortium led by Dominique Auroy, a businessman with hotel and waste interests. At the time, journalists were worried about their future employment and editorial policy changes.
Also in 2014, the business group halted publication of the other daily newspaper, Les Nouvelles de Tahiti, the first Polynesian daily which had been losing money.
The Nouvelles had a reputation for publishing political and financial investigative exposes. But the new managers considered the editorial policy too “aggressive”.
Since 2014, the management made a series of financial blunders causing debts for La Dépêche de Tahiti — such as over rents and social benefit charges — and were convicted for “hampering trade unions”.
Now this daily newspaper has also disappeared. Just one daily publication remains in French Polynesia, a free online publication, Tahiti-Infos, with a paid print edition, published by Fenua Communication. This was taken over in 2012 by Patrick Moux, who is also the Shell Petroleum local boss.
Commentators and critics are describing the loss of La Dépêche as a “sad day for press pluralism” in French Polynesia. So far there has been no reaction from Polynesian politicians.
Lucile Guichet-Tirao is a television journalist with Polynésie la 1ère.