Wallis and Futuna Islands





Wallis and Futuna Islands

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Wallis and Futuna Islands
Region (Map name): Oceania
Population: 15,283
Language(s): French, Wallisian
Literacy rate: 50%

Wallis and Futuna Islands are located in the South Pacific Ocean approximately two-thirds of the distance between Hawaii and New Zealand. Although known to the Dutch and British as early as the seventeenth century, the islands were declared protectorates of France in 1842. The residents of the islands voted to become an overseas French territory in 1959. The official language is French, but Wallisian, a Polynesian dialect, is also spoken. The population is approximately 15,000, and the literacy rate is estimated at 50 percent. Although the French President serves as chief of state, the islands are divided into three kingdoms with a king to oversee each. Residents elect a 20-member Territorial Assembly, which recommends three officials to serve on the Council of the Territory with the three kings. The economy of Wallis and Futuna is almost entirely limited to subsistence-based agriculture.

Press freedom does not exist in the Wallis and Futuna Islands and, consequently, there is no press. The only newspaper, Te Fenua Fo'ou, published weekly, was shut down in March 2002. The King of Wallis had ordered the editor not to publish an editorial about a scandal in the royal family, but the editor ran the story anyway. When the editor defied the king's demand to resign and close the paper, the king's police shut the newspaper down, seizing its computer hard drive and a modem. When the editor moved operations to nearby New Caledonia and published another edition, the phone lines were ripped out of the Wallis office and the headquarters were damaged by police. An appeal has been made with the French government, though no remedy has occurred to date.

There are two television stations and one AM radio station. In 1998 the radio and television stations were taken over by a group of irate villagers and kept off the air for seven days. The inciting event was the stations' response to claims that cultural events and ceremonies were covered unequally among various villages. There is one Internet service provider.

Bibliography

"Wallis and Futuna," Reporters sans frontiéres (Reporters without Borders) (2002). Available from http://www.rsf.fr .

"Wallis and Futuna Islands," The CIA World Factbook (2001). Available from http://www.cia.gov .

"Wallis and Futuna paper closes after clash with traditional king," Pacific Islands (April 24, 2002). Available from http://www.pacificislands.cc .

Jenny B. Davis

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