According to French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, foreign powers may be involved in the ongoing riots in New Caledonia(Photo by Christian Liewig - Corbis/Getty Images)


France bans TikTok in New Caledonia amid ‘foreign interference’ claims

Authorities say that the unprecedented move is an attempt to curb ongoing violence on the overseas French territory, with pro-independence protesters having seized control of parts of the island


France has banned Chinese social media platform TikTok on its island of New Caledonia amid claims regarding “foreign interference” on the island.

Authorities say that the unprecedented move is an attempt to curb ongoing violence on the overseas French territory, with pro-independence protesters having seized control of parts of the island.

Speaking on French television, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal clarified that the ban had gone into effect immediately on the orders of local authorities in the hopes it would prevent rioters from efficiently communicating with one another.

Legal experts have explained that the French authorities are within their right to implement the ban — which appears to run contrary to EU law — as the oversees territory is not formally part of the bloc.

“Concerning telecoms, New Caledonia is France, but it does not depend on the European Union,” one lawyer explained to BFMTV.

“They can therefore take decisions locally, especially since there is a single local regulator and operator.”

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin has meanwhile claimed that the ongoing violence in the region is being stirred up by “foreign powers” with the aim undermining France.

The Macron ally has accused Azerbaijan of collaborating with independence movements in the region for the purpose of destabilising the French South Pacific island.

“I regret that some of the pro-independence leaders in New Caledonia have made a deal with Azerbaijan, that’s undeniable,” Darmanin said.

Alongside the flags of the native Kanak independence fighters, Azerbaijani flags have also been seen at the demonstrations, which are protesting a government decision to expand the electoral vote system on the island.

“I want to say that today, even if there are attempts to interfere, France is sovereign throughout its territory, and that’s how it should be,” Darmanin added.

Azerbaijan has rejected Darmanin’s accusations, describing them as an “insulting… smear campaign”.

“It would be more appropriate if the French Minister of the Interior recalled the history of his country committing crimes against humanity toward local peoples and the brutal murder of millions of innocent people as part of its colonial policy implemented for many years,” the country’s foreign ministry said.

“[I]nstead of accusing Azerbaijan of allegedly supporting pro-independence protests in New Caledonia, the Minister of the Interior of France should focus on his country’s failed policy towards the overseas territories that led to such protests.”

To take back control of the island, the French Government declared late on May 15 a state of emergency.

On May 15, a policeman was killed by rioters, raising the death toll to four.

“The situation is insurrectionary. We are heading straight for civil war,” warned France’s High Commissioner of the Republic in New Caledonia, Louis Le Franc.

According to the Mayoress of Noumea (the capital of the island), the army will bring “supplies of medicine and food” to the population until the situation improves.

Despite Darmanin’s comments, some have said that blaming what is happening on the island on foreign interference is to misunderstand the conflicts there.

MP Jean-Victor Castor, who hails from another French overseas territory, French Guyana, insisted that the expansion of the right to vote in New Caledonia came about for a good reason.

“The native people has been outnumbered by natural migration but also by an organised settlement,” he said.

Castor said, in his view, the island was undergoing a decolonisation process.

He said that “170 years ago, the Kanaks were there, they are on their territory. And you’re never going to prevent a people from making their own claims, from having their own aspirations.”