Syndicat de journalistes CGT - section de l’Agence France-Presse

Agence France-Presse Branch of the French National CGT Journalists' Union (SNJ-CGT)

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People, Voyeurism, 
Invasion of Privacy: 
What Next?


After having incurred, in October 2005, the wrath of a certain French interior minister over a wire story that seriously infringed on his right to privacy, one might have thought that AFP had learned its lesson.

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At the time we heard solemn injunctions from management on the need to respect the strictest journalistic principles on privacy, instructions that were all the more pressing given that the minister in question, who has since become president of France, no less, was threatening us with legal action!

Has it not already crossed most people’s minds that there might just be a connection between the ire of the minister in 2005 and the extremely serious threats our agency has been facing since the same person took over the top job?

Public Relations Gone Mad

Despite all that, AFP has just stooped to publish, in several languages, wire stories relating salacious details said to concern the same person’s private life(1). The stories in question provide word-for-word details about dialogues alleged to have taken place between the president and his future spouse, published in a book written by a jet-setting advertising executive.

After "more leisure in times of crisis"(2), and English-language blog articles that make light of French laws on the right not to have one’s picture published without permission(3), after ever-increasing stress on subjects which fall well outside the mission laid down in AFP’s statutes, now we get more stories infringing on people’s private lives, this time with the (presumed) tacit authorisation of the head of state!

We are told that the president’s office "refused to comment" on the reports, which up until yesterday had mostly been covered only by a few gossip and entertainment agencies, in addition to the inevitable coverage in the British press.

And what if one day the Elysée palace changed its mind about the tacit authorisation? What exactly would we do then?

This management is leading us straight into a brick wall. We are ashamed.

SNJ-CGT - Friday, February 13, 2009

1 Wire stories dated February 12: "Sarkozy’s kiss challenge to Bruni at first meeting" - "Quand Séguéla raconte la rencontre Sarkozy-Bruni" - "Sarkozy quería besar a Bruni desde que la vio".


3 - posts of November 10 and December 19, 2008.