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Plan to "modernise" statutes of AFP news agency threatens to undermine its independence and credibility, says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 27 October 2008 media release from the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), an IFJ regional group:

Plan to Change Statutes of AFP is Not 'Modernisation' Says EFJ

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists, today expressed its concerns over plans to "modernise" the statutes of French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP).

"If by modernisation, AFP plans to open itself up to investment by private companies, then we do not see it as a modernisation," said EFJ President Arne König. "AFP has a unique statute and mission that guarantee its independence and private shareholders would harm the credibility of the agency. We also point out that it is totally contradictory to suppress commercial revenues for public broadcasters but then organise a disguised privatisation of AFP, which also contributes to public-service information."

On October 23 the board of AFP announced its intention to "modernise" the statutes of AFP, which date back to 1957, and to create conditions for "stable shareholding." Until now, AFP has had a unique structure, similar to a co-operative organisation, administrated by representatives of its users. The agency is considered a model of independence in France and internationally.

The EFJ says French media are in the midst of a crisis as lack of compensation from commercial revenues for public broadcasters, the opening of "Etats généraux" (national debate) with political intentions to relax media ownership rules and revision of the statutes of AFP are coming together to create a dangerous climate that could harm the quality and independence of news in France, as well as the credibility of journalists.

The EFJ and IFJ have asked to meet with President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss these issues.

Member unions of the EFJ in France are SNJ, SNJ-CGT and F3C-CFDT.

The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in more than 30 countries in Europe.

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