Government tries to counter 'image problem'

14th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 14 (AFP) - The French government has stepped up its efforts at home and abroad to improve the country's image in the foreign media, battered by weeks of front-page coverage of rioting in run-down city suburbs.

PARIS, Nov 14 (AFP) - The French government has stepped up its efforts at home and abroad to improve the country's image in the foreign media, battered by weeks of front-page coverage of rioting in run-down city suburbs.

Foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on Monday that French diplomats have been asked to increase their contacts with the foreign media, to try to reverse the damage done by some of the coverage of the street violence.

"It is true there is an image problem," Douste-Blazy told Europe 1 radio, saying that "all ambassadors have been asked to be present on the airwaves, in newspapers and on television in their countries."

Meanwhile, government spokesman Jean-François Copé held a special briefing for foreign correspondents in Paris, after the cabinet moved to extend emergency police powers to subdue the unrest.

Speaking to a group of around 100 reporters, Cope said the government wished to "bring these incidents back into proportion", without passing judgement on the work of the foreign media.

"The image of 'France on fire' is not accurate," he argued, calling such coverage as a "caricature" of the events.

Sources close to prime minister Dominique de Villepin said he would also shortly meet with a group of foreign correspondents.

Sensationalist coverage of the violence in some foreign media has raised fears of a knock-on effect on tourism and foreign investment.

Some foreign coverage gave the impression that unrest had engulfed the country, when in reality the car-burnings and arson have been confined to certain out-of-town estates, French officials say.

Copé stressed that the violence had affected areas far from the tourist circuits, "not Versailles or the Eiffel tower", and that there was a "gradual return to a peaceful situation."

"This is not a phenomenon specific to France. Unfortunately, it is likely to occur in other other countries because we are facing similar situations."

But correspondents in Paris were sceptical about the government's approach.

"France is the only European Union country in a state of emergency," argued Hans-Helmut Kohl, correspondent for the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau, who said it was "not very intelligent to say this state of emergency is nothing extraordinary."

Kamal Tarabay, journalist for the Lebanese television channel LBC, charged that Copé had glossed over the failures of the French model for integrating immigrants, which he said was "a complete failure, a fiasco".

John Vinocur, a columnist with the Paris-based International Herald Tribune, said "the press will be watching this initiative intently," warning that an attempt to teach journalists "lessons" would probably backfire.

Michaela Wiegel, correspondent for the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, found it "strange that the foreign press should be singled out, as if it were not as present on the ground as the French press."

"We have other points of reference, but we have the same access to information. There is no need to give special explanations to the foreign media," she argued.

More than 8,000 cars have been burned, scores of buildings wrecked and dozens of policemen hurt since October 27 in attacks by disaffected youths from poor suburbs.

The violence has been described as the worst rioting to hit France since the student uprising of May 1968.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

 

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