Le Figaro staff tell 'meddling' ownerDassault to buzz off

21st September 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 21 (AFP) - Journalists at France's leading conservative daily Le Figaro have approved by an overwhelming majority a resolution warning the paper's new proprietor, industrialist Serge Dassault, against interfering with news coverage, staff said Tuesday.

PARIS, Sept 21 (AFP) - Journalists at France's leading conservative daily Le Figaro have approved by an overwhelming majority a resolution warning the paper's new proprietor, industrialist Serge Dassault, against interfering with news coverage, staff said Tuesday.  

In a secret ballot late Monday, 93 percent of journalists voted for a text expressing alarm at remarks made by the aircraft tycoon at a recent meeting which "compromise the principle of editorial independence."  

According to the paper's "Society of Journalists" (SDR) - a non-union body representing staff - Dassault said, "There can be news stories which cause more harm than good. The risk is that our country's commercial or industrial interests could be put in jeopardy."  

Journalists fear that the 79-year-old magnate, whose company manufactures Mirage and Rafale warplanes, could use his acquisition of Le Figaro's publisher Socpresse to push his business interests via the columns of the paper.  

Insiders said there have already been two cases of interference. An article on sales of the Rafale fighter was spiked, as was an interview with Taiwanese businessman Andrew Wang, implicated in a scandal over the sale of frigates to Taipei.  

The text approved on Monday states that "Le Figaro can in no way transform itself into a campaigning newspaper. It must remain an organ for national and international news, a paper of reference open to all currents of thought.  

"The SDR reserves the right to denounce publicly or by any other way that it chooses any attack on these principles," the text said.  

The son of the legendary founder of the Dassault Aviation Group Marcel Dassault, Serge Dassault paid EUR 1.5 billion (USD 1.8 billion) to purchase Socpresse, which publishes some 70 other titles including the news weekly L'Express.  

With a circulation of 270,000, Le Figaro pursues an editorial line that is generally favourable towards the centre-right government of President Jacques Chirac. However journalists fear that its ability to criticise the government could be limited by Dassault's close links with Chirac.  

The two families have known each other since before World War II, and Serge's late father Marcel Dassault financed Chirac's first moves into politics.  

Dassault's take-over of Socpresse has raised wider concerns about the growing control of French media by industrial groups. The Hachette empire - France's biggest publishing business - is owned by Lagardere, which forms part of the EADS defense consortium, while the construction group Bouygues has a controlling interest in the television channel TF1.  

On Monday France's leading newspaper of record Le Monde said it would offer 90 employees, including 35 journalists, voluntary redundancy as part of a cost-cutting plan.

The paper - which is owned by a consortium of staff, readers and outside investors - lost EUR 9 million in 2003.  

According to press reports Tuesday, the management of Le Monde is studying the possibility of bringing forward its printing timetable so it is distributed in the morning and not in the afternoon as now.

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French News

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