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Segolene Royal attacks Paris Match over photos

Published on February 27, 2009

Paris -- French politician Segolene Royal will go to court to seek damages after news weekly Paris Match published pictures of her walking hand in hand with a man in a Spanish street, she said Thursday.

This week’s cover story shows Royal, the defeated Socialist candidate in France’s 2007 presidential election, enjoying a private moment in Marbella with a man described as a little-known 58-year-old board games publisher.

France has strict privacy laws that theoretically ban the press from publishing details of personalities’ private lives without their permission, although magazines often break the rules and pay the resulting fines.

"They are stolen photos, once again,” Royal, 55, told reporters at a news conference to launch a solar energy strategy for her region Poitou-Charentes. “It might be nice if I could get a little peace and quiet."

Royal emphasized that this event was not an isolated one, "It’s not the first time that Match has stolen pictures,” she said. “I’ve warned them before but never made a complaint. Since they’re starting again, I think I’ll make sure that the law is enforced."

Royal’s friend and lawyer Jean-Pierre Mignard told Europe 1 radio that he would make a complaint against Paris Match for having invaded her privacy.

"We won’t let this pass," he warned, accusing unnamed forces of conspiring to undermine his client’s political work by turning her public image into that of a celebrity rather than that of a serious campaigner.

Mignard suggested the photographs had been taken to distract attention from Royal’s visit to Pointe-a-Pitre on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in support of protests to demand better living standards there.

The magazine denounced the complaint as hypocritical.

"In going to Guadeloupe in a personal capacity, on the sidelines of the negotiations and without any Socialist Party mandate, Segolene Royal showed her desire to appear in the media ahead of upcoming elections," the editors wrote in a message on the magazine’s website. "Why would photographers be welcome to cover her in Pointe-a-Pitre and not in the streets of a Spanish resort? Let’s put an end to this hypocrisy."

The editors also said they did cover Royal as a political figure. "Segolene Royal has appeared on the cover of Paris Match seven times in the course of the past two years,” they said. “The first time, on October 5, 2006, it was under the title ‘The irresistible rise.’”

Paris Match published three photos of Royal and her friend. Both wear dark glasses but neither appear to notice or seek to avoid the camera.

Royal is wearing her trademark blue tunic over blue trousers, a look she unveiled in September when she staged a rally for 4,000 supporters at a Paris concert venue during her failed campaign for the Socialist leadership.

The other pictures that accompany the article are a warm tribute to Royal’s independent spirit. The pictures show her at work meeting strike leaders in Guadeloupe last week and attending the funeral of a slain labour activist.

Royal, a mother of four, split from long-term partner Francois Hollande, who was then the Socialist Party’s general secretary, a few weeks after she was defeated by President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 election.