After the official Giazzi Report, which calls for AFP to be privatised, CEO Pierre Louette is mandated by the French government to draw up a plan. AFP staff mobilise.
A report submitted to the French president on the future of the media calls for our agency to be purely and simply "turned into a joint-stock company" (société anonyme) with its capital thrown open to outside investors..
The document also lays out the aim of "giving AFP a clearly identified and stable shareholder", and of opening its governing board to new members.
In other words, even before the "States General" conference on French media called for by President Nicolas Sarkozy has convened, overt preparations are being made to privatise the agency and to change its founding statutes, laid down in a 1957 law.
Similar ideas have already been put forward by AFP’s chief executive officer, Pierre Louette, who at Thursday’s editorial meeting frankly expressed his satisfaction at the new report.
The fact that the document pays homage to AFP as a "prestigious institution with a brand that is a benchmark as regards news" (while also managing to state that we employ no less than 6,000 journalists, or more than double the actual figure!) is neither here nor there.
The document betrays ideological dogmatism by calling for the privatisation of a company which is relatively unprofitable but fulfils a public service mission. And it sees no contradiction in recommending the arrival of shareholders while at the same time affirming that AFP must not fall into foreign hands.
If the proposals in the new report were to be implemented they would make a mockery of the second article of our statutes, aimed at safeguarding our editorial independence. The said article states, in part, that AFP "may in no circumstances fall under the control, either de facto or de jure, of any ideological, political or economic grouping."
It is also worth recalling that the agency’s staff has on numerous occasions expressed its attachment to the 1957 statutes. As was shown recently, for example, in the following statement:
"AFP staff from all labour categories, assembled on May 14, 2008, denounce the repeated attacks made on the agency by political leaders, and reaffirm their attachment to the defence of its statutes, which guarantee its independence."
For the above reasons, the joint unions denounce the new proposals in the strongest possible terms. The unions call on all AFP staff to stand ready to fight back once again if these threats are carried through. The joint unions also demand an urgent meeting with management.
Joint CGT-SNJ-FO-CFDT-CGC-SUD-CFTC trade unions, Paris - September 19, 2008