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French news editor suspended over Macron-related headline


The news editor of a regional French daily has been suspended after a front-page headline critical of President Emmanuel Macron, management said Friday, causing outrage across the newsroom.

Macron on Tuesday launched a major operation against drug trafficking in the southern port city of Marseille and elsewhere.

Following Macron’s Marseille visit, La Provence daily published a front page Thursday showing two people, watching a police patrol. The accompanying headline said “He’s gone, but we’re still here”.

On the basis of the front page, La Provence’s news editor Aurelien Viers was suspended for a week, for failing to follow its “values and editorial line”, said the paper’s managing editor Gabriel d’Harcourt.

The front-page quote and picture “could lead people to believe that we agree to give drug dealers a voice so they can mock the public authority”, wrote d’Harcourt in a “To Our Readers” article published Friday.

In an article inside Thursday’s La Provence, the front-page quote was actually attributed to a resident of a poor Marseille neighbourhood, named only as Brahim.

He said that the city had “found the means necessary to protect the president during his visit. He’s gone, but we’re still here, in the same hell”.

– ‘Editorial interference’: union –

D’Harcourt told AFP that his paper’s coverage of the visit had been “very good” except for the front page, “where you get the impression that we’re spokespeople for the dealers”.

The front page was “contrary to our roles and the role we want to play in Marseille and the surrounding region”, he said.

The SNJ, the main journalists’ union at La Provence, told AFP that the paper’s journalists were “scandalised” by Viers’s suspension, and called d’Harcourt’s justification for the suspension “surreal”.

A general staff assembly Friday voted in favour of a strike in protest.

“This is an inadmissable act of editorial interference,” SNJ representative Audrey Letellier told AFP.

La Provence, published in Marseille, has a daily circulation of around 62,000. It is owned by CMA CGM Medias, which belongs to Franco-Lebanese billionaire businessman Rodolphe Saade.

Saade, who has other high-profile media interests, this month announced that he would also buy Altice Media, which owns broadcasters BFMTV and RMC.

Asked during an Altice staff meeting whether he would seek to censor unfavourable news about his media interests, Saade replied: “I wouldn’t like it, and I would let that be known”.

But, added the media mogul, “I wouldn’t interfere”.


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