Media spat casts shadow over Macron's Mali trip

Close-up of French centrist politician Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron

French media outlets write open letter over concerns about press freedom

President Emmanuel Macron heads to Mali today for his first official visit outside the EU amid a brewing spat with the French media.

More than 20 of the country's leading media outlets, including Le Monde, Agence France-Presse, Le Figaro, and TF1 signed an open letter to the new president after his office had invited particular journalists to cover his first official trip outside Europe.

"In no case must the Elysee decide on those of us who are entitled or not to cover a visit, whatever the theme is," the letter said.

"It is not for the President of the Republic, or his departments, to decide on the internal workings of editorial offices."

It went on: "None of your predecessors have lent themselves to this kind of system, in the name of respect for press freedom."

Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said there is a need to limit the number of journalists during certain visits.

"As you've seen during the campaign, the presence of 50 journalists and a dozen (television) cameras can affect direct dialogue and discussions that the president has with the French people," he said. "It's not about control. It's not about imposing anything."

Press freedom group Reporters without Borders - which also signed the letter - condemned the new French government's 'concerning signal to the press'.

France is ranked 39th in the 2017 world press freedom index by the NGO.

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