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Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2013-09-05

French news agency AFP had egg on its face Wednesday after a decision to “kill” an “unflattering” picture of French President François Hollande saw the image widely disseminated on social media and the agency itself ridiculed.

A decision by French news agency AFP to withdraw an “unflattering” picture of French President François Hollande backfired spectacularly Wednesday after the photo went viral on the Internet.

The picture was taken on Tuesday, the day that marked France’s “rentrée scolaire” (back to school day), and showed Hollande grinning inanely in front of a blackboard.

It was one of around two dozen otherwise perfectly normal pictures taken by the AFP photographer that were published on the agency’s website for download.

It was later “killed” because of AFP’s policy of not deliberately selling images that ridicule their subjects, while clients who had downloaded it were contacted and asked not to publish it.

But as AFP itself admitted, the decision to bolt the barn door was made after the horse had bolted, and news that the picture had been spiked led to a social media frenzy.

One comment accompanying the picture on a Twitter post read: “AFP forbids this picture, so here I am publishing it.”

AFP’s Global News Director Philippe Massonnet wrote on the company website Wednesday that the decision to withdraw the picture “was clearly an error”.

“The order to kill the photo ironically breathed new life into this saga, and led to the image being massively shared across social networks in France, often accompanied by unkind comments about AFP,” he wrote.

Massonnet also insisted that no political pressure had been bought to bear on the agency: “The French presidency did not at any point ask us to take down the photo.”

Date created : 2013-09-04


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