France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday that journalists and aid workers would be excluded from a government bill which would see tourists charged if they get into trouble abroad when they have ignored travel advice about the area.
REUTERS - Journalists and aid workers would be exempted from a proposed bill that could see the state charge kidnapped citizens for rescues if they ignore travel advice to go to danger zones, France's foreign minister said on Monday.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy's chief of staff and France's army chief earlier this year raised the possibility of charging for hostage searches, after costs escalated to 10 million euros for the rescue of two journalists in Afghanistan.
Last year French tourists were also kidnapped off the coast of Somalia despite warnings from the French foreign office, leading to a costly naval commando intervention.
The proposed law, which was debated in parliament on Monday, would enable the state to reclaim "all or part of the expenses incurred in overseas rescue operations for those who deliberately exposed themselves" to danger.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said journalists would not be charged for rescues because they are "risk-takers".
"This is normal and we do not stigmatise them for that. They are not targeted. They are excluded, as are humanitarians."
The law would target travel agencies who had a responsibility to warn tourists of potential risks, he said.
Before joining politics, Kouchner worked as a Red Cross doctor in Africa and was a founder of the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, known for operating in war zones.