Face of the day

Two international news agencies are at the centre of a row over self-censorship after withdrawing an unflattering photograph of the French president, François Hollande. Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Reuters were subjected to criticism and widespread ridicule on the internet and social media sites after deciding to pull the picture.

The photograph was taken when Hollande visited a school in Denain in northern France where he was presiding over a round-table discussion on recent reforms that changed school hours.

It coincided with the start of the new school term for the majority of French schoolchildren. He is pictured sitting in front of a blackboard, on which is written “Aujourd’hui, c’est la rentrée” (“Today it’s back to school”) with a wide grin and rather gormless facial expression.

The original picture was captioned: “During a visit to Denain Michelet school, September 3 2013, François Hollande smiles chairing a panel discussion on the reform of school timetables established by the government.”

Hollande, who sold himself as Monsieur Normal during his presidential election campaign, once had a reputation for being one of the country’s wittiest politicians, but has suppressed his humorous side since being elected, for fear of being perceived to lack gravitas.

AFP made the photograph available on its website for use by newspapers and media outlets, but later said it had made an editorial decision to withdraw it. “Please take it off your systems. We are sorry for any inconvenience and thank you for your co-operation,” it wrote in place of the caption.

Reuters sent a “picture kill” notice to its clients, asking them not to use the image. The image, however, was quickly picked up and reposted on Twitter and Facebook, where the agencies were accused of bowing to pressure. – theguardian.com

François Hollande


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