Briton takes top post at France’s global news agency AFP for first time

Phil Chetwynd was named global news director of Agence France-Presse (AFP) Wednesday, the first non-French person to hold the key post at the country's global news agency.

Briton takes top post at France's global news agency AFP for first time
AFP in Paris. Illustration photo: AFP
British-born Chetwynd's appointment comes as AFP — one of the world's big three news agencies — is undergoing a major reform plan.
The 49-year-old, who has been the Paris-based agency's global editor-in-chief since 2012, replaces Michele Leridon, the first woman to hold the post, who stepped down on Tuesday after four years.
Chetwynd joined AFP in 1996, starting out on the agency's Middle East desk in Nicosia, and reported from some 20 countries including Afghanistan, North Korea, Israel and the United States in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
He spent more than a decade in Asia, first as deputy bureau chief in Beijing before moving on to AFP's Asia headquarters in Hong Kong, where he headed coverage of the region.
Phil Chetwynd. Photo: AFP
Since 2012 Chetwynd has been based in Paris as editor-in-chief, overseeing the day-to-day output of the agency's global network of journalists.
AFP's new chief executive Fabrice Fries, who joined in April, said Chetwynd's appointment reflected the global reach of the agency.
“I was struck by how AFP's geographical diversity was not sufficiently reflected” at the top of the agency, Fries said, breaking the news to staff at the company's Paris headquarters.
“That is far from being the only reason for (choosing Chetwynd), however it is an important one and a signal I wanted to give,” Fries added.  
AFP has some 1,500 journalists in more than 150 countries, serving media clients around the world as well as in France, where it is the country's national news agency. 
Chetwynd grew up in South Africa before going to Bristol University and the University of Wales in Cardiff, where he studied journalism.
He said it was a “great honour” to lead reporters around the world whose commitment to “quality multimedia journalism remains unrivalled”.
Fries has unveiled a plan to cut 125 jobs over five years and to boost revenues with the aim of balancing the books by 2021.
He also wants to increase revenue by 30 million euros ($35 million) over five years by rapidly expanding video production.
AFP is supported financially by the French state, but its editorial independence is guaranteed by an act of parliament.

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France slams Belarus’ ‘arbitrary’ crackdown on foreign media

France on Sunday condemned an "arbitrary" crackdown against the media in Belarus after the accreditation of several journalists working for foreign media was withdrawn in the wake of disputed presidential elections.

France slams Belarus' 'arbitrary' crackdown on foreign media
Belarus opposition supporters protesting against disputed presidential elections results in Minsk on August 27. Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP
“The arbitrary measures taken by the Belarusian authorities against journalists violate press freedom,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.
“I call on the Belarusian authorities to reverse these measures without delay,” he added, saying that the crisis in Belarus requires “the establishment of an inclusive national dialogue”.
“Repressive measures against journalists cannot help,” he said.
Belarusian authorities on Saturday withdrew the accreditation of journalists working for several foreign media, including AFP, ahead of a major demonstration Sunday challenging the results of the presidential election.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, has faced unprecedented protests since the disputed August 9 election in which he claimed a landslide victory with 80 percent of the vote in a poll
that the opposition says was rigged.
Belarus government spokesman Anatoly Glaz said the decision to revoke the media accreditations was taken on the recommendation of the country's counter-terrorism unit.
He did not specify how many journalists were affected by the measure, but foreign media including the BBC, Reuters and Radio Liberty reported the withdrawal of accreditation of several of their journalists.
Belarusian journalists working for Agence France-Presse also had their accreditation revoked.