The big news in France is that president François Hollande was caught with a dumb-looking grin on his face. It’s not so much the photograph itself that has enthralled the country but that the news agency responsible for it, Agence France-Presse (AFP), now wants the image to disappear.
Hollande was in the northern province of Denain, leading a discussion on changes to the public school schedule. AFP’s Denis Charlet was the “pool” photographer assigned to take photos on behalf of all news organizations covering the event.
A few hours after distributing the photo in question, which can be seen under the red “X” above, AFP emailed subscribers to say it had been withdrawn. “Please remove it from all your systems,” the notice advised.
The removal raised eyebrows because AFP, like many French news organizations, receives government subsidies. An estimated 40% of its revenue comes from the French government. But in a blog post about the issue (link in French), AFP said, “We have not been subjected to any pressure.”
AFP said it removed the photo because its policy is “to never distribute an image that gratuitously ridicules people.” It also noted that a separate photograph, below, was published by AFP and hasn’t been removed. In that photo, also by Charlet, Hollande looks almost—but not quite—as silly. You can judge for yourself below. By the way, the text on the blackboard says, “Today, it is the start of the new school year.”