News agency sues far-right French mayor over refugee photo

The Agence France Press news agency on Tuesday filed a suit against the far-right mayor of the southern French city of Béziers, Robert Ménard, and city officials for wrongly using a photograph of refugees to falsely imply there was an imminent invasion of migrants.

The photo at the centre of the row between AFP and Béziers mayor Robert Ménard
The photo at the centre of the row between AFP and Béziers mayor Robert Ménard

The photograph in question was titled in the local newspaper as : "The asylum seekers are coming to Beziers!"  

But the photograph was altered to include two slogans on the train windows: "Beziers, 3,865 km", and "Free schooling, lodging and allowances for all." 

The original image however, taken by photographer Robert Atanasovski in June, showed Macedonians preparing to board a train. 

AFP said it, along with Atanasovski, had sued the city of Béziers and Menard for 30,000 euros from each in damages for misusing the photograph. 

Ménard has argued that photographs are regularly altered. 

One of the founders of the international journalists' group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Ménard has the support of the anti-immigration Front National of far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

He has recently been in the limelight for controversial measures taken in Béziers which he says are aimed at reaffirming France's "Christian roots". 

In May this year, Ménard was accused of racism and questioned by police after he claimed his administration used the names of school children in his town to determine how many were Muslim. 

Appearing on local television, Ménard astonished viewers when he said that Muslim pupils amounted to 64.6 per cent of the total and this reflected an "immigration problem". 

This sentiment has been expressed by some east European leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. 

Orban has warned against the danger posed to "Christian" Europe by the arrival of Muslim immigrants. 

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