Ex-AFP news chief Michele Leridon dies

Michele Leridon was beloved by many during her nearly 40 years with AFP
Michele Leridon was beloved by many during her nearly 40 years with AFP Fred DUFOUR AFP/File
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Paris (AFP)

French journalist Michele Leridon, who broke through glass ceilings to become the first woman appointed as global news director of Agence France-Presse, has died suddenly at the age of 62, it was announced Tuesday.

Leridon spent nearly 40 years at the agency before becoming a member of the Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA) which oversees French TV and radio.

"A woman of conviction, Michele Leridon was a great journalist, unanimously respected for her rich experience and great intellectual rigour," the CSA said in a statement.

A cause of death was not given.

Leridon joined AFP in 1981 and held many posts in Europe and Africa.

She covered conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 1990s and later became the first woman to oversee all of AFP's Africa coverage.

Following several other senior managerial positions and a stint as bureau chief in Rome, she was named global news director in 2014, becoming the first woman to hold the top editorial post since AFP was founded in 1944.

"Michele taught me a huge amount on my arrival at AFP, when she was Global News Director," said CEO Fabrice Fries.

"She exemplified the human values I love at the Agency: empathy, curiosity about everything, integrity, judgement and a sense of humour. She was an extraordinary person, who loved life."

During her tenure, she pushed for a better representation of women in AFP's content, while also leading the rapid expansion of its video and fact-checking departments.

"We are all shocked and devastated by the sudden loss of Michele," added Phil Chetwynd, who succeeded Leridon as global news director.

"She was not only an outstanding journalist, but also a courageous leader of the AFP newsroom who was greatly admired for her honesty and integrity. It was an absolute pleasure to work alongside her."

"She was the standard-bearer for a generation of women who fought to break through the glass ceiling in senior posts," added AFP's ex-CEO Emmanuel Hoog, who appointed her to the top position.

Leridon, who was also an administrative member of Reporters Without Borders for several years, left AFP in early 2019 to join the CSA, a small body of experts that guides electronic media.

She played a major role in devising the CSA's approach to online platforms and social media, and was due to hold the position until 2025.