Islam Foundation Head Says Muslims Should Try More to Integrate

img_3576-cheve-panoramiqueFrance’s decision to name a non-Muslim to head its Foundation for Islam, in the wake of the terrorist attack during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice this summer, was always controversial.
Since then, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, a hardline secularist, has not backed away from expressing even more divisive views. He told a group of two dozen AAPA members on Nov. 7 that it was Muslims who needed to try harder to adapt to France, not vice versa. “Out of friendship for my compatriots of Muslim origin I’m asking them to make a little effort to adapt to the customs of the host society,” he said to foreign correspondents gathered in the auditorium of Bloomberg News.
Just weeks after his nomination, the long-time Socialist politician who served as both interior and defense minister waded directly into the latest battle over laicité this summer – the ban on the so-called burkini on some French beaches.
He repeated his stance against the full-body swimwear to the AAPA, calling it “in very bad taste of those (burkini-clad) women to go bathing two weeks after the Nice attack, 20 or 30 kilometers away.” “It was bound to cause surprise, consternation and unease in the rest of the population,” he added.
The Foundation for Islam will focus its efforts on lay matters, not those of faith. It will look at teaching foreign-born imams, celebrate Muslim culture, and search for ways to fight discrimination faced by Muslim job applicants.
The meeting with the AAPA took place just days before France gathered to mourn those killed in the terrorist attacks of Nov. 13, 2015 in Paris, and as the presidential election in France gears up.
Mr. Chevènement did not shy away from commenting on the US election either, which took place the next day. He is no fan of Donald Trump, but thinks Hillary Clinton was a bad candidate too. The American electoral college agreed on his latter point.

-Sara Miller Llana img_3579-chev-fine


Freelancers Get Expert Advice at AAPA/NUJ Joint Seminar

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How do you survive and prosper as a freelance writer in France at a time when the media industry in undergoing such rapid change? Participants at our third freelance seminar (the first two took place in 1995 and 2004) on Oct. 15 heard some of the answers.

The five-hour session at the Maison de Métallos in the 11th arrondissement was the second freelance seminar organised jointly by the AAPA and the Paris branch of the National Union of Journalists of the UK.

More than 60 members of both groups, their guests and some students from the American University of Paris listened attentively to presentations from speakers on three panels, and learned a lot from the lively discussion that followed each one. The afternoon concluded with a networking hour over drinks and snacks.

AAPA members interested in reading fuller reports on the advice, options and solutions available to freelancers that were discussed in this and the other two panels should contact Barbara Casassus.
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The first of the three panels, entitled “The Business of Freelancing in France,” aimed to give freelancers practical information on how to navigate the tangled French rules. Participants included Martine Rossard, of the pôle pigistes of the Syndicat National des Journalistes, Sarah Vedrenne, an accountant and tax advisor, and Benoît Lewyllie of SMart, a cooperative that handles administrative chores for independents in the arts.
Speakers shared with us their advice on the types of legal status that freelancers can adopt depending on their circumstances, and went over the advantages and disadvantages. One conclusion echoed by the panellists was that freelancers should ideally seek to be salaried, to enjoy proper social protection, although this is unlikely to go beyond the current status for freelancers working for French media. The status of auto- or micro-entrepreneur and the AGESSA or droits d’auteur regime have some advantages for writers living in France who freelance for non-French companies.
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The second panel, entitled “The Changing Face of Journalism,” reviewed the state of the media industry, and how to find work at a time when many traditional media outlets have either shut down or shifted to online postings, bringing both job security and freelance fees down with them, and how to get paid fairly. Speakers included AAPA member Kim Willsher, Paris stringer for the Guardian, the Observer and the LA Times; Heather Stimmler-Hall, a blogger, journalist and author who now works for an NGO; John Toner, freelance organizer at the NUJ’s head office in London; former AAPA president Adrian Dearnell and founder of EuroBusiness Media, a content provider for corporate clients; and Natasha Edwards, NUJ Paris Branch freelance officer.
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The main takeaway from this panel was that freelancers must broaden their skills beyond writing and become proficient in social media and multi-media. It is crucial these days for journalists to have a strong social media presence where commissioning editors can see their interests and work. And a regularly updated LinkedIn profile is also a big advantage. In addition, freelancers should seek new opportunities in areas where demand for content is growing, notably among corporates, and develop their network of commissioning contacts.
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The third panel attempted to dispel some of the gloom from the previous discussion, with speakers sharing their positive experiences of being a freelance journalist despite the challenges they face. Taking part in this panel, which provoked a lively discussion, were AAPA members Shellie Karabell, Lisa Bryant and Tom Haley. Participants in the audience said they appreciated the personal anecdotes of these panelists. Here, too, there was a consensus that today’s journalists must be multi-skilled if they are to be successful, learning radio, video, film editing and multimedia, and should ideally specialize in a niche area to make themselves more attractive to commissioning editors.

- David Pearson
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New-Look American Institution in Paris Gets the Once-Over

The recent renovation of the American Library was done with the user in mind, Director Charles Trueheart told an early bird group of AAPA members and their guests over coffee and viennoiseries on Oct. 11. We met before the opening to the public at 10 AM in a spacious, carpeted downstairs book-lined meeting area, formerly a dark and forbidding basement for books.

"The new plan provides a mental map for the user. When you walk in the door, you can instantly see straight ahead to the Reading Room and the stairs leading upstairs to the stacks and downstairs to the meeting room," said Trueheart, a former Washington Post correspondent and AAPA member before becoming the Library’s Director in 2007.
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Trueheart emphasized that the Library has been a fixture of the American community in Paris since its founding in 1920 after American librairies dispatched more than a million books to service personnel during WWI.

Edith Wharton was among the first trustees; Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein contributed to the Library’s periodicals.

Today the Library, which counts 3000 members, of which half are American, a quarter French, and the rest from 60 other countries, continues its traditional activities, such as the popular weekly Evenings with an Author program at which some of our AAPA members have spoken, and created an Annual Book Award for the most distinguished English-language book of the year about France and a Visiting Fellowship for authors.

Trueheart noted that with more than 100,000 books the Library has three times the number of books of any same-sized library in America, and is the largest English-language lending library in Europe.

- Harriet Welty Rochefort


Young Audience Gives Standing Ovation at Paris Opera

img_0728-bastilleMost of the audience looked as though it would have been better suited to a rock concert. Certainly not a preview of a new, modern-day production of Camille Saint-Saëns’ 19th-century opera Samson and Delilah at the Paris Opera Bastille on October 1. Not only were they young (under 28 years of age), but they had all bought tickets at the rock-bottom price of 10 euros each.

The performance was part of the Opera’s new strategy to cultivate a new generation of opera-goers by making tickets cheaper than the cost of a lunch – the brainchild of Stéphane Lissner, who was appointed Director of the Opera de Paris in October 2012, taking the reins in August 2014.

Lissner spent an hour talking with the Anglo-American Press Association before the performance, outlining plans and explaining the background of the legendary institution which incorporates opera, lyric music and dance in three performance spaces: Palais Garnier (built in 1875 with 2,105 seats), Opera Bastille (1989 with 2,745 seats) and the 3rd Scene – an abstract use of non-stage spaces within the opera houses which has had 834,000 visits since its inauguration last year.

Lissner’s plans are ambitious and aim to bring the nearly 4-centuries-old institution into the 21st century. Of this season’s projected 197 opera performances and 173 ballets, 26 will be new productions. That is not counting the symphony concerts, chamber music concerts, recitals and dance in the public spaces in Palais Garnier. And of course more previews for the under 28-year-olds.

Lissner’s rolodex - after several years managing Milan’s La Scala and Austria’s Festwochen in Vienna as well as the Chatelet in Paris and co-directing the Theatre des Bouffes du Nord with Peter Brook – is a good source of patronage and sponsorship money. That is a necessity, he says, as the state portion of the Opera’s operating budget keeps slipping. The preview attended by the AAPA, for example, was largely underwritten by Fondation BNP Paribas.

Despite what seems like an annual hike in prices, ticket sales make up a relatively small portion of the budget; however, the Opera has a million (yes: 1,000,000,000) seats for sale. But they are likely to go fast for Samson and Delilah if the standing ovation at the end of the October 1 preview is any indication of success…
-Shellie Karabell
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AFP’s CEO Briefs AAPA on N. Korean Expansion

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Opening a bureau in North Korea, arguably the world’s most secretive state, inevitably involves making compromises, Emmanuel Hoog, the CEO of Agence France-Presse, conceded in a meeting on Sept. 20 with the AAPA.

AFP inaugurated its bureau in Pyongyang in early September in a deal
with KCNA, North Korea’s official news agency, and it has a permanent
staff there of a North Korean photographer and a videographer.

The local staff will likely not be able to file anything that offends
the ruling party. But the agreement also allows AFP to regularly send
teams of foreign text, video, and photojournalists into the pariah
state. Copy will be written in Seoul or Hong Kong, which the French
agency hopes will enable it to provide as full a picture as possible of
today's North Korea.

Around 25 AAPA members attended the meeting with Mr. Hoog and two of his
senior news executives, Michèle Léridon and Phil Chetwynd.

The CEO and his colleagues also fielded questions about potential
pressure from the French state, which partly funds the agency. They said
there was little or none.

Mr. Hoog also talked about the difficulties facing the agency when so
many media clients are “sick,” about why AFP has no plans to become a
B2C (business to consumer) supplier of news in the French market but
might consider this in foreign markets, and about its efforts to boost
video output despite having got off to a very late start.

- Rory Mulholland
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ESA Briefs AAPA on Mars Exploration Plans

Next month, the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli module is scheduled to land on Mars, the first stage of a landmark mission to determine whether there is evidence of life on the red planet, a group of AAPA members learned on Sept. 14.

The joint ESA-Russian Roscosmos project will pave the way for a second mission in 2020 to dig for life under the surface. If successful, the Oct. 19 landing will represent a significant moment for European space exploration, Fabio Favata, of the ESA’s directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration, told the meeting.
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"Nobody really knows what's going on under the surface and this is really the goal of this mission," he said.

Taking part alongside Mr. Favata in the meeting with 16 AAPA journalists were several top leaders of ESA, including Jean Bruston, head of the EU Policy Office, Simonetta Cheli, of the directorate of earth observation programs, Lucia Linares, head of the launcher policy office, and Leopold Eyharts, an ESA astronaut.

They covered a wide range of topics. October's Mars landing will come just after ESA completes its Rosetta space probe mission, which marked the first landing of a probe on a comet. And they also talked about how Britain’s planned exit from the European Union will impact Europe's future space exploration possibilities.

- Lisa Bryant


AXA CEO Says Brexit is No Display of Leadership

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Henri de Castries did not mince his words when speaking about the Brexit fallout to the Anglo-American press Association in Paris recently:
“When you see two old Etonians (UK Prime Minister David Cameron and former London Mayor Boris Johnson) playing with their country this way, it doesn’t show a lot of leadership or vision. And this game has been played for purely internal political reasons.”

The outgoing (as of Sept 1) Chairman and CEO of AXA and his successor, Thomas Buberl hosted some two dozen AAPA members for lunch at AXA’s headquarters on Avenue Matignon on July 1. As the UK’s referendum vote in favor of leaving the European Union had taken place just aweek before, attendees were eager to hear what the leader of one of Europe’s most important financial services companies – with a significant presence in London – had to say.

“The Brexit vote reflects the anxiety of the middle class in Europe,” de Castries continued. “The model we’d lived under in Europe since World War Two was one of job stability, economic growth but not too unequal. We believed the next generation would continue to have a better destiny.”

Rather than blame only the UK’s outspoken pro-leave faction, de Castries pointed the finger at the EU as well. “No one today is explaining the European Union vision,” he opined. “We have had 60 years of peace, we have had growing incomes, and we are the biggest market in the world.But since the beginning of this century there has been a lack of vision and a lack of narrative.”

Of the fast-track admission of East Bloc countries such as Poland after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, de Castries said, “We were right to open our borders to the east. But it was wrong to create a bureaucratic monster in Brussels.”

-Shellie Karabell


French Deputy Is Appalled by U.K.’s Brexit Vote

The vote by British citizens in favor of the U.K. leaving the European Union has created a “ludicrous” situation, with the proponents of exiting the 28-nation group not seeming to have prepared a plan of action, the head of the Foreign Affairs Commission of France’s National Assembly told the AAPA.

Speaking to over a dozen AAPA members in the commission’s meeting room on June 27, just a few days after the U.K. referendum, Elisabeth Guigou noted that the campaign of the “leave” faction had ignited xenophobic and racist tendencies in part of the British electorate, and that right-wing politicians elsewhere in Europe, including Front National leader Marine Le Pen, had applauded the decision.

She called on the British government to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty as quickly as possible to start the withdrawal negotiations. But she acknowledged that Continental European governments can’t force U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to do so, saying “we can only put political pressure” to bear.
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Mme. Guigou said that while the post-Brexit situation isn’t likely to create “chaos,” it was a bombshell stemming from a “ridiculous, grotesque” political manoeuvre, by David Cameron to heal a split inside the Conservative Party. She admitted that she’s “extremely worried” about the consequences, and said EU officials must now start discussing the conditions of the divorce between Britain and the EU.

The EU will still be able to have bilateral relations wit the UK, she went on, “but at a different level”.
The challenge now is for EU governments to think about the reasons for the UK decision and disaffection with the EU that’s being exploited by populist politicians. “I think that in order to defeat this skepticism, this phobia, it’s not grand, general speeches that are going to convince anyone…

Are we able, with the European Union, to assuage the main concerns of European citizens?” Many of those pushing for Brexit played on peoples’ worries of job security, sluggish economic growth and immigration.

Other topics that came up during the 90-minute meeting included France’s Middle East peace initiative, relations with Russia, and the need to apply existing directives on controlling the movement of people under the Schengen Treaty, which Mme. Guigou helped to draft 25 years ago.

- David Pearson


Israeli Envoy Reaffirms Need for Direct Talks With Palestine

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Future discussions on breaking the deadlock between Israel and Palestine require a direct dialog without preconditions between the two states, and not a multilateral approach as favored by Palestinian leaders, Israeli Ambassador Aliza Bin-Noun told us on June 21.

Speaking to 15 AAPA members over breakfast at the Israeli embassy, Ms. Bin-Noun reasserted Israel’s hostility to French-led attempts to broker a peace agreement. Some 30 diplomats and ministers from Arab and western countries, the U.N. and the E.U. met in Paris at the initiative of the French government on June 3, but without representatives from Israel or Palestine.

“From the outset, we made it clear that we weren’t enthusiastic about this initiative,” she said. “It’s only through direct dialog that something can move forward. The support by the international community for the French initiative, she said, only encourages the Palestinians not to come to the negotiating table in an effort to bring further pressure on Israel to make concessions. “It really raises the expectations of the Palestinians that something will really happen in their favor. If nothing happens, the disappointment will be to such an extent that it can translate into more violence on the ground,” she warned. Palestinian preconditions for resuming the dialog, notably a freeze on the construction of new settlements, “are a non-starter,” she said.

Ms. Bin-Noun reviewed Israel’s concerns in the Middle East, stressing the threat from Iran, which she said remains unchanged despite its warmer relations with western countries. On the ongoing civil war in Syria, she said Israel “doesn’t want to be involved in whatever is happening in Syria. We have enough on our plate. We don’t support either side.”

Asked about Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s recent offer to help in bringing the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table, Ms. Bin-Noun acknowledged that the increasing extremist threats in the region could lead to warmer relations between Israel and moderate regimes in Egypt, Jordan and the Persian Gulf that also feel menaced.

-David Pearson


AAPA’s June Gala Was Another Big Hit

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The 2016 AAPA Gala was another resounding success this year despite the showery weather that kept us indoors. Held on Tuesday, June 14, at the residence of our honorary co-president U.S. Ambassador Jane D. Hartley, it attracted 87 members and their guests over appetizers and free-flowing champagne and wine.
U.K. Ambassador Sir Julian King, our other honorary co-president, joined in the festivities. In speeches, both ambassadors lauded the work of the press in these difficult and polarized times in each nation and in France and the European Union at large.zCP7E3932
Ambassador Hartley praised the association’s past and present officers for their efforts to keep France’s oldest journalists’ group “alive, relevant and vibrant.” The AAPA, she declared, is “a stark example of the efficacy and importance of international collaboration” and said our role in producing “true, substantial journalism” is all the more important at a time when “news” is increasingly reported in sound bites and tweets.
L1020657Sir Julian apologized that he couldn’t comment on the impending U.K. referendum on E.U. membership due to a blackout on policy statements, but then impishly reminded us of the government’s view that remaining in the E.U. would be better for Britain. As it turned out one week later, the British electorate voted for “Brexit”, heralding in a period of deep political and economic turmoil for Britain and indeed Europe.
In his remarks, David Pearson, AAPA President, thanked Ambassador Hartley for her hospitality and Sir Julian for his presence.
He described how busy we had been, noting 13 events organized over the past year (not including our successful monthly Happy Hours), and said the pace is stepping up with a total of six events served up to AAPA members in the space of six weeks.
He thanked in particular the work of our coordinator Maria Vincenza Aloisi who keeps this "unruly bunch" together and the work of the committee members who volunteer their time and energy to keep the AAPA the most dynamic journalists’ association in Paris.
Amid strikes, looming terrorist threats, floods and political uncertainty, this was undoubtedly a bright spot of the spring. And eventually the sun came out.

-Sara Miller Llana
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