07 OCT 2010
By Martin Banks | The Parliament
The decision to award the AFP news agency a huge contract to provide coverage of the EU has been branded a "blatant attempt to buy sympathetic coverage".
The contract, worth an estimated €10m over four years, will also "establish image banks illustrating the themes of major importance to the commission, the parliament and the council of Europe."
AFP provides 24-hour world news coverage in six languages.
The decision to award the contract to AFP, a global news agency employing 2900 journalists, was condemned by Ukip in parliament which says there is a "clear" conflict of interest.
The group has branded the move as "an attack on press freedom and independence by the EU".
Details of the move were announced on the agency's own website which said, "From 1 October, the agency will cover the movements and activities of members of the European institutions in most regions of the world.
"These videos will be broadcast on the European channel and made available to media around the world rights-free.
"The contract will generate a major increase in the agency's activities in the field of institutional services."
It adds, "AFP has decided to develop this activity as a totally separate entity from editorial; the contract is being managed by a wholly-owned subsidiary of AFP and by a specially formed unit to avoid any possible conflict with its traditional role as a news agency.
However, Ukip deputy Paul Nuttall said, "This is an attack on press freedom and independence by the EU - not at the point of a gun, but at the shake of the cheque book.
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