• UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall
today slammed the €10 million contract awarded last week to the AFP news agency to provide the European Broadcasting System (EbS) with news coverage and images over the next four years.
"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," Mr Nuttall said.
"If democracy depends on a free and independent press this move by the EU to financially drip feed a news agency does not auger well for democracy in Europe.
"A news agency cannot do independent news coverage and EU public relations or propaganda at the same time," he added.
According to the AFP website
, "the Agency will cover the movements and activities of members of the European institutions in most regions of the world” and “establish image banks illustrating the themes of major importance to the commission, the parliament and the Council of Europe.”
It adds that "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.”
"I am sure a lot of AFP journalists themselves will be unhappy at their managers compromising their impartiality by sticking their hands in the EU honeypot," Paul Nuttall said. "I hope this blatant attempt by the EU to buy sympathetic media coverage using taxpayers' money will be exposed for what it is - an attack on press freedom and democracy itself."
Article 2 of the AFP 1957 Statute
states that "Agence France-Presse may not under any circumstances take account of influences or considerations that would compromise the accuracy or objectivity of the news; it must not under any circumstances pass under legal or de facto control of an ideological, political or economic group."