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In France, Journalists Debate Whether To Publish Photos Of Terrorists


Journalists in France are asking themselves some tough questions this week. They're debating whether their coverage of terrorists is worsening the problem by providing attackers with a platform to spread their propaganda. One of France's most prominent newspapers, Le Monde, announced in an editorial that it will no longer publish photos of the attackers that could glorify them. That idea has met with some stiff resistance. France's state-run television calls it self-censorship. For more on this, we reached Sylvie Kauffmann in Paris. She's the editorial director of Le Monde.

SYLVIE KAUFFMANN: We did publish a lot of pictures of terrorists, you know, either provided by the propaganda channels or photographs that we had of them in their, I would say, everyday life in France. And gradually, we realized that first, yes, there was this concern of glorification. And there was - you know, not to make them pass as heroes. And there was also a lot of concerns expressed by our readers who were just fed up of seeing those pictures. So the point that the editor was making yesterday in that editorial was that now we're not going to publish pictures anymore of the terrorists other than mug shots or ID pictures.

MONTAGNE: Well, so their faces will be shown but not - in what other way might they have been shown? When you say...

KAUFFMANN: Yes, kind of legal - we will only show a kind of legal pictures, if I may say. But I must say this is something we are still debating. There's a very lively debate in the newsroom. After this editorial, we had a meeting, a kind of spontaneous meeting, and the whole newsroom took part. And we had a very good discussion on this. We, you know, this - we're having a lot of debates in France at the moment about terrorism, so this is just one of them.

MONTAGNE: Well - but also let me be clear. A mug shot is quite a bit different than these ISIS or Islamic State martyr pictures sometimes where these guys often quite glamorous.

KAUFFMANN: This is definitely what we want to avoid. We don't think this brings any - anything really of importance or relevance to the information we know - we want to have.

MONTAGNE: Stepping back a bit, the murder of a priest while he was celebrating mass in his church early this week seemed to really strike another part of the French identity for a lot of people. The chief imam of Paris' grand mosque even called for reform of Islam in France - didn't go into any details, as I understand it. How would you describe with those turns of events the mood in France?

KAUFFMANN: The murder of this priest was really a big shock. But I think the leaders of the churches, of the Catholic Church and some imams have also reacted quite responsibly, telling people, you know, don't give up your values. This is what they want. This is what the terrorists want. If you give way to anger and revenge, they will have won. Don't give up your way of life, and I think people understand this.

MONTAGNE: Sylvie Kauffmann is editorial director of Le Monde newspaper. She spoke to us from Paris. Thank you so much.

KAUFFMANN: Thanks for having me.

MONTAGNE: And if you are wondering, NPR does not have a blanket policy on the use of such photos online. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.