'Paris Match' editor under threat from the long arm of Sarkozy

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The Independent Online

The respected and successful editor of Paris Match magazine is under threat of removal by his employers for publishing one of the best French "scoops" of last year. The front-page exclusive was a picture of Cécilia Sarkozy, wife of Nicolas Sarkozy, the rising power in French politics, in the company of the alleged new man in her life.

M. Sarkozy is a close friend of Arnaud Lagardère, head of the business empire that controls Match. Both M. Lagardère and M. Sarkozy are said to have been furious that Match published the picture last August - even though the rift in the Sarkozy marriage was already public knowledge.

There have been rumours for months that M. Lagardère wanted to remove Alain Genestar, the successful editor of Match. M. Genestar revealed to his staff this week that he had "categorically" refused an offer to move him upstairs to be editor-in-chief of the Hachette Filipacchi Médias group.

The 100 journalists on the magazine issued a statement supporting M. Genestar and complaining about an attempt to "move him aside for political reasons" since the publication of the cover on Cécilia Sarkozy.

M. Genestar is a respected writer and editor, who has restored Paris-Match's authority since he became editor in 1999 reviving the photojournalism and reportage for which it was famous.

M. Genestar has presided over a series of "people" scoops - including the revelation last July of the illegitimate son of Prince Albert of Monaco. He has also increased the magazine's circulation in a difficult French publishing market.

Asked last November if changes were planned at Paris Match, M. Lagardère said: "There are people you fire, absolutely. That's life ... It's not necessarily cruel because in getting rid of one one journalist, you create another one." Paris Match journalists were said to be ready to strike to save M. Genestar's job.

M. Sarkozy is Interior Minister and number two in the French government, and the likely centre-right candidate for the presidency. Last May he admitted there were "problems" in his marriage. Mme Sarkozy later left to live in New York with another man, but she has since returned and attended the Roland Garros French Open tennis championships with her husband.