Wary of fallout, Alliance Francaise cancels nuclear lectures

French journalist Naike Desquesnes was preparing for a month-long trip to India to present a lecture series on “Covering Nuclear Energy Post-Fukushima” at six Alliance Francaise centres when she received a surprise phone call on September 23.

Philippe Gasparini, Director of Alliance Francaise Bangalore, where her first lecture was scheduled to be delivered on October 10, was calling to say that the subject of her talk had been turned down.

“He said he had perhaps not ‘been diplomatic enough', but the French embassy and Areva did not want such a ‘delicate subject' to be discussed,” Ms. Desquesnes told The Hindu. He seemed to have been hauled up by the French embassy in Delhi, she felt.

Mr. Gasparini asked her if she had seen The Hindu's September 20 report that India would postpone its final decision on the purchase of the EPR type of nuclear reactors from France until post-Fukushima nuclear safety tests were completed satisfactorily. In the wake of recent uncertainty over nuclear energy and the possible impact on the French reactor manufacturer Areva, Ms. Desquesnes felt that French authorities were afraid of a debate on the subject.

Areva has an agreement to build the first of six EPR reactors at Jaitapur in Maharashtra with an option of four more reactors to follow, but nuclear deals around the world have been hit by the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Mr. Gasparini confirms that he and his fellow Alliance Francaise directors decided to reject the topic of Ms. Desquesnes' lecture at short notice, but refused to discuss why her subject matter was not acceptable.

“It was her proposal, it was not really approved by us anyway,” he claimed. “We gave her other topic options, but she was not willing to be prepared for anything else.” He listed India-China relations as a possible alternative, but Ms. Desquesnes, who had spent a month gathering news clippings to present a detailed analysis of the press in France, Japan and India in the wake of Fukushima, declined to research a new subject.

“There was a logistics problem and a misunderstanding with the journalist, so we had to cancel,” said Mr. Gasparini. Asked about his statement to French news outlet Mediapart that it was not a good time to discuss this “very sensitive” subject, Mr. Gasparini told The Hindu: “All subjects are sensitive…Sometimes, if we cannot do it, we simply cannot do it. We need to be flexible.”

The Alliance Francaise is a non-governmental institution promoting French language and culture, which nonetheless works closely with the Cultural Action Office of the French Embassy in New Delhi, and also receives some support from the French Foreign Ministry in Paris.

Ms. Desquesnes' employer, the Courrier Internationale is a monitor of the world press, and has a partnership with the Alliance Francaise around the world to organise talks and seminars on the role of the press and the media.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 12:30:26 PM |

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