Journalists at French daily Le Monde on strike

An employee puts up a placard, which reads "Le Monde on strike", outside Le Monde daily newspaper building in Paris April 14, 2008. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - Journalists at Le Monde, one of France’s most highly respected daily newspapers, went on strike for only the second time in the paper’s history on Monday in protest at heavy cuts in newsroom staff.

Le Monde, read by some 2 million people every day, is one of the country’s most influential newspapers with extensive contacts in the French establishment and an unwaveringly intellectual tone.

But like other media groups, it has been struggling with declining advertising revenues and increased competition from other news sources including the Internet.

A new management team told staff earlier this month that the Le Monde publishing group would have to sell a number of titles and cut 130 newsroom staff at the flagship daily, including a quarter of its 340 journalists.

The paper has announced losses of 20 million euros ($31.64 million) in 2007 after a loss of 14.3 million euros in 2006. It has accumulated debts of 150 million euros.

Set up in 1944 after the liberation of France from the Nazis, Le Monde appears each day in Paris and some other big cities around lunchtime dated the following day, when it also becomes available in the rest of the country.

The strike, which means Tuesday’s edition will not appear, is the first time Le Monde journalists have gone on strike since 1976, when they stopped work to protest against the acquisition of the daily France Soir by media tycoon Robert Hersant.

It is the first time they have gone on strike in protest at a development within their own company.

Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Charles Dick