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Macron to go ahead with plan to move press out of Elysee palace

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech after meeting with local residents, officials and emergency services during a visit to the victims of the floods caused by heavy rains in the Aude department, in Villalier, France October 22, 2018. Guillaume Horcajuelo/Pool via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron will go ahead with plans to move the presidential press room away from the Elysee palace, despite calls by journalists to scrap a decision they say would make it more difficult to cover government business.

The press room overlooks the palace’s central courtyard, letting journalists see visitors come and go. But soon after Macron took office last year, aides said he would relocate it from within the palace walls to a street nearby.

Late on Wednesday, Macron’s office announced in a statement they would implement the plan by the end of the year even though the presidential press association, which represents accredited journalists covering Macron, has urged him to reconsider.

“This new press room will offer improved working conditions for a greater number of journalists,” the Elysee said.

Journalists said moving the office out of the Elysee would undermine a symbol of transparency and accountability, highlighting Macron’s preferred communications strategy of using Twitter and Facebook to bypass the media.

Although the Elysee said the move would help accommodate more journalists in a new, more secure environment, government sources told Reuters the main goal was to prevent easy access to advisers and staff who might leak sensitive information.

Asked this year about the future of the press room, Macron told reporters the planned relocation would be part of wider efforts to rearrange Elysee offices amid pressure to cut costs, while his aides said presidency staff needed a new meeting room.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg