French media urge Macron to keep press room inside Elysee palace

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows Republican Guards standing at attention on the steps of the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - French journalists have urged President Emmanuel Macron to scrap plans to move the presidential press room outside the Elysee palace, saying the measure would make it more difficult for reporters to cover government business.

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

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

The press room closure would be “nothing less than a lock-down of the Elysee and the decision would impinge on reporters’ freedom to inform,” the presidential press association, headed by Reuters reporter Elizabeth Pineau, said in a statement on Tuesday.

U.S. President Donald Trump scrapped a proposal to move news briefings out of the White House earlier last year after journalists and the White House press association objected.

Asked earlier this year about the future of the Elysee press room, Macron told reporters the planned relocation would be part of wider efforts to rearrange Elysee offices amid pressure to cut costs.

His aides said presidential advisers needed a new meeting room and that the new press room, located on a site with less access to presidential activity, would be bigger.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Geert De Clercq and Helen Popper