AFP headquarters in Paris
(as Agence Havas)
(President and CEO)
Number of employees
AFP has regional headquarters in Nicosia, Montevideo, Hong Kong, and Washington, D.C., and news bureaux in 151 countries in 201 locations. AFP transmits stories, videos, photos, graphics in French, English, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, and German.
Agence France-Presse has its origins in the Agence Havas, founded in 1835 in Paris by Charles-Louis Havas, making it the world's oldest news service. The agency pioneered the collection and dissemination of news as a commodity, and had established itself as a fully global concern by the late 19th century. Two Havas employees, Paul Julius Reuter and Bernhard Wolff, set up their own news agencies in London and Berlin respectively.
In 1940, when German forces occupied France during World War II, the news agency was taken over by the authorities and renamed "Office français d'information" (French Information Office); only the private advertising company retained the name Havas. On 20 August 1944, as Allied forces moved on Paris, a group of journalists in the French Resistance seized the offices of the FIO and issued the first news dispatch from the liberated city under the name of Agence France-Presse.
Established as a state enterprise, AFP devoted the post-war years to developing its network of international correspondents. One of them was the first Western journalist to report the death of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin on 6 March 1953. AFP was keen to shake off its semi-official status, and on 10 January 1957, the French Parliament passed a law establishing its independence. Since that date, the proportion of the agency's revenues generated by subscriptions from government departments has steadily declined. Such subscriptions represented 115 million Euros in 2011.
In 1982, the agency began to decentralize its editorial decision-making by setting up the first of its five autonomous regional centres, in Hong Kong, then a British Crown colony. Each region has its own budget, administrative director and chief editor. In September 2007, the AFP Foundation was launched to promote higher standards of journalism worldwide.
In October 2008, the Government of France announced moves to change AFP's status, including the involvement of outside investors. On 27 November of that year, the main trade unions represented in the company's home base of France - the CGT, Force Ouvrière, Syndicat national des journalistes,Union syndicale des journalistes CFDT and SUD, launched an online petition to oppose what they saw as an attempt to privatise the agency.
On 10 December 2009, the French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand announced that he was setting up a Committee of Experts under former AFP CEO Henri Pigeat to study plans for the agency's future status. On February 24, 2010, Pierre Louette unexpectedly announced his intention to resign as CEO by the end of March, and move to a job with France Télécom.
In November 2013, AFP and Getty Images were ordered to pay $1.2 million compensation to freelance photojournalist Daniel Morel for using his images posted on Twitter related to the 2010 Haiti earthquake without his permission, in violation of copyright and Twitter's terms of service.
The board elects the CEO for a renewable term of three years. The AFP also has a council charged with ensuring that the agency operates according to its statutes, which mandate absolute independence and neutrality. Editorially, AFP is governed by a network of senior journalists.
The primary client of AFP is the French government, which purchases subscriptions for its various services. In practice, those subscriptions are an indirect subsidy to AFP. The statutes of the agency prohibit direct government subsidies.
Notable investments include:
AFP GmbH is the subsidiary of AFP in Germany, producing German-language services for local press, internet and corporate clients.
Sport-Informations-Dienst (SID) is producing a German-language sports service.
In 2007, AFP purchased a 34% stake in Scooplive, a citizen news photo and video agency online. Established in France in 2006, Scooplive was renamed Citizenside after this investment, but AFP soon sold its shares to news aggregator Newzulu.