"We never boycott artists," French Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak told RTL on Friday, as professionals denounced a government directive on Thursday calling for the suspension of all collaboration with artists from Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.
"We do not currently have a visa service in operation in these countries for security reasons", she explained, denouncing "confusion" and explaining that it was "materially" impossible to "issue visas to come to France".
"There is no question of stopping discussions with artists", she insisted, adding that all those "who already have visas and who have tours or shows planned (...) will be able to come as planned".
"We never boycott artists anywhere", she stressed, adding that "there is no boycott, no reprisals".
In a press release published on Thursday, the Syndeac (Syndicat national des entreprises artistiques et culturelles) and its counterparts the Aac, Accn, A-CDCN, ACDN and ASN reacted strongly to the message they claim to have received on Wednesday "from the DRACs", the regional directorates for culture, and "drafted on the instructions of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs".
This message, which is scathing in tone, asks our members to "suspend all cooperation with the following countries until further notice: Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso": Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso", the unions wrote in their press release.
For the Minister of Culture, "France has always been ready to welcome artists in danger". "We will continue to do so", she also said."This is an adaptation to an extremely deteriorated security situation, which is particularly targeting French buildings and French teams in these three countries", she added.
On 29 July and 6 August, France suspended all its development aid and budget support operations with Niger and Burkina Faso. It had already done so for Mali in November 2022.