Robert Ménard (born 6 July 1953) is a French politician and former journalist. One of the founders and the former secretary-general of the Paris-based international NGO Reporters Sans Frontières, he currently is mayor of the town of Béziers in the south of France and was elected with the support of the party National Front.
|Mayor of Béziers|
Assumed office |
4 April 2014
|Preceded by||Raymond Couderc|
6 July 1953|
Oran, French Algeria
Ménard comes from a Catholic French Pied-Noir family which settled in Algeria in the 1850s. Around the time of the Independence of Algeria and when he was nine years old, the family moved to Brusque, Aveyron. He studied religion, and planned on becoming a priest.
Ménard is married to Emmanuelle Duverger. He has one daughter with her and two children from previous relationships.
In 2013, he announced he would be a candidate for the position of mayor of Béziers in the 2014 municipal elections. He launched his campaign with the support of the sovereigntist right-wing party Arise the Republic, and subsequently welcomed the support of the far-right National Front, who endorsed him as their candidate although he was not a member. His move to the far right attracted media attention. He described himself publicly as a "reactionary", supporting the reintroduction of the death penalty and objecting to the legalisation of gay marriage in May 2013. He was elected mayor on 30 March in the second round with 47% of the vote.
In May 2015, Ménard violated French law by attempting to record the religion of schoolchildren in his city, claiming that 64.9% were Muslim, based on their first names. In September, he visited a refugee complex to tell them that they were not welcome in France, and two months later he declared that no more kebab restaurants would open in Béziers.
In 1975-1976, Ménard created the pirate radio station Radio Pomarède and became president of l'Association pour la libération des ondes - The Association for the liberation of the airwaves. He consequently became the target of many lawsuits, in one of which, François Mitterrand, later President of France gave a character reference. He later created the free magazine Le Petit biterrois but had to close it down due to a lack of advertisers. In 1985 he created Reporters sans Frontières.
A Rue89 post claims Ménard became the focus of significant controversy after an interview with France Culture in which in response to a question about the case of the kidnapped journalist Daniel Pearl he made a statement which some have interpreted as saying that the use of torture could be justified in some circumstances.
On 24 March 2008 Ménard and two other members of Reporters sans Frontières were arrested for attempting to disrupt the lighting of the Olympic Flame prior to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The disruption was aimed at protesting the crackdown on Tibetan civil rights activities by the Government of the People's Republic of China.
Ménard resigned from his role as secretary-general of RSF in September 2008 and became director-general of the Doha Center for Media Freedom in Qatar which opened in October 2008. Ménard resigned as director-general of the Center in June 2009, complaining of obstruction by Qatar government officials of the Center's work (notably its criticism of Qatar's restrictive media policies, along with the Center's efforts to bring several persecuted journalists to Qatar for temporary refuge), despite earlier assurances that it would be allowed to operate freely.
On October 1, 2012, he along with Dominique Jamet founded the extreme-right news website Boulevard Voltaire.