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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 19:38 GMT 20:38 UK
Nudity row at top Paris school
Henri IV student magazine contributors Jonathan and Betty
The students are threatening a law case
A row has erupted at one of France's most prestigious high schools after a group of teenage pupils posed naked for the cover of the student newspaper.

The cover of the quarterly magazine Ravaillac showed five students from the Henri IV lycee naked except for a piece of removable tape over their genitals.

As a conservative measure, I forbid the distribution of this issue at Henri IV

Patrice Corre, Headmaster
In response, the Paris-based school's headmaster Patrice Corre said the students had gone too far and banned the publication.

The dispute has made the magazine one of France's most sought after school papers and sparked a debate about free speech.

The students involved are now considering a lawsuit to protect their rights.

Provocative publication

The magazine was just the second published since Ravaillac launched in November.

From the start it has sought to provoke - with this issue featuring articles by students on sex, pornography, homosexuality, homophobia and prostitution.

The first issue focused on the tormenting initiation rites which are common practice at many French schools.

Students posing on the cover if the magazine
Press defenders say it is not pornography
The magazine's name is itself somewhat impertinent - Ravaillac was the assassin who killed the early 17th century French ruler the school is named after.

But for the school's headmaster the nudity issue was a step too far.

On 29 March in a letter to the editor, Jonathan Desoindre, he warned that nudity of underage students without parental consent could lead to lawsuits and he subsequently banned the magazine.

"As a conservative measure, I forbid the distribution of this issue at Henri IV," Mr Corre wrote.

Press freedom

The school's biggest complaint was that the magazine gave the false impression that it was endorsed by school administrators, he added.

The decision caused outcry, with the students considering taking the matter to court.

Next, they'll be stopping art education in school, there's no lack of nudes there

Franck Delaire, J-Presse

Ravaillac is among 200 publications that have membership with J-Presse an association that protects the rights of student publications.

A spokesman for the association said that this was an important issue of what is acceptable in schools.

"For us, this case shows freedom of expression is still very fragile," said J-Presse's Franck Delaire.

"It isn't pornography - it's just naked people. Next, they'll be stopping art education in school, there's no lack of nudes there," he added.

Meanwhile Mr Corre has eased of slightly on his decision:

"I've evolved a little bit after hearing everybody out. Now the magazine is simply suspended until the school can organise a debate over the matter," he said.

See also:

17 Jan 02 | England
Police college in censorship row
06 Jul 00 | Europe
French film sparks censorship row
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