Just before millions took to the streets to protest his plans, France’s president told the country’s mainstream media to spread the “good word” about his controversial proposed pension reforms, according to Anadolu Agency.

Emmanuel Macron held a “secret meeting” at the Elysee Palace on Jan. 17, two days before nationwide strikes and protests over the pension reform project, journalist Eve Roger said in a Sunday television appearance.

Speaking to 10 mainstream media editors-in-chief, including from Le Figaro, BFMTV, and Le Monde, Macron sought to “spread the good word and the language elements so that the presidential word infuses public opinion – and maybe even influences it,” Roger told TV5.

The meeting was on background, so the journalists could not quote Macron or even say they spoke with him, she added.

Roger cited as proof the Jan. 18 newsletter from website Politico mentioning a meeting organized by Macron to “deliver some messages, without cameras or microphones,” also pointing to stories by those outlets covering the presidency’s talking points of the reform plans.

The pension reform project, which includes gradually raising the retirement age from 62 to 64, immediately triggered outrage from workers and unions.

After details of the pension reforms were released, France on Jan. 19 was the scene of nationwide strikes and protests.

At least 2 million people poured onto the streets of France in mass protests, according to the CGT union.

The union also counted 400,000 protesters in the capital Paris, with at least another 20,000 turning out in the southern coastal city of Nice.

The Interior Ministry placed the nationwide figure at 1.12 million, including 80,000 protesters in Paris.

More strikes and protests are expected in the weeks to come.