The disgraceful events of the Place de la République

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Place de la République in central Paris on Monday evening, moments before the police charge. © Jerome Gilles / NurPhoto via AFP Place de la République in central Paris on Monday evening, moments before the police charge. © Jerome Gilles / NurPhoto via AFP

On Monday evening in central Paris, migrants and journalists were physically abused by police engaged in a brutal, manu militari evacuation of a makeshift camp set up on the Place de la République. The police violence was exposed in images circulating on social media and which would be banned if draft legislation currently before parliament is approved. In this joint op-ed article, Mediapart co-editor in chief Carine Fouteau and social affairs editor Mathilde Mathieu argue that the overnight events are a representation of the liberticidal drift of President Emmanuel Macron’s administration, and may prove to be a political turning point.

Why it is our turn to warn that democracy dies in darkness

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Police arrest photographer Hannah Nelson during a Paris protest against the “Global security” bill on November 17th. © © Jérôme Gilles / NurPhoto via AFP Police arrest photographer Hannah Nelson during a Paris protest against the “Global security” bill on November 17th. © © Jérôme Gilles / NurPhoto via AFP

Draft legislation which includes handing increased powers to police and expanding the remit of surveillance operations is now being debated in the French parliament following its first passage through the lower house on Friday. One of the articles of the “Global security” bill will severely restrict the taking and dissemination of images of on-duty police officers. Mediapart staff joined journalists’ unions and rights groups on Saturday in a demonstration in Paris against the bill. Mediapart’s publishing editor Edwy Plenel argues here that what is at stake in the proposed legislation is of exceptional gravity. If it is adopted, he writes, “the lights of democratic vigilance over actions of the state will be extinguished”.

'Beirut 2020', the chronicle of a country in collapse

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Lebanese author Charif Majdalani has put aside fiction to write an account of the profound economic and social crisis of his country, so tragically illustrated by the deadly mega-blast in the port of Beirut in August, with the publication in France this autumn of a diary, Beyrouth 2020; journal d’un effondrement (Beirut 2020; the diary of a collapse). Lucie Delaporte reviews this moving and nostalgic reflection on the demise of Lebanon, once dubbed “the Switzerland of the Middle East”, which nevertheless sees a spark of hope amid the rubble.

The viral French film promoting the Covid-19 conspiracy theory

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 © Capture d'écran © Capture d'écran

Released online earlier this month, Hold-Up is a French pseudo-documentary which promotes the conspiracy theory that Covid-19 was created in a plot by a group of powerful individuals to reshape the world in their interests. Despite the absurdity of the idea, and its inability to produce evidence to support its case, the film attracted an audience of more than three million in the first week of its appearance. Lucie Delaporte reports on an exercise in manipulation of the gullible.   

The Beirut mega-blast: a reconstruction of the timeline of an avoidable tragedy

By Forensic Architecture and Mada Masr
An image taken seconds before the mega-blast in the port of Beirut on August 4th 2020, as analysed by Forensic Architecture. © Forensic Architecture © FA An image taken seconds before the mega-blast in the port of Beirut on August 4th 2020, as analysed by Forensic Architecture. © Forensic Architecture © FA

On August 4th this year, a huge explosion ripped through the port of the Lebanese capital Beirut and the surrounding city neighbourhoods, killing more than 200 people, wounding more than 6,500 others and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. It was so powerful that the shockwaves and tremors it caused were recorded hundreds of kilometres away. Now, London-based independent research group Forensic Architecture has produced a remarkable video report with 3D imaging, using documented evidence and expert input, to piece together a precise chronology of the multiple causes of the explosion, and which Mediapart presents here.

The French firms servicing UAE’s Mirage jets used in support of Libyan warlord

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Two UAE Mirage fighters pictured at the Sidi Barrani base in Egypt on May 5th 2020. © Satellite image © 2020 Maxar Technologies Two UAE Mirage fighters pictured at the Sidi Barrani base in Egypt on May 5th 2020. © Satellite image © 2020 Maxar Technologies

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is actively involved in Libya’s civil war in support of warlord Khalifa Haftar’s campaign to topple the UN-recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli. That military support involves the deployment of the UAE’s French-built Mirage fighter planes, which are suspected of firing missiles at civilian sites, representing potential war crimes. Those same aircraft are given technical maintenance and upgrades by French defence firms acting with government approval, raising serious questions about France’s compliance with international law.

The former top cop at the Élysée and his links with the Corsican underworld

By and Brendan Kemmet
Screen grab of Lionel Lavergne during one of the hearings at the National Assembly into the Benalla affair. © DR Screen grab of Lionel Lavergne during one of the hearings at the National Assembly into the Benalla affair. © DR

The name of senior gendarme officer Lionel Lavergne cropped up during an investigation into a Corsican 'mafia' godfather in 2014, Mediapart has learnt. Yet despite the astonishing contents of phone-taps in the case, that same year the gendarme was appointed number two in charge of protecting the president at the Élysée. When subsequently told by a senior official at the Élysée that he would not get promoted to the top post, Colonel Lavergne retorted: “You don't know who you are dealing with.” He later got the top post, working as head of Élysée security for presidents François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron from 2017 to 2019. Matthieu Suc and Brendan Kemmet report on the results of a Mediapart investigation that goes back five years.

Libyan funding of Sarkozy campaign: Takieddine retracts, the evidence remains

By and
Nicolas Sarkozy and Muammar Gaddafi in Paris on December 10th 2007. © FRANCK FIFE / AFP Nicolas Sarkozy and Muammar Gaddafi in Paris on December 10th 2007. © FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Ziad Takieddine, the ruined businessman who is on the run after being convicted in a separate political corruption case in France, has told Paris Match magazine and BFM-TV news channel that there was “no Libyan funding” of Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 presidential campaign. This contradicts what he has previously told a judicial investigation into the affair and various media. But he maintains that he did hand over cash to Sarkozy's former chief of staff Claude Guéant. The former president himself immediately made clear his delight at Takieddine's retraction. Just a few days ago Sarkozy had described the middleman as a “madman” and a “manipulator”. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

Families shocked as French police arrest children aged 10 for 'glorifying terrorism'

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Les Contamines housing estate in Albertville, in the east of France, where the families of the arrested children live. © (FBt-Mediapart) Les Contamines housing estate in Albertville, in the east of France, where the families of the arrested children live. © (FBt-Mediapart)

On November 2nd 2020 schools around France held a minute's silence in a national tribute to teacher Samuel Paty who was decapitated near his school two weeks earlier. The teacher had shown pupils caricatures of Muhammed as part of a lesson on freedom of speech. Three days after that national tribute four pupils in Albertville near the French Alps were arrested by police for “apologia” for or glorification of terrorism and for making death threats. Mediapart's Francois Bonnet spoke to three of the families who tell a very different story from the official accounts. Their stories suggest that the authorities' actions spiralled out of control, amid some confused statements from the local prosecutor.

The four key lessons for France from the US election

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Going, going.....Donald Trump at the White House on October 30th 2020. © AFP Going, going.....Donald Trump at the White House on October 30th 2020. © AFP

Though Joe Biden won a knife-edge victory in the United States presidential election the Democrats suffered heavy defeats in other electoral contests. Mediapart's co-founder François Bonnet argues that despite his defeat the huge voter turnout for Donald Trump serves as a reminder that the extreme populist right can only be beaten by alternative political projects that focus on citizens and concrete actions on the ground. Here he outlines four lessons from the US elections for European countries - and in particular France.

The grim inside story of how France struggled to deal with the Covid dead

By Lou syrah
A scene of mourning at Strasbourg, north-east France, November 1st 2020. © AFP A scene of mourning at Strasbourg, north-east France, November 1st 2020. © AFP

A report from a French government department has highlighted the major problems that took place as the country dealt with the victims of the epidemic in the spring. These included the enforced cremations of some of those who died, and funeral staff being exposed to danger of infection. The document, seen by Mediapart, contains a number of recommendations about what the state should do in the future. But as Lou Syrah reports, there are fears that without swift action the authorities could face similar problems - and greater anger - during the second wave.

Revealed: the violence of a French police unit and how they tried to conceal it

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Officers from the CSI 93 police unit at Saint-Ouen north of Paris on April 2nd 2020 . © Ludovic Marin / AFP Officers from the CSI 93 police unit at Saint-Ouen north of Paris on April 2nd 2020 . © Ludovic Marin / AFP

A suspect detained by a group of French police officers north of Paris was kicked in the head, tasered and had excrement smeared on his jacket even though he was restrained at the time. Mediapart is publishing extracts from a report by the police watchdog which showed the scale of the violence meted out by the officers as well as the efforts they made to cover up their acts. Yet as Pascale Pascariello reports, only one of the five officers involved is due to face the courts over their actions.

The air pollution threat posed by Paris's 2024 Olympic Games preparations

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The Pleyel à Venir collective, who are opposed to the new works, took part in the public inquiry in Paris in June 2019. © JL The Pleyel à Venir collective, who are opposed to the new works, took part in the public inquiry in Paris in June 2019. © JL

In readiness for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris the authorities are building a new motorway junction to service the Olympic Village for athletes. However, this busy junction at Saint-Denis, north of Paris, is close to a school complex for 700 pupils. French administrative courts have just approved the project, despite the fact that, as documents seen by Mediapart show, the junction is likely to worsen air pollution in the area. Opponents meanwhile point to anti-pollution measures taken outside schools in the centre of the capital and claim that pupils in the city's rundown suburbs are being discriminated against. Jade Lindgaard reports.

The Covid-19 dilemma for France’s overseas territories

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While mainland France went into lockdown last Friday in an attempt to stem a new surge of the coronavirus epidemic, its overseas territories, with the exception of the Caribbean island of La Martinique, were exempted. The dire structural economic and social problems many have long been struggling with were exacerbated by the first total lockdown introduced earlier this year. But as the virus rapidly spreads, the overseas territories, with a total population of close to three million, face a dilemma that for many could end in a hammer blow. Julien Sartre reports.

Nice church attack: the trauma in a city again hit by terrorism

By Sana Sbouai
A message in tribute to murdered church warden Vincent Loquès. © Sana Sbouai A message in tribute to murdered church warden Vincent Loquès. © Sana Sbouai

 

The terrorist knife attack last Thursday against a church in the Riviera city of Nice, when a 21-year-old Tunisian murdered two women and the basilica’s warden, has deeply shocked the local population. For many, the traumatic events brought back the horror of one of France’s worst terrorist attacks, on July 14th 2016, when a truck was driven into Bastille Day crowds on the city’s seafront boulevard, the Promenade des Anglais, killing 86 people. Sana Sbouai reports from Nice where locals tell her of their mixed feelings of anger, fear and despondency.