How French police are laying down the law to the Republic

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Interior minister Gérald Darmanin meets police officers at Lille on May 14th 2021. © Célia Consolini/Hans Lucas via AFP Interior minister Gérald Darmanin meets police officers at Lille on May 14th 2021. © Célia Consolini/Hans Lucas via AFP

The French Republic should not be subject to the demands of the police. Yet this democratic principle is under challenge from the demonstration held by police officers on Wednesday, May 19th. Organisers of the protest in front of the National Assembly in Paris, which was supported by members of the current government, the far right and the two historic parties of the Left, are demanding minimum sentences for anyone found guilty of attacks on police officers. This undermines one of the key principles of the French Republic, that the police force is there to serve all citizens, and not to seek law changes in its own interest or the interests of the government of the day, argue Mediapart's publishing editor Edwy Plenel and political correspondent Ellen Salvi in this op-ed article.

French Left split in two ahead of 2022 presidential elections

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Not seeing eye-to-eye: Éric Piolle from the Green EELV party (left) with radical-left LFI party leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon in Lille, May 1st 2021. © SYLVAIN LEFEVRE/Hans Lucas/ Hans Lucas via AFP Not seeing eye-to-eye: Éric Piolle from the Green EELV party (left) with radical-left LFI party leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon in Lille, May 1st 2021. © SYLVAIN LEFEVRE/Hans Lucas/ Hans Lucas via AFP

In just less than 12 months, France goes to the polls in presidential elections. On the Left, two distinct blocs are emerging, with separate policies and strategies, no common candidate and the prospect of a political crash. But could growing forecasts of a strong performance, and even victory, by the far-right yet force a union of the Left? Pauline Graulle reports.

The spiral of state-driven terror in 'gangsterized' Haiti

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A protest march in Port-au-Prince against President Jovenel Moïse, February 10th 2021. © AFP/Valerie Baeriswyl A protest march in Port-au-Prince against President Jovenel Moïse, February 10th 2021. © AFP/Valerie Baeriswyl

In Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, a succession of massacres since 2018 by criminal gangs of inhabitants in several neighbourhoods is denounced by rights organisations as a strategy by the country’s deeply unpopular president, Jovenel Moïse, to terrorise the population into submission. François Bonnet reports on the horrific events, and interviews one of Haiti’s leading young writers, Jean D’Amérique, whose recently published novel, Soleil à coudre, centres on one such neighbourhood.

French report warns of deepening, enduring poverty from Covid crisis

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A food distribution point for university students in Perpignan, southern France. © Jeanne Mercier/Hans Lucas/Hans Lucas via AFP A food distribution point for university students in Perpignan, southern France. © Jeanne Mercier/Hans Lucas/Hans Lucas via AFP

The social repercussions of the Covid-19 crisis have deepened the conditions of poverty in which around 9 million people in France were already living before its onset, and has tipped a significant number of others below the poverty line, according to a study commissioned by the French government. Published this week, it warns of a ‘timebomb’ of pauperisation from the cumulative effects of the crisis which will endure even after a rebound in economic activity. Faïza Zerouala reports.

The law-and-order bandwagon dominating France's regional elections

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Valérie Pécresse, conservative leader of the greater Paris regional council seeking re-election in June, meeting with railway security staff, April 29th 2021. © Ludovic Marin/AFP Valérie Pécresse, conservative leader of the greater Paris regional council seeking re-election in June, meeting with railway security staff, April 29th 2021. © Ludovic Marin/AFP

Law and order has become the major issue in campaigning by rightwing candidates in France’s regional council elections to be held in June, in which “security” is the watchword on posters, in soundbites and at public meetings. In fact, regional councils have no authority over policing policies, which is the responsibility of the state. Ilyes Ramdani reports.

Pictured: French air force pilot's initiation ordeal tied to fighter jet target

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Ordeal: pilot 'A.C.' tied to fighter jet target in Corsica. © DR Ordeal: pilot 'A.C.' tied to fighter jet target in Corsica. © DR

A young French air force pilot who, in a cruel initiation prank by otherairmen, was hooded, trussed, and tied to a post used for target practice by fighter jets, has filed a formal complaint with the public prosecution services for “aggravated violence” and “deliberately endangering the life of others”. Mediapart reveals here photos and video of the disturbing events at an airbase in Corsica which, as Justine Brabant reports, further tarnish the image of the air force after prosecutors in February opened an investigation into allegations of “institutionalised” harassment at a major base in eastern France.

A year of shutdown: the stories of life on furlough in France

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A French restaurant sign announcing “It’s closed”, “Come back quickly!”. © Frédéric Scheiber/Hans Lucas/Hans Lucas via AFP A French restaurant sign announcing “It’s closed”, “Come back quickly!”. © Frédéric Scheiber/Hans Lucas/Hans Lucas via AFP

For a little more than a year now, the succession of on-off lockdowns and restrictions on public and economic activity have severely disrupted the personal and professional lives of many millions in France, notably for those placed on furlough. Mediapart asked readers to provide their personal accounts of the long months deprived of work and largely confined to their homes. Cécile Hautefeuille presents here a selection of the stories that came back; some are sad, some are funny, and nearly all have an underlining theme of a questioning of the sense of their lives and jobs.

French commentator Éric Zemmour accused of sexual violence against women

Journalist and polemicist Éric Zemmour. © JOEL SAGET / AFP Journalist and polemicist Éric Zemmour. © JOEL SAGET / AFP

On April 24th 2021 a female councillor publicly accused French journalist and polemicist Éric Zemmour of having forcibly kissed her. Mediapart has gathered the accounts of several other women who have also condemned the actions and behaviour of the journalist from Le Figaro newspaper and CNews news channel, whom some on the far-right want to be a candidate in next year's presidential election in France. When approached by Mediapart, Zemmour declined to respond to the allegations. Lénaïg Bredoux, David Perrotin and Marine Turchi report.

From scandal to big business: 20 years of reality TV in France

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The 'Loft Story' logo on April 25th 2002 at La Plaine Saint-Denis north of central Paris during season 2. © Bertrand Guay/AFP The 'Loft Story' logo on April 25th 2002 at La Plaine Saint-Denis north of central Paris during season 2. © Bertrand Guay/AFP

The first reality television show on French television was broadcast on April 26th 2001. 'Loft Story', a French remake of the 'Big Brother' format, caused a scandal and provoked endless debate and discussion among both the public and academics. One critic even claimed it marked a descent into “fascism”. Twenty years later the genre has become a standard part of TV viewing. Participants in some of the top-rated shows have become professionals with large incomes, working as 'influencers' who promote brands on social networks. François Bougon reports on the history of reality TV in France.

The mask slips: Marine Le Pen backs ex-generals who threaten possible 'coup'

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Marine Le Pen in March 2021. © Xose Bouzas / Hans Lucas via AFP Marine Le Pen in March 2021. © Xose Bouzas / Hans Lucas via AFP

A letter signed by 23 retired French generals, who warn that the military might have to “intervene” in a “civil war” because of a failure by the French state to crack down on “Islamists”, has caused a political row. Defence minister Florence Parly has warned of “consequences” for any active soldiers on the list of signatories, which includes scores of other senior ranks. Meanwhile Marine Le Pen, the president of the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party, has given the retired generals her support. As Lucie Delaporte reports, her backing for such views is a stark reminder of what the RN really stands for, after a decade in which Le Pen has sought to soften the party's image.

The grim reasons why French police officers have become prime targets for terrorists

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Jihadist propaganda publications often target the French police. © DR Jihadist propaganda publications often target the French police. © DR

The murder of a policewoman at Rambouillet, south west of Paris, on Friday April 23rd brought to 12 the number of members of the police and security forces who have been killed in terrorist attacks in France since 2015. Overall, attacks targeting police officers have grown in number over that period. This “French exception”  is a phenomenon which has become more prevalent since the collapse of Islamic State's self-styled 'Caliphate' in the Middle East. Matthieu Suc reports.

Probe launched into racist comments at France's school for judges

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School for judges: the École nationale de la magistrature (ENM) at Bordeaux. © Valentino BELLONI / Hans Lucas via AFP School for judges: the École nationale de la magistrature (ENM) at Bordeaux. © Valentino BELLONI / Hans Lucas via AFP

Documents seen by Mediapart reveal that some students at the school where France's future judges and prosecutors are trained used racist language on a private online document. The comments made by the students, who are poised to graduate from the École Nationale de la Magistrature and start their careers, include “France for the French” and “Arabs Out”. The college's authorities informed prosecutors in Bordeaux who have now opened a criminal investigation. David Perrotin reports.

Dodgy dossier: scandal of investigation into petrol bomb attack on French police

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À Viry-Châtillon, le 8 octobre 2016. © Thomas Samson / AFP À Viry-Châtillon, le 8 octobre 2016. © Thomas Samson / AFP

On April 18th 2021 five youths were found guilty on appeal of an attack in 2016 in which two police officers were set ablaze when their patrol car was pelted with petrol bombs in a Paris suburb. The five were given jail terms of between six and 18 years. Eight other youths were acquitted. The appeal verdict, which was more lenient than the original trial in 2019, caused outrage among some politicians and led to a protest march by angry police officers. But Mediapart can reveal that the real scandal was the way in which police detectives ran the initial investigation into the brutal attack in Viry-Châtillon. Officers truncated or cut out entire sections of what suspects said in custody. They also put pressure on them to implicate other youths from the area. Lawyers for some of those involved have described it as a “legal scandal” and formal complaints have now been made to prosecutors about the conduct of the detectives. Pascale Pascariello reports.

French police reveal system used by luxury goods firm LVMH to spy on journalist

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Bernard Squarcini, en 2012. © MARTIN BUREAU / AFP Bernard Squarcini, en 2012. © MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

Two recent reports by French police have revealed in minute detail the spying system set up by the former head of France's domestic intelligence agency, Bernard Squarcini, on behalf of the giant luxury goods firm LVMH, which is owned by billionaire Bernard Arnault. Its target was journalist François Ruffin - who is now a Member of Parliament in France - and his publication Fakir. Fabrice Arfi reports.

Scandal of racist and sexist language used at organisation delivering Paris Olympics

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Nicolas Ferrand, CEO of SOLIDEO, during a presentation of a model of the Olympic village in November 2019, watched by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. © Stéphane DE SAKUTIN / AFP Nicolas Ferrand, CEO of SOLIDEO, during a presentation of a model of the Olympic village in November 2019, watched by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. © Stéphane DE SAKUTIN / AFP

An investigation by Mediapart has revealed a pattern of anti-Roma insults, sexist behaviour and prejudice towards residents of a high-immigration area among certain staff at an organisation helping to deliver the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. After Mediapart raised the issue with management three employees at SOLIDEO – the body overseeing construction of the Games infrastructure - have been suspended and an internal inquiry has been established. Previous attempts to raise the issue internally, including the referral of complaints to the office of Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo,  apparently had little effect. Jade Lindgaard and Antton Rouget report.