French paparazzi boss Michèle Marchand faces investigation in police celebrity 'leaks' case

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Illustration featuring, from left, Karine Le Marchand, Michèle Marchand  and Benjamin Griveaux. © Photo Illustration Sébastien Calvet / Mediapart avec AFP Illustration featuring, from left, Karine Le Marchand, Michèle Marchand and Benjamin Griveaux. © Photo Illustration Sébastien Calvet / Mediapart avec AFP

Michèle 'Mimi' Marchand, a powerful figure in the French gossip press and an influential PR fixer to politicians, has already been placed under investigation over the retraction of evidence by businessman Ziad Takieddine, a key witness in the probe into Libyan funding of Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign. Now Marchand, 74, the boss of paparazzi agency Bestimage, has been placed under investigation in relation to a second case, involving allegations of police leaks. It concerns the publication of photos of the arrest of a man over a sex tape affair that ended the hopes of former government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux of becoming mayor of Paris for Emmanuel Macron's party. Marchand, who denies any wrongdoing, is also being investigated for alleged “extortion” against well-known French television presenter Karine Le Marchand. Fabrice Arfi and Antton Rouget report.

Europe's hypocrisy over Afghan refugees

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Families at the Pakistan border fleeing the Taliban advance, August 16th 2021. © Photo AFP Families at the Pakistan border fleeing the Taliban advance, August 16th 2021. © Photo AFP

Most European Union countries waited until the last minute before suspending expulsions of Afghans who had sought asylum on their soil. Now that the Taliban have seized power in Kabul, the 27 EU foreign ministers are meeting this Tuesday to decide the next steps to take. A dignified welcome for Afghan exiles who have already arrived on their territory would be a first sign of solidarity, says Mediapart's Carine Fouteau.

Navigating the brave and sometimes baffling new world of France's Covid health pass

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The health pass can be obtained in several ways, with a vaccination certificate, a negative test in the last 72 hours or a certificate showing that you have had Covid within the last six months. © ROB ENGELAAR / ANP via AFP The health pass can be obtained in several ways, with a vaccination certificate, a negative test in the last 72 hours or a certificate showing that you have had Covid within the last six months. © ROB ENGELAAR / ANP via AFP

From Monday August 9th the French government made it obligatory to have a health pass for anyone wanting to enter a range of establishments or access services, from cafés to restaurants, cinemas to libraries and high-speed trains to hospitals. This meant thousands of people have been trying to get a QR code to prove they have been vaccinated twice, had a recent negative Covid test or that they had recovered from the illness in the last six months and thus had antibodies. For some, this has meant a long and frustrating time dealing with the complexities of a new layer of French bureaucracy. Khedidja Zerouali has been talking to people who have struggled to navigate their way around this brave new world of health rules.

How historic vaccine triumph made Pasteur Institute a tool of French 'soft power'

Louis Pasteur in his office, in about 1890. © Photo Dornac et Cie / Wikimedia commons Louis Pasteur in his office, in about 1890. © Photo Dornac et Cie / Wikimedia commons

When in 1885 French scientist Louis Pasteur successfully treated a nine-year-old boy called Joseph Meister who had been bitten by a rabid dog it marked a turning point in the development of vaccines. But the medical breakthrough was also the launchpad for a global expansion of institutes bearing their founder's name which became a spearhead for French influence around the world. As part of a summer series on the history of vaccines, Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis looks at the pioneering work of France's Louis Pasteur and his nationalistic rivalry with Germany's Robert Koch.

French farmers and politicians in bid to stop wealthy heiress buying farm for leisure use

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Arbonne, July 13th 2021. Hundreds of Basque farmers, with their tractors, occupy farmland in a bid to stop it being sold for leisure purposes. © Photo Pierre Larrieu / Hans Lucas via AFP Arbonne, July 13th 2021. Hundreds of Basque farmers, with their tractors, occupy farmland in a bid to stop it being sold for leisure purposes. © Photo Pierre Larrieu / Hans Lucas via AFP

A rich heiress from Paris recently agreed to buy a 15-hectare farm near the upmarket south-west France coastal resort of Biarritz for more than three million euros. The potential loss of more farmland in a region already very short of suitable arable and market gardening acreage immediately sparked outrage among farming and rural groups. Local farmers and activists have now occupied the land and are hoping to get the sale cancelled. They are also working with local MPs and senators in France's Basque region to change the law so that wealthy outsiders can no longer exploit legal loopholes to buy farmland and put it to non-agricultural use. Antton Rouget reports.

Emmanuel Macron, president of discord

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 © Dylan Martinez/ AFP © Dylan Martinez/ AFP

The scale of protests across France this summer against the policies being deployed to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic is the price being paid by the head of state for his authoritarian, lying and irresponsible presidency, says Mediapart’s publishing editor Edwy Plenel in this op-ed article. Never, he argues, has the issue of democracy been so relevant - and so urgent.

Afghans who aided French army denied safe haven from Taliban

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Abdul Basir, who worked as a cook for the French forces at Camp Warehouse, was shot dead on June 19th 2021. © DR Abdul Basir, who worked as a cook for the French forces at Camp Warehouse, was shot dead on June 19th 2021. © DR

The Taliban’s accelerating offensive in Afghanistan has seen six provincial capitals fall into their control in the space of a few days, raising speculation that they may be in a position to take the capital Kabul within weeks. For the Afghans formerly employed by the forces of the US led international coalition, the dangers posed to the lives of them and their families are very real and greater than ever. But up to around 80 of those employed by the French army in Afghanistan have been refused visas to find safe haven in France, despite the killing in June of one amongst them. Justine Brabant reports.

Summer reads: a graphic account of the adventures of Anaïs Nin

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anaisnin-leoniebischoff

Léonie Bischoff is a Swiss artist and creator of graphic novels, the latest of which is a highly original account of the key episodes in the turbulent life of French-Cuban-American writer Anaïs Nin, based on the contents of her most intimate, unexpurgated diaries. As part of a summer series in which Mediapart journalists highlight those books published over the last 12 months which have particularly caught their eye, Dan Israel reviews Bischoff’s Anaïs Nin, Sur la mer des mensonges (Anaïs Nin, on the sea of lies), a seven-years-in-the-making, no-holds-barred story of Nin’s adventures and quest for personal freedom.

French interior minister says ‘no justification’ to suspend police over death of deliveryman

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Cédric Chouviat pinned to the ground by police officers in Paris on January 3rd 2020. © Document Mediapart Cédric Chouviat pinned to the ground by police officers in Paris on January 3rd 2020. © Document Mediapart

On the morning of January 3rd 2020, a 42-year-old deliveryman, Cédric Chouviat, was flagged down for a roadside check by police close to the Eiffel Tower in central Paris. After a brief altercation, he was arrested and pinned to the ground by police using a stranglehold, causing him to suffocate and suffer a fatal cardiac arrest, despite his pleas for them to let go. Although there is compelling evidence of the excessive, brutal manhandling of Chouviat by the officers implicated in the events, three of whom have been formally placed under investigation, French interior minister Gérald Darmanin recently wrote to Chouviat’s family dismissing their call for the officers to be suspended from duty while awaiting the outcome of an ongoing judicial probe. Pascale Pascariello reports.

The mothers and children sent back to France from jihad

By Céline Martelet
A woman and her children in the Al-Hawl refugee camp in north-east Syria, close to the border with Turkey, in May 2021. © Photo Delil Souleiman / AFP A woman and her children in the Al-Hawl refugee camp in north-east Syria, close to the border with Turkey, in May 2021. © Photo Delil Souleiman / AFP

At the end of July, two French women and their children were returned to France by Turkey after spending years in Syria among the ranks of the so-called Islamic State group. After their arrival, they were placed under investigation and put into preventive detention. Under a cooperation agreement between Paris and Ankara, more are due to arrive this month and will face the same procedure. Céline Martelet reports on the path of the women former jihadists, and the fate of their children.

Why the lights have gone out over Lebanon

Beirut residents without power to air conditioning units escape to their balconies. © Houssam Shbaro / Anadolu Agency via AFP Beirut residents without power to air conditioning units escape to their balconies. © Houssam Shbaro / Anadolu Agency via AFP

August 4th marks the anniversary of the devastating explosion last year in the port of Beirut of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate unsafely stored in a warehouse, causing the deaths of more than 200 people and injuring more than 6,500 others. The blast accentuated an already severe economic and financial crisis in Lebanon, and has left it politically rudderless ever since. Amid high unemployment, soaring poverty and shortages of basic commodities, the population is now also struggling from constant power cuts, the result of withering institutional corruption which has all but paralysed its electricity network. Nada Maucourant Atallah reports from Beirut.

The extraordinary tales of wartime resistance on the French Caribbean island of Martinique

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Domestic violence: when cruelty to animals can sound the alarm

By Audrey Guiller and Nolwenn Weiler
A September 2019 protest in Toulouse, S-W France, to draw attentiion to femicides which were estimated that year to total up to 149. © Alain Pitton/NuPhoto AFP A September 2019 protest in Toulouse, S-W France, to draw attentiion to femicides which were estimated that year to total up to 149. © Alain Pitton/NuPhoto AFP

Evidence suggests that men who are violent towards their wives and children are often also involved in cruel and violent behaviour to pets within the home. While the link has become a key lead in some countries for investigating domestic violence, it is still largely ignored in France despite representing an opportunity for the early identification and protection of victims. Audrey Guiller and Nolwenn Weiler report.

Dock dues tax: the colonial hangover that still costs French overseas citizens dear

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When goods enter the ports of French overseas départements - here, Fort-de-France in Martinique - they are subject to the 'octroi de mer' or dock dues. © JS When goods enter the ports of French overseas départements - here, Fort-de-France in Martinique - they are subject to the 'octroi de mer' or dock dues. © JS

One of the recurring complaints of consumers living in France's overseas regions is how high the cost of living is compared with Metropolitan France. At the heart of this criticism is the 'octroi de mer' or dock dues, a tax paid on the import of goods to these territories. This tax has been in place since 1670 and the start of the French colonial system. And the European Union has just agreed to continue it to at least 2027. Julien Sartre reports on the history and impact of a tax that is a throwback to colonial days and which still leaves a burden on often poor French consumers living in overseas départements.

Abdellatif Hammouchi: Morocco's spy chief at the heart of the Pegasus affair

Abdellatif Hammouchi during a visit to the COP22 international conference on the climate at Marrakesh, November 8th 2016. © Photo Illustration Mediapart avec Fadel Senna / AFP Abdellatif Hammouchi during a visit to the COP22 international conference on the climate at Marrakesh, November 8th 2016. © Photo Illustration Mediapart avec Fadel Senna / AFP

The Pegasus scandal has helped throw a spotlight on the repressive regime in Morocco, which is accused of using the Israeli-made spyware to target the phones of thousands of people, including politicians and journalists in France. In particular it has focused attention on the North African kingdom's top cop and spy chief Abdellatif Hammouchi and his role in the affair. As Mediapart reports, this key figure in the Moroccan state apparatus is feared in many Western capitals, including Paris.