The smokescreen of French privacy laws


Tepid French public reaction to political scandals, and also to the romantic affairs of presidents, is often at odds with how the same events would be judged in other developed countries. In parallel to this, France has some of the toughest laws in Europe protecting personal privacy – and which are now cited in legal action taken against the magazine Closer by actress Julie Gayet following its revelations of her secret relationship with President François Hollande. Here, Philippe Riès argues that the privacy laws used by politicians is too often a tool to disguise the institutionalised excesses and corruption of a monarchic elite, served by a largely submissive media and reinforced by a puzzling public indifference that places democracy in danger.

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The indifference, as demonstrated in opinion surveys, of the French public towards the ‘romantic’ escapades of the elite who govern them is the counter side of their tolerance, as demonstrated by their votes, of corruption within the political class - whether that corruption be individual or institutional, active or passive, motivated by nepotism or cronyism. It is the sign of a profound and recurrent democratic failing.