Opinions

  • Mediapart launches operation '#OpenEurope'

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    Mediapart is launching a special project called “#OpenEurope” in partnership with seven Tunisian and European news outlets plus associations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This operation is a direct response to the miserable selfishness shown by European leaders, and aims to tell the real stories of how people are coming together to help migrants in Europe. The objective, too, is to defend a vision of Europe that stays true to its values of welcome, asylum and openness. Mediapart reporter Carine Fouteau and editor François Bonnet explain how it will work – and how people can get involved.

  • In defence of France's examining magistrates

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    Last Friday a French court acquitted former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of aggravated pimping charges, relating to his regular participation in group sex orgies with prostitutes. It followed on the acquittal in May, in an unrelated case, of former conservative minister Éric Woerth of charges that he manipulated senile L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt to obtain cash sums, and of influence peddling to obtain a job for his wife in exchange for awarding Bettencourt’s wealth investment manager with the Légion d’honneur. The unsuccessful prosecutions prompted some conservatives, and their allies, to call – and not for the first time - for an end to the French system of examining magistrates, the independent judges who lead major crime investigations carried out in the field by police, and who alone have the ultimate decision on whether to press charges. But in this op-ed article, Mediapart’s legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan argues that such calls are a recurrent knee-jerk reaction on the part of those whose distaste for investigating judges is rooted in the latter’s independence in face of the rich and powerful, as demonstrated over several decades of French judicial history.   

  • After Bettencourt – why France's justice system urgently needs reform

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    One of the greatest political-financial scandals of France's Fifth Republic has been reduced to the level of just another human interest story of money and greed. The verdicts handed down by the courts in the Bettencourt affair on Thursday – in particular the acquittals of former budget minister Éric Woerth – have stripped the scandal of its powerful political dimension. In doing so, argues Mediapart's editor François Bonnet, France's malfunctioning justice system, dependant as it is on its political masters, has shown yet again that it is suffering from a profound malaise.

  • France's 'spirit of January 11' or the ghost of a unity that passed

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    Manifestation du 11 janvier 2015 à Paris. © Thomas Haley Manifestation du 11 janvier 2015 à Paris. © Thomas Haley

    Following the January 2015 terror attacks in and around Paris which left 20 people dead, including the three gunmen, there were huge marches held across France to express public outrage over the events. On Sunday January 11th, an estimated four million people took to the streets of the country’s major towns and cities, with an estimated two million in Paris alone. The French government, and in particular Prime Minister Manuel Valls, has since coined the phrase ‘the spirit of January 11’, using it repeatedly as a rallying call for national unity, notably as it drove through its recent law to introduce mass surveillance powers for the security services. But the recurrent references to what was a remarkable day have now turned sour, amid a heightening debate, as critics on the Right and Left accuse the government of attempting to invent a false conception for cynical political gain. One of them is Christian Salmon, a writer and researcher with the Paris-based Centre for Research in the Arts and Language. In this opinion article he argues that the ‘spirit of January 11’ has “evolved into a confusing scrum, a macabre dance with a cortege of grimacing masks, heroic posturing and denunciations”.

  • France: the need for a truly democratic Republic

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    President François Hollande and his ministers seem determined to press ahead with their intelligence and surveillance bill which will give wide-ranging powers to the security services and police. It is the first time in more than half a century in France that a left-wing administration has been party to such a retreat from democracy. Instead of extending existing freedoms or creating new ones, the current government is following in the tradition of right-wing administrations, extolling the virtues of secrecy, refusing debate, acting in an authoritarian manner and handing greater powers to the hidden world of intelligence and surveillance, without offering any serious checks and counterbalances in return. Ahead of a day of protest on Monday May 4th against the bill, Mediapart's editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel argues that all the time that the nation's highly-personalised presidential system of government remains in place, France will continue to suffer from politics that lack true democracy.

  • France's planned surveillance law: an attack on freedom

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    The French government is rushing through a bill which will give wide-ranging powers to security and intelligence officials to snoop on the nation's citizens. The measure, dubbed by some the French version of America's Patriot Act, will allow spies to tap phones and emails without obtaining permission from judges. It will also allow agents to bug suspects’ homes with microphones and cameras and add covert software to their computers to track every letter and word they type. France's lower house of Parliament, the National Assembly, will hold its final vote on the draft legislation on May 5th. Though the government has sought to justify the proposed law as a necessary tool in the fight against terrorism, the surveillance bill has met with unanimous opposition from civil liberties groups, administrative bodies and the internet community. Editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel here explains why Mediapart is so passionately opposed to this “wicked” law and urges people to join the public protest against it which is planned for Monday May 4th.

  • Is this what the French government calls 'the spirit of January 11th'?

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    Le ministre de l'Economie Emmanuel Macron et le premier ministre Manuel Valls à l'Assemblée nationale ce mardi. © Reuters Le ministre de l'Economie Emmanuel Macron et le premier ministre Manuel Valls à l'Assemblée nationale ce mardi. © Reuters

    The French socialist government on Thursday survived a no-confidence vote in parliament called for by the conservative opposition after Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday controversially resorted to the use of a decree to force through a bill of liberalizing economic reforms. The reforms, drawn up by economy minister Emmanuel Macron, were hotly contested by the rebel Left within the Socialist Party and among its radical-left allies, leaving Valls uncertain of its adoption in a vote by parliament. During the debates, Valls once again spoke of the need for national unity behind his government in the “spirit of January 11th”, referring to the mass public turnout in marches held on January 11th in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris. “The spirit of January 11th is not a magical spirit, it belongs to us and we must maintain it,” Valls told the National Assembly on Thursday. But in this opinion article, Mediapart editor François Bonnet argues that using the 49-3 decree has symbolised the political authoritarianism of a weak government, one that has begun manipulating the ‘spirit of January 11th’ and which is bent on bulldozing through its domestic and foreign policies without proper consultation, notably employing the notion of a “war on terror” to stifle debate.

  • The law gagging press and whistleblowers buried within French economic growth bill

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    French economy minister Emmanuel Macron on Monday introduced before parliament his bill of law for ‘growth and action’, a wide-ranging set of measures that include loosening Sunday trading rules, cutting red tape on construction activity and opening up closed professions like that of solicitors. Amendments to the bill, which is on a fast-track passage through parliament this week, have seen its original 106 articles rise to more than 200. Among them is a measure adopted in stealth and which aims to guarantee secrecy in business activity by making the revelation of confidential corporate information a crime. Mediapart economics correspondent Martine Orange argues here why the text of this amendment is so vague and potentially large in interpretation that it poses a serious danger for freedom of information, and for the press and whistleblowers in particular.

  • A letter to France

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    The terrorist attacks in Paris in early January demand an awakening of French society, writes Mediapart editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel. Not one driven by the politics of fear that put the country at war, but one of democratic and social aspirations that demand equality for every member of the population and which, he argues here, is the only solution for eradicating the necrosis of hope that fuels the ‘identity’ conflict blighting France today.

  • After the mass marches in France – what comes next?

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    More than three-and-a-half million people took to the streets of France on Sunday. They were the biggest demonstrations seen in the country since the World War II liberation of France in 1944. Those who marched did so with a variety of different hopes but with one single demand: to raise the level of public debate in this country. It is now down to the government to pick up the theme, argues Mediapart's editor François Bonnet, even if, since his election in 2012, President François Hollande, and also his prime minister Manuel Valls, have shown themselves to be deaf to the idea.