Opinions

  • 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.

  • Charlie Hebdo massacre: the dilemma for French Muslims

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    As the first cracks appear in the “national unity” urged by President François Hollande, the spotlight has been turned on the reaction of French Muslims. Ahead of Sunday's 'Republican march' to show solidarity over the Charlie Hebdo killings, the far right and sections of the Right have called on France's Muslims to condemn the massacre publicly. On the Left, opinions are divided on the issue. Mediapart's Hubert Huertas argues that we are faced with two very different visions of France – one that demands assimilation, the other that embraces diversity.

  • Charlie Hebdo killings: an assault on our freedoms

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    The massacre that took place at the offices of Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday morning is an act without precedent, writes Mediapart editor François Bonnet. The killers who targeted the satirical magazine also attacked the very heart of what makes a democracy, freedom of the press and, beyond that, our individual and collective freedoms.

  • Terrorism and the fear that rallies people around leaders

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    Three separate and shocking incidents in France over recent days raised fears that a terrorist campaign had been launched over the Christmas period. They began with an attack last Saturday by a knife-wielding man, shouting ‘god is  great’ in Arabic, on a police station in central France, when three officers were wounded and the assailant shot dead. On Sunday, a car was driven into pedestrians in the south-east city of Dijon by a man also reportedly chanting in Arabic, in which 13 people were injured. Then on Monday, a man drove a van into a crowded Christmas market in the western city of Nantes, injuring ten people, one of whom later died. The strange message from the government, writes political affairs correspondent Hubert Huertas in this opinion article, is that the situation is not alarming, but is alarming. For while finally dismissing a combined terrorist plot, it has also slammed the ‘go’ button on the machine that produces fear.

  • How Nobel prize-winner Jean Tirole led the private sector takeover of French economic studies

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     © DR © DR

    Earlier this week the Nobel prize for economics went to French economist Jean Tirole, who the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences described as “one of the most influential economists of our time”. Tirole was awarded the prize for his work on market power and regulation of large firms’ monopolistic practices, and the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy announced that “this year’s prize in economic sciences is about taming powerful firms”. But amid the wide acclaim for Tirole in France and abroad, Mediapart economics and business writer Laurent Mauduit advises caution. Here he argues why Tirole, the founder of the prestigious Toulouse School of Economics, is one of the principal champions of the rampant private sector takeover of economics teaching and research in France, to the detriment of the science and the public higher education system.