Opinions

  • Rwanda: the dishonour of France

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    The French government pulled out of the commemorations on Monday April 7th that marked the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. This abrupt decision was provoked by the recent comments of Rwandan president Paul Kagamé about “the direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation of the genocide, and the participation of the latter in its actual execution”, remarks which have sparked outrage in France. But though France's reaction was in line with former foreign minister Alain Juppé's demand that the government should “defend France's honour”, Mediapart's Editor-in-Chief Edwy Plenel argues that the decision not to attend the commemorations is instead a sign of France's dishonour over the tragic affair.

  • Why we should say goodbye to France's First Lady...forever

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    Last Saturday, January 25th, President François Hollande announced via the French news agency AFP that he had separated from his partner and 'First Lady' the journalist Valérie Trierweiler, two weeks after the revelation of his relationship with the actress Julie Gayet. Inevitably the issue has raised questions about whether the status of First Lady should exist at all in France. In June 2012 Mediapart's Editor-in-Chief Edwy Plenel wrote an article on this issue in the wake of the row caused by Valérie Trierweiler's Tweet supporting an election rival of Hollande's former partner Ségolène Royal. He argued then that it was time for the Hollande presidency to bid farewell to the fictitious notion of a First Lady or risk falling prey to the same blurring of public and private interests that characterised the Sarkozy years. Republished now, Edwy Plenel's words have a prophetic ring to them.

  • The smokescreen of French privacy laws

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    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.

  • Why we unite against anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné - but don't want to ban him

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    The French interior minister Manuel Valls has sent out tough new instructions to regional prefects encouraging them to ban shows in the imminent nation-wide tour by controversial comedian Dieudonné who stands accused of virulent anti-Semitism. The French president François Hollande has joined the debate, urging the prefects to be 'vigilant and inflexible' in the way they treat the comic. Some have now banned shows in their areas. Mediapart has been warning of Dieudonné's obsessive anti-Semitism for five years. But, as editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel here argues, banning the comedian's shows runs the risks of the socialist government falling into the age-old trap of democracies who undermine their own fundamental freedoms in the name of law and order. This politics of fear, he says, which uses the threat of chaos to undermine democracy, belongs to governments of the Right.

  • Who wants to kill off Mediapart?

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    In France, the online press is officially subject to a VAT rate of 19.6%, while the printed press is subject to a VAT rate of 2.1%. This discriminatory tax on the online press has been dismissed as an injustice by successive governments over the past five years, leading to a suspension of its collection by the tax authorities. Mediapart, which with other online press organizations has led a high-profile campaign to have it removed, has for several years openly adopted the same VAT rate as the printed press. But suddenly, the tax authorities this month demanded that Mediapart pay the VAT rate of 19.6%, with backpayments due on every year since it launched in 2008. It has now been informed of the first tax adjustment, concerning the years from 2008 to 2010. Here, editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel details the gigantic sums demanded, and why this sudden and rushed move is plainly designed to put this wholly independent online journal, whose revelatory investigations have shaken administrations past and present, to the sword.  

  • Mandela's lesson of force and finesse

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    Deux vidéos dans l'article Deux vidéos dans l'article

    The death of Nelson Mandela, figurehead of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and who became the country's first black president, is being mourned around the world. His disappearance on Thursday, at the age of 95, amid heightened tension over next year’s parliamentary elections, now leaves the ideals of the Rainbow Nation that succeeded the apartheid regime under threat. Here, Mediapart’s Antoine Perraud pays a personal tribute to a man whose unusual combination of force, fraternity and finesse hoisted him to a political and moral highground. But he begins by underlining the role humour also played in overturning a regime of hate.

  • Why we need to march for equality and against racism

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    After earlier racist jibes aimed at justice minister Christiane Taubira, an extreme-right weekly news magazine has now published a front cover containing a racial slur against her. Here Mediapart's editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel attacks the growing tide of racism in France, arguing that the main casualty is the French Republic itself. He traces the immediate roots of its resurgence and calls for a protest march on December 3rd against racism - and for equality.

  • How Hollande has single-handedly led us astray over Syria

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris late on Saturday to discuss what increasingly appears to be an imminent US-led military attack, with the active support of France, upon the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Kerry said the international community was now before a "Munich moment", referring to the appeasement that failed to stop Nazi Germany in the 1930s. "We in the United States know, and our French partners know, that this is not the time to be silent spectators to slaughter," he said. The present crisis will, whatever the outcome, be recorded as a turning point for French President François Hollande. Mediapart editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel argues here that Hollande has alone decided to lead his country to war in a simplistic and precipitated manner, while turning his back on the two challenges left by his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, namely a renewal of the democratic process in France and the establishment of a new approach to international relations.

  • Against the ‘state of exception’, the crucial battle to save freedom of information

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    The game of diplomatic bluff played out in the row between the Unites States and Russia over the asylum offered to former NSA computer analyst-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden disguises an essential issue that concerns all of us, writes Mediapart editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel. That issue, he argues here, is how a ‘state of exception’, symbolized by the US Patriot Act and which cites supposed security concerns above the just rule of law, is surreptitiously extending its already vast power amid hitherto widespread indifference. A battle is on to force its retreat, and it is being fought here, on the internet.

  • How Qatar bagged Printemps while taking French law for window-dressing

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    The Printemps department store chain, one of France’s oldest and most famous, was last week bought by a Qatari investment fund for a reported 1.75 billion euros after months of secret negotiations with the group’s principal shareholders and amid bitter opposition by unions representing its staff of 3,000. France’s competition regulator gave the green light despite a preliminary investigation opened in June by the Paris public prosecutor’s office into allegations that the transaction process involved fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. In this opinion article, Mediapart economy and finance specialist Martine Orange argues that the deal illustrates the recurrent impotence of  French law, and the unwillingness of government, to effectively rein in the excesses of rich and powerful wheeler-dealers.