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France

Government and media on a collision course over Bettencourt scandal

Text by Guillaume LOIRET

Latest update : 2010-07-11

The French government came out swinging Friday against news web site Mediapart and its director Edwy Plenel, slamming them as “the trashcan of the Internet” after the organisation published a series of revelations on the “Bettencourt Affair”.

 

The French government turned its full ire on the new media kid on the block, Mediapart Friday, after the organisation published a series of revelations on the “Bettencourt Affair”.
Quotes emerging from the government refer to the French news site Mediapart as “the trashcan of the Internet,” and state that the article accusing French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Labour Minister Eric Woerth is littered with “major slips.”

'Facist methods'

Numerous government ministers joined the assault on Plenel, including the junior employment minister, Laurent Wauquiez who called Plenel a “serial slanderer.” Sarkozy’s UMP party has also joined the scrum, accusing Plenel of utlising “fascist methods.”

 

In re

cent weeks Mediapart has published a series of revelations on the “Bettencourt Affair”, most notably the sensational interview with Bettencourt’s former accountant, Claire Thibout, who implicated both Sarkozy and Woerth in the campaign donation scandal.

This vitriolic assault from the government has not, however, gone unchallenged by the press.

Maurice Botbol, director of a union advocating an independent press, said “These accusations are staggering… These kinds of attacks are not worthy of those who profit from them”.

Trying to scare the media?

Botbol went on to argue that, “Mediapart is fulfilling its roll as part of a democratic press in publishing this information.”

Reporters Without Borders has also come out in support of Mediapart. Jean-François Julliard, its secretary general, called the government’s attacks, “A red-herring, presented to distract attention from the heart of the issue”.

Julliard went on to describe the reaction by Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party as an attempt to “inspire fear” in the media.

The government and the media are now on a highly damaging collision course, and it is one that will be played out on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers and on TV screens, with the French public left to look on agog as the soap opera plays itself out…

 

Date created : 2010-07-10

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