Two stories dominate today's French papers: government monitoring of a Le Monde journalist, and the use of a tram to remove Roma people from a camp. Both fuel debate about President Nicolas Sarkozy’s handling of domestic issues. That’s the focus for this review of the French press, Friday 2nd September 2011.
Le Monde leads with: “Comment les services secrets ont espionné Le Monde” (How French secret services spied on Le Monde). The paper says it has proof French counter-intelligence services spied on its journalist Gerard Davet in July of last year in a bid to uncover his sources as he investigated the L'Oréal heiress scandal. That scandal centres on possible links between France’s richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt, and President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government. It raises all kinds of questions about possible illegal party funding, possible tax evasion and possible money laundering.
Le Monde’s editorial “Press freedom and state lies” says this is an affair of state. Interior Minister Claude Guéant has said the phone call tracking was not bugging. The goal was to establish Davet’s sources for his reports, not to listen in on conversations. Le Monde says the government's monitoring is illegal.
Libération headlines “State liars” and shows photographs of Guéant, counter-intelligence boss Bernard Squarcini and Frédéric Pechenard, head of the police. The paper says the police acted in “full violation of the law”. And this after denying spying allegations in the past at the highest level. Its editorial writer Nicolas Demorand says the government “used counter-intelligence to prevent journalists doing their work”. He argues “the ramifications could be explosive” for the Sarkozy government. Libération is also reporting that investigative journalists in France are being doubly cautious.
You can also check out James Creedon's Mediawatch slot from last night for more on this story.
The other main news in France is outrage over the use of a tram to transport a group of Bulgarian and Romanian Roma people from a camp. The free paper 20 Minutes reports on the incident, which occurred between the northern Paris suburbs of Saint Denis and Bobigny on Wednesday morning. The police wanted to disperse 150 people. However, the commandeering of public transport in this way has sparked furious debate as it echoes the transportation of 13,000 Jews from France in July 1942 during the Second World War. Another free paper, “Metro”, reports that the RATP, Paris’s public transport service, denies any responsibility for the use of a tram. The RATP CEO Pierre Mongin says: “I am not responsible for what was a police operation”.
Libération, on the same story, quotes Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Baudet saying "there was no requisitioning", instead "a tram was made available". That has raised questions about who made the decisions. It has infuriated the opposition Europe Ecology party, which says the expulsion "recalls the darkest hours of France’s history".