Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

FOCUS

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

  • Exclusive: Fabius warns of further sanctions against Russia

    Read more

  • Experimental Ebola drug ‘ZMapp’ heals all monkeys in study

    Read more

  • IMF stands behind Lagarde amid French corruption probe

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • Suriname leader’s son pleads guilty to courting Hezbollah

    Read more

  • British killer escapes from French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

  • Chelsea’s Torres set for AC Milan switch

    Read more

  • Police hunt for British boy with brain tumour taken to France

    Read more

  • France shines in IMF list of world’s promising economists

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more

  • First case of Ebola confirmed in Senegal

    Read more

  • Obama has 'no strategy yet' on potential Syria strikes

    Read more

  • Netflix to woo French with ‘House of Cards’ set in Marseille

    Read more

  • French businesses ‘hoping for a new Thatcher’

    Read more

  • Syrian refugees surpass 3 million, UN says

    Read more

  • West backs Ukrainian claims of Russian incursion

    Read more

  • Libyan PM resigns as Islamists set up rival administration

    Read more

  • UN says 43 peacekeepers captured in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • The deleted tweets of Manuel Valls

    Read more

  • Peru seizes record 6.5 tonnes of Europe-bound cocaine

    Read more

France

Are cheating politicians now fair game for the French press?

© AFP

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2014-01-10

A tabloid magazine on Friday claimed to have caught President François Hollande having an affair with a famous actress. It was an unprecedented move in France, where the press have traditionally turned a blind eye to politicians’ romantic escapades.

Hollande quickly slammed the report* as an attack on his right to privacy, and said that he was “looking into possible action, including legal action” against the French tabloid magazine that published the photos.

But Hollande, who lives with his partner, former political journalist Valérie Trierweiler, did not specifically deny the allegations.

Exposing leaders’ infidelities and trawling through their private lives may be commonplace in the United States and Britain, but in France such stories have largely remained a no-go area for the media, even the tabloids.

Right to privacy?

French law strictly protects the individual’s right to privacy and the French public are largely in agreement with this position.

However, in recent years, the French media has shifted in its policy on reporting on politician’s private lives.

By targeting Hollande so openly this week, the taboo appears to have been completely shattered.

Matthew Fraser, a lecturer at the prestigious Science Po University in Paris and who has widely written about the media industry, believes that the magazine is engaged in an interesting test.

If Hollande does pursue legal action against the publication he could win, but is unlikely to win a large pay out: French courts almost never award large damages.

“If he sues and wins, the tabloid will probably be able to write the check on the spot,” the academic said. “Obviously the magazine has made its calculations, and even if it has to pay a fine it thinks it will come out with a gain.”

From Mitterrand’s mistress to Sarkozy’s bling

“It’s the first time that a magazine has printed photos of a president allegedly caught in the act of having an affair. It is also the first time a president has reacted by directly addressing the magazine in question,” Christian Delponte, a French historian who specialises in politics and the media, told FRANCE 24.

“When François Mitterrand was president [between 1981 and 1995] the entire media establishment knew everything about his sexual escapades and conquests, but they chose to say nothing about it,” Science Po’s Fraser told FRANCE 24. “Those days are over.”

Mitterrand not only had a string of affairs, but a second family. The existence of his illegitimate daughter was only revealed by the press in 1994, when she was 20 years old.

According to Delponte, the French press first began to breach this norm in the 1990s, and that was largely because politicians themselves sought to be photographed with their families and opened up their private lives for political gain.

He said Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, played a significant role in blurring the boundary between public and private spheres by turning the figure of the president into that of a celebrity.

Indeed, Sarkozy was often criticised in France for flaunting his friendship with wealthy and famous friends in front of the cameras.

However, Delponte argues that the publics’ reaction to this story will be the key for French media companies. He believes that if the public tolerate this new “invasion” then it will be a brave new world for the French press, and that the reporting on politician’s private lives can then only grow in France.

A case in point

Hollande’s own story of budding and broken romances can also serve as an example of France’s evolving norms. The president struck up a relationship with First Lady Trierweiler in the early 2000s.

At the time Hollande was the leader of Socialist Party and in a long-term relationship with fellow politician Ségolène Royal, with whom he had four children, and Trierweiler was a journalist covering the Socialist Party for glossy magazine Paris Match.

The love affair between the glamorous reporter and the party boss was common knowledge among many reporters, but the affair was never reported.

It was only after Hollande and Royal’s marriage unravelled in 2007, and that he acknowledged in 2010 that Trierweiler was the “woman of my life” that the press gave itself license to talk about the “new” couple.

* FRANCE 24 has decided not to publish either the name of the actress or the name of the publication that reported the affair allegations out of respect for the privacy of those involved.

 

Date created : 2014-01-10

  • FRANCE

    Hollande threatens legal action over report of affair

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    French first lady claims court victory in privacy battle

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    French first lady seeks damages over infidelity claim

    Read more

COMMENT(S)