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French press review 3 April 2013

The Jérôme Cahuzac affair dominates the French newspapers today...

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As the world probably knows by now, the former French Budget Minister, Jérôme Cahuzac, has finally admitted that he did, indeed, once possess a Swiss bank account, in which he kept as many as 600,000 euros with a view to avoiding paying French income tax.

Right-wing Le Figaro has Cahuzac asking to be forgiven, in a relatively dignified front page.

Left-leaning Libération, in sharp contrast, is indignant, describing the ex-minister as "A disgrace".

Communist L'Humanité has "Cahuzac falls from grace", while the headline in business dailyLes Echos simply reads, "The lie".

Popular paper Le Parisian wonders what the implications are likely to be for the rest of the socialist household, already crowding the radio ramparts this morning to deny opposition accusations of complicity, connivance and, probably, consanguinity.

Le Figaro's editorial, starkly headlined "Devastating", says this scandal casts a dark shadow over the entire administration, drawing attention to the lies which François Hollande himself has been obliged to tell the French people on each of his recent public outings.

And those lies, laments the right-wing paper, are the direct result of a powerlessness to confront reality. Fiddling with the truth is one thing, says Le Figaro, failing to face the facts is quite another.

Other stories making the front pages?

Well, last night's football match between Zlatan's PSG and Lionel's Barcelona ended in a two-all draw, thanks to a last-gasp equaliser from the Parisians. The two sides get to do it all over again, in Barcelona, next Wednesday, with a place in the semi-finals of the European Champions League going to the winners.

And Catholic La Croix wonders if France needs a law to control the wearing of religious symbols in schools and similar public institutions. The debate has recently resurfaced in connection with an employee of a partly state-funded creche, sacked for wearing a muslim headscarf, who then won her case for unfair dismissal on appeal. 

The problem, as underlined by La Croix, is that France is committed to a neutral position on all signs of religious belief or practice. But, in reality, that debate mostly arises in connection with muslim headscarves for women.

French politics no stranger to scandals

Many outside the muslim community see the clothing regulations as an infringement of a basic human right; some see the insistence on an ultra-orthodox dress code as a provocation, a tacit rejection of broader social values.

La Croix suggests that we probably don't need any more legal walls. Religious freedom and women's rights must be protected, however contradictory that may prove to be.

What we need, says the Catholic daily, is a sensitive, case-by-case analysis of individual situations, handled with a certain tact, not used as political weaponry. And we need to try to see the situation from inside the community most affected, without imposing our own prejudices.

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