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French weekly magazines review

Reactions to the  murder of RFI journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon by armed Islamists in Mali last week dominate comments in the French weeklies.

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Marianne claims that the murders illustrate the complexity of the west African country, where armed groups are prospering inside a weak state.

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The left-leaning magazine observes that before Al-Qaeda in the Islamaic Maghreb (Aqim) claimed responsibility for the executions, a Tuareg tribal leader has been identified as the prime suspect. He is Abdelkrim al-Targui the suspected mastermind of the abduction of the four French hostages from a uranium mine in Arlit in Niger.

He is believed to have handed them over to Abou Zeid one of the main leaders of Aqim, who, Marianne recalls,  was later killed during the French Serval military operation in northern Mali, which probably explains the murder of the two RFI journalists.

Le Canard Enchaîné claims it has uncovered the truth about where the 20-million-euro ransom paid for the release of the four Areva workers came from. It quotes a French military expert as saying that the money was from one of Areva’s staff insurance companies and was handed over directly to Niger government negotiators under the supervision of French intelligence agents.

The Islamist insurgency in the Sahel is pulling the strings in Tunisia where political stakeholders are locked in a dialogue aimed at installing a democratic system. L’Express reports that the Islamic party Ennahda which came to power after the fall of the Ben Ali regime has failed to tackle staggering unemployment, jihadist terrorism and sectarianism during its three years in office.

Marianne warns that the surfacing of suicide bombers is a bad signal that the country remains under the grip of terrorism as the discredited religious party refuses to cede power by blocking negotiations with the opposition. The magazine doubts that the country can do away with the bankrupt Islamism without collapsing into chaos, despite a police-backed civil resistance movement.

Le Figaro Magazine delves into the alleged transformation of the Front National of Marine Le Pen from a radical right-wing nationalist movement into a republican party. In a long investigative report, the weekly exposes how the FN has penetrated the corporate sector and the state bureaucracy, the ties it now enjoys within the left and among freemasons.

While the party is tipped to end its long sojourn in the French political wilderness in upcoming local council and European elections, Le Figaro says it is short of 30 million euros after rejections of its loan applications by French banks.

Le Canard Enchaîné reports that a 108-million-euro debt is causing sleepless nights for the opposition UMP party. The satirical publication underlines that the amount is almost twice the borrowing ceiling which the party set in 2012. Le Canard feels the party’s leader Jean-Francois Copé and ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy will have a hard time convincing voters that they are good managers.

The UMP is also facing a storm over the ecotax collection contract it signed with an Italian company at a very late hour, on the date of the second round presidential election. The company, Ecomouv', is set to bag 250 million euros annually for collecting a projected 1.1 billion euros. Le Canard Enchaîné reports that a Green lawmaker has slammed the deal as a state scandal. UMP ex-ministers who negotiated the contract are bracing for a street fight as the blame game turns ugly, according to Le Canard.

Le Point reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is still choking with rage over the eavesdropping on her phone conversations by the US National Security Agency. The journal quotes the German paper Der Spiegel as saying that the illegal practice dates back to the Bush era in 2002.

It holds that President Barack Obama was duly informed about it in 2010 and only ordered its interruption after Merkel’s protest in June.

This is not the first time that a German Chancellor is facing a confidentiality problem. Le Point recalls that during the Cold War Helmut Kohl developed the habit of going to a public telephone booth each time he had an important call to make.

Le Nouvel Observateur inspects the battle lines of a new world war for control of cyberspace. All counties are arming themselves to defend their infrastructure or to attack those of their enemies, according to the weekly. What we are witnessing, according to the magazine, is a cyberarms race complete with firewalls, an invisible computer hacking arsenal, spy programmes and viruses.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

L’Express marvels at the booming hobby of "selfies", an exciting new breed of smartphone users who spend their time snapping themselves and posting their pictures on the internet. 150 million of these exhibitionists described by Time magazine as the “me, me, me generation” spend most of their time on the internet, obsessed about becoming celebrities in their own right.

L’Express says a new study by the American National Institute of Health discovered that the “selfies” are suffering from “narcissistic personality disorders” at levels three times higher than in older websurfers.

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