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French weekly magazines review 28 September 2014

The magazines are finally coming full circle with the Ebola epidemic running out of control in West Africa after France repatriated her first citizen infected by the virus.


The health worker working for Doctors without Borders contracted the disease in Liberia. It’s not surprising then that two prominent weeklies Le Nouvel Observateur and Le Point publish on the ground reports about the nightmare experienced by Africa’s oldest nation.

Apocalypse in Monrovia is the title of Le Point’s eyewitness account of how the Liberian capital has slumped into horror. The journal’s special envoy paints a grim picture of the gloom and doom that had gripped residents some walking aimlessly along the streets, their arms folded and an absent look in their eyes. According to the correspondent some often raise their t-shirts to protect their noses and others wear slippers while standing by watching cosmonaut-looking health workers dressed in Personal Protective Equipment.

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The Le Point correspondent narrates the pitiful story of James Doe who she found wandering like a lost soul on a Monrovia beach 24 hours after the death of his 12 year-old son from Ebola. Doe, his face distorted by pain told her that while they say you shouldn’t keep a patient at home, he watched helplessly over his son for two weeks after calling the Ebola alert number 4455 in vain until he passed away.

He says he even took his sick boy to two local hospitals but was turned away due to lack of appropriate facilities. He spoke as health workers arrived with a body bag to take away the remains of the boy. The head of the team asked Doe if he had touched the body. “Of course” he said going on to explain that he and his wife wore gloves provided by Doctors without Borders.

Le Point’s correspondent says he certainly didn’t know that both of them had contracted the virus. The special report is illustrated with photographs of sick people waiting in makeshift ambulances, and mask-wearing volunteers of the Liberian Red Cross overwhelmed by the outbreak. Le Point classifies Liberia among the world’s poorest nations pointing out that there are just 50 doctors in the country of 4 million inhabitants.

Le Nouvel Observateur publishes exclusive clichés taken by the New York City based photographer and filmmaker Kieran Kesner during a high profile trip to Liberia in August. They include a shot of a cab driver completely clad in an Ebola suit with a worried-looking passenger in the back seat. Kesner also immortalized a grim scene in Joe Blow Town, Liberia as Christians rolled on the floor of their church after learning about the death of several members of their congregation, including their pastor.

Kesner talks to Le Nouvel Observateur about how Ebola gripped him by the throat as he touched down at Monrovia airport. He says he almost melted as he walked into a team of fierce-looking security agents and health workers pointing infrared pistol-like thermometer towards him. Kesner says he understood the rather hostile reception from a country that has lost more than 1,500 people from Ebola in five months.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

Fear and rumour are just as devastating to the afflicted country as the epidemic itself. That’s an opinion upheld by Le Nouvel Observateur. It speaks about text messages circulating in Guinea claiming that Ebola is a government invention. It also reports on wild rumours being spread around in villages that some whites are holding people against their wish to extract vital organs from their bodies.

The left-leaning weekly says such rumours were probably responsible for the massacre of seven people in a southern Guinean village last week. According to Le Nouvel Observateur the bodies discovered in a mass grave included that of the District Officer, the region’s top government official, the regional health officer and three journalists. Three of the victims had their throats slit. According to the journal people have lost confidence in each other as they remain helpless in front of the horrible epidemic.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who launched his campaign for the opposition UMP party’s chairmanship is the subject of renewed scrutiny from two left-leaning magazines.

Marianne says there are strong reasons to believe that he knew about the Bygmalion bills falsification and illegal funding of his 2012 re-election campaign. This contrary to his remarks during his recent television interview when he said he learnt about the existence of the PR Events company only after his defeat in 2012. Marianne says preliminary investigations carried out by judicial police prove the contrary.

Left-leaning Le Nouvel Observateur has its eyes glued on the tycoons funding Sarkozy's return at the helm of the opposition UMP movement. The most prominent of the Sarko financiers is the circle of friends who have raised 508,000 euros, with five other groups coughing up less than 400,000 to get the campaign on the rails.

That’s insignificant, says Le Nouvel Obs considering the spendthrift reputation of the ex-French leader. It argues that Sarkozy’s Qatari friends are not ready to be seen openly supporting him under a Socialist-led administration even though it was thanks to Sarkozy that they have been able to extend their financial influence over key sectors of the French economy.

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